They have yet to miss a step on the road to Russia for the 2018 World Cup and just two more steps remain before Switzerland can officially claim their place as one of the 32 teams at the tournament next summer. The first of two massive games takes place on Saturday evening in Basel with Hungary visiting St. Jakob-Park and if the Swiss can win that, it sets it all up for a winner-takes-all clash in the Portuguese capital at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday evening.
They say nothing is perfect but so far, Switzerland’s campaign has been exactly that. They set the marker over one year ago at the start of this campaign with a memorable 2-0 victory in Basel and they will bring the curtain down on their home qualifiers at the same venue after six previous games that saw the Swiss come through completely unscathed. Six wins, sixteen goals, just three goals conceded and clean sheets in their last five games in a row. You can’t really ask for anything more.
The problem for Switzerland, despite all this, is that Portugal, with Ronaldo back following the opening game, have also won every game. The European champions have smashed in goals like they’re going out of fashion and despite there being more than one minnow in the group, they have won almost every game convincingly. After that first blip, they have done everything they have been asked and sit three points behind Switzerland in second.
After all of this, for Switzerland to be pipped to the post in the final two matches of the group would be a bitter pill to swallow. Switzerland are used to success in World Cup qualifiers, they have won eleven games in a row and haven’t lost one of these fixtures since 2008 when Luxembourg achieved a memorable win away from home. 26 matches without defeat but despite all this, Switzerland have never quite had it like they do now with eight successive wins and 21 points on the board.
Hungary stand in the way. They are not unbeaten, they are not a threat after a massively disappointing group stage that has saw them amass only ten points but they are a potentially huge barrier in the way of Switzerland. There is nothing but pride for the Hungarians but this is a side that is licking their wounds after the euphoria of the European Championships and will be desperate to regain some credit by derailing the Swiss on their own patch after the Swiss did it to them so cruelly and late in Budapest exactly one year ago on Friday.
All of that said, Switzerland should be getting the victory they need. This Hungarian side is not anything special, with all due respect. They are very beatable and with a lack of goals a problem, especially with MLS top scorer Nemanja Nikolic and injured Adam Szalai both out of the picture, it only boosts the chances of another memorable night at St. Jakob-Park after Basel hammered Benfica at the same stadium in the UEFA Champions League last week.
One more victory and it sets it all up for Lisbon. One more victory and Portugal-Switzerland will be all anyone is talking about on Tuesday. One more victory and Tuesday will become one of the biggest matches in Swiss football history.
One victory and Switzerland will need just one point from their travels to the capital. One point to book their place in the FIFA World Cup for fourth time in a row, something they have never achieved before.