Sweden vs. Switzerland
July 3rd, 2018
Saint Petersburg Stadium
June 14th 2018. It was a much simpler time. The beginnings of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. From the pundits to the armchair supporters, everyone had their predictions ahead of the first match. Some were fully on board with the strength-in-depth the French possess while others had Neymar-led Brazil, the unflappable reigning champions, the Germans and the skilful Spanish and then some were pointing to the dark horses of Belgium. Messi Magic and the brilliance of Ronaldo simply couldn’t be discounted either. It was a simpler time because since then, this World Cup has been turned upside down, scrunched up and thrown against a wall. Much of it doesn’t make sense any more. Like an unfinished jigsaw and none of the pieces seem to fit in the right places anymore.
Argentina out at their earliest point since 2002. Spain eliminated by the hosts, just like in 2002, 1950 and 1934 and of course, the Germans, eliminated at their earliest point for 80 years. Not to mention – the brilliance of Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal stifled by the outstanding Edinson Cavani and Belgian riding their luck against the plucky Japanese. Plus, the other simply unpredictable events – Iceland holding Argentina, Sweden smashing Mexico to top their group, Morocco and Iran providing a memorable goodbye to their campaigns, the absurdity of Senegal being eliminated by virtue of the fair play rule and of course, just last night, the sheer drama and brilliant goalkeeping as Croatia and Denmark duelled in Nizhny Novgorod.
Yes, this World Cup has been breathtaking and enthralling. I mentioned it being a rollercoaster by Day 3 but that rollercoaster has flown off the tracks and onto another dimension. It is a World Cup at the next level to any before and to add to all that drama, any one of Sweden, Switzerland, England, Croatia, Colombia or Russia will reach the final of the World Cup. Only one, England, has made the final before, back in 1966. A new face will line-up for the final in Moscow and they’ll probably meet a more familiar foe when they get there, but given how it has all went up to now, it really is anyone’s guess.
Switzerland continue their journey with a meeting with Sweden on in Saint Petersburg. Two evenly-matched teams, two sides delighted to have made it out of their group and who will see anything further as a bonus. That being said, both would have been more than pleased with the opposition they were drawn against. Each side, just like the other six that were in this side of the draw, will never have a better chance at reaching the World Cup final and they all know it. A defeat here, to a good but unspectacular side will be seen as a missed opportunity. It sets the backdrop for a tense affair on Krestovsky Island.
Switzerland managed to get out of their group relatively unscathed. They weren’t always comfortable vs. Brazil, but did enough to get themselves over the line while their late win vs. Serbia set up a more relaxing final game vs. Costa Rica. A lacklustre performance in that one meant little as Brazil dispatched of the Serbians and confirmed Switzerland’s safe passage through to the next round. The only causes for concern for the Swiss is the absences of Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schar. The duo will be suspended for the match against the Swedes and while there are able deputies in the squad, continuity is important, especially in defence and Switzerland will hope the suspensions are not problematic.
Sweden wouldn’t have given themselves much chance in their group featuring Mexico, South Korea and Germany. Second behind the Germans would be the hope ahead of the tournament but in the end, somehow, the Swedes topped the group. Germany’s capitulation, despite winning late vs. Sweden, allowed Blagult to top the group after an impressive 3-0 win on the final matchday vs. the Mexicans. They can be proud of their performances, a shaky start vs. South Korea and a horrible end to the Germany game were not ideal, but their performance on the final matchday will provide much encouragement and confidence, especially given that they scored three times.
In truth, neither of these sides possess plenty of goals. Both have well-known attackers but they don’t produce often enough. Each side has one goal each from a striker with Ola Toivonen netting vs. Germany and Josip Drmic scoring vs. Costa Rica. The rest of the goals for both have come from midfield and defence. Despite this, both have scored in every game they have played so far.
“We got ourselves into trouble in the first three games. Tomorrow we want to control the game from the beginning. We will be hungry like our fans who have travelled to St. Petersburg. It seems we have triggered something in Switzerland.” – Switzerland manager, Vladimir Petkovic
Tuesday afternoon will mark the first meeting for these nations since 2002 with the Swiss heading into it having failed to win in their last three attempts. Switzerland have five wins to their name with the Swedes claiming five for themselves and the two having drawn three times.
“We know our strengths and weaknesses and we know what has taken us this far. And also that Switzerland have been very good for a long time and that they are favourites in this match. So the idea that we might underestimate our opponents doesn’t exist.” – Sweden defender, Andreas Granqvist
One game, massive for two nations, the chance at a place in the Quarter Final of the World Cup. It will be a missed opportunity and for the losers, everyone will reflect in the future and wonder just what might have been, if they really could’ve gone all the way. For Switzerland, this is something of a “golden generation”, many won’t be in the team for Qatar 2022. The same could be said for Sweden. They’ve established themselves without the huge shadow of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and will be hoping to continue to impress as a team.
Tomorrow will be the end of the road for one of these two. All the preparation and hard work will be extinguished with the peep of the referee’s whistle.
It’s time to seize the moment.
St. Petersburg Stadium will decide the World Cup fate of Switzerland and Sweden on Tuesday afternoon.