You only need to take one look at the tournament brackets for the World Cup to see that the 21st edition of FIFA’s premier competition is different to it’s predecessors. There have been the almighty shocks and more drama than your average soap opera. It is different because it has not followed the status quo. The final of this particular tournament will either see England reach the final for the first time since 1966 or someone else like Croatia or Sweden for the first time in their history. It is a tournament that quite frankly presents opportunity like never before for those nations often brushed to the side at this point in years gone by.
The cold reality of all of this is that for the sides that don’t make it, that are eliminated at the last 16 stage, it will be reflected upon as a huge missed opportunity. Switzerland are now in that position after a defeat to the Swedes in St. Petersburg that brings an end to what was a promising World Cup campaign. A terrific Group Stage showing but their campaign ends on a bitterly sour note as they were eliminated with a whimper by a good Swedish side but one that gave Switzerland a chance like never before to qualify for the Quarter Final for the first time since 1954 in their own country.
The reflection has already begun and I believe it will really sink in, not only for the fans but for the players when Sweden line-up against England or Colombia on July 7th in Samara. The truth is, for Switzerland and the nations in this side of the draw, this was the chance of a lifetime. No one was saying Switzerland could go all the way but progression to the Quarter Final and anything could happen, especially with all the sides being of a pretty similar level. Not in this lifetime will it ever be like that again for Switzerland or for anyone and the failure to seize that chance is a sore one to process.
If this game, tense and tight as it was always going to be, was won by Sweden with Switzerland throwing everything at them but ultimately failing to break them down, then the result would be easier to accept. Sometimes football goes that way, but the distinct lack of desire and overall poor performance is a difficult thing to wrap one’s head around. It was there for the Swiss players to really make a nation proud and really create some history and it didn’t just slip out of their fingers, it completely passed them by.
Sweden did not play particularly well but they offered much more than Switzerland and created some great chances in the first half. Their goal, courtesy of a deflection, was lucky, but they were consistently getting themselves into those positions when incidents like that can happen and were rewarded by the hand of fate.
I spoke numerous times before the tournament about the lack of cutting edge in the Swiss team and it was evident again here. There were several players missing and underperforming in the match, there was a real lack of creativity and in general, the team seemed completely passive. It seemed almost like they would’ve been happy to play like that until extra-time and even when the goal came, the lack of urgency was startling. Even at the end, the team almost seemed scared to put the ball into the box and the writing was on the wall.
Perhaps changes should’ve been made earlier too. Breel Embolo could’ve offered much more if he had came on earlier.
It is the end of a World Cup journey that deserves some praise for the way in which Switzerland negotiated their way through a very difficult group but the team let themselves and the fans down in the last 16. It was a massive game, a massive opportunity and a massive disappointment. The players came up big when it mattered most vs. Serbia but in St. Petersburg this afternoon, they didn’t come up at all.
The chance of a lifetime is gone and Sweden are the one’s that seized the moment. They have the chance to continue to make history and perhaps go all the way. They’ve given themselves the platform to do just that and deservedly so.
For Switzerland, it is over. The players return to Switzerland and then to their clubs, the World Cup fun has come to an end and they’ll next regroup for Nations League action vs. Iceland in September. By then, the disappointment will have subsided and this group of players will maybe give something for Switzerland to get excited about.
All that is left to say for this World Cup is congratulations and good luck to Sweden and it’s goodbye from the Swiss.
Emil Forsberg’s shot finds the net vs. Switzerland