England 1-0 Switzerland
September 11th, 2018
King Power Stadium
Switzerland may not have had a better chance to shake their England hoodoo than in England’s rare jaunt to the East Midlands on Tuesday evening. It was their first visit to the King Power Stadium for 15 years but even in this part of the country where miracles have been proven to happen over the last few years, the Swiss couldn’t find their first victory over England in 37 years. It was a night that promised much and could’ve delivered much more but a combination of factors eventually swung this game the way of the hosts.
Switzerland are a top international side these days and are more than capable of rubbing shoulders with England, Portugal and a few others. They are much improved from the side that England played in European qualification just a few years ago and the same could be said for an England side flush with new players and fresh from an appearance in the World Cup semi-final. So this game was finely poised from the get go and when you add in that this was just a friendly match, there was the sense that anything could happen and perhaps Switzerland could get a result.
The team selection for Switzerland was slightly confusing. Rather than Vladimir Petkovic looking to lay down a marker and continue the confidence of the 6-0 drubbing of Iceland, he made four changes which saw the departure of Kevin Mbabu, who undoubtedly will be the future at RB, for Stephan Lichtsteiner. Lichtsteiner has been a great player for the national team but he shouldn’t play a part in the Nations League qualification especially with Mbabu delivering consistently strong performances. The same could be said for Johann Djourou while one of the standouts from Saturday in Steven Zuber was left out of a changed formation.
Switzerland were undoubtedly the better team in the first half but it was a two-faced performance from the team. Sky Sports commentator Gary Neville perhaps summed it up best when he said Switzerland were “too nice” in the opening forty-five minutes and it was the truth. For all the possession (65% to England’s 35%) in the first half and the chances they created, the Swiss really seemed to lack the belief that they could hurt England and deliver a killer blow. There was still a little bit of that inferiority complex it seemed and their inability to take the game by the scruff of the neck and deliver when they were much the better team would come back to cost them in the second half.
It has to be said, England were much better in the second half after a lethargic performance in the first. To be fair to them, they made several changes to the squad from that lost 2-1 to Spain on Saturday and there seemed to be a lack of cohesion. Danny Rose was the bright spark for England in the first half and ultimately the entire game but in the second forty-five, the team improved and provided much more of a threat in a game that really lacked intensity and tempo, sort of what you expect from a friendly and a reason why the introduction of the Nations League will likely prove to be a successful venture by UEFA.
England would get the breakthrough just before the hour mark and for all the good work that Switzerland had done in the match to that point, it was undone by some poor defending. A corner was dealt with initially but the second ball from Kyle Walker was delicious and Marcus Rashford was a sharpshooter at the far post to score his second in as many games for England. It was a relief for the English but there was a sense of resignation for Switzerland. Perhaps if this was a competitive game it may have been different but it was obvious from this point that the game was only going to end one way.
Switzerland did have chances but poor decision making and a real lack of accuracy, again maybe due to a lack of real belief were the key reasons that an equalizer was not found and of course an excellent block from John Stones on Xherdan Shaqiri.
England were much the better side in the second half and on the basis of that, deserved their victory. They will have definitely benefited more from this exercise than Switzerland. Despite a clunky performance, they ended a 3-match losing run and Marcus Rashford found the net once more while Danny Rose reminded everyone of his credentials. As for the Swiss, well, they tried some of the old guard, changed formation and lacked a cutting edge that really left them with nothing to take from the game in the end.
Question marks remain for me over the decisions by Vladimir Petkovic before the game as I mentioned but also in his changes. Kevin Mbabu should’ve played some part in this match. Not only is he deserving of that, it would’ve been a good experience for a player who gets better in every game. Albian Ajeti should’ve been given more time while Embolo, Widmer and Sow would’ve been good additions to the squad during the game.
Perhaps labelling this as a missed opportunity is me taking this friendly match too seriously but after the emphatic and eye-opening 6-0 win over Iceland on Saturday, there was a real chance to continue that good form and get a real morale-boosting win or at the very least a draw vs. England. This defeat is not damaging, it was narrow and a friendly after all but I just feel wrong decisions were made from the get-go that hindered a Swiss side that had all the promise of getting a result against the World Cup semi-finalists.
A performance that in the end lived up to the stereotype of Switzerland as they were simply too nice. That killer instinct was locked away after a rare appearance on Saturday in St. Gallen and while this result was disappointing, it will simply be remembered as a pit stop during this international break and if that killer instinct returns in October then all will be rosy again for the Swiss and Petkovic.