England vs. Switzerland
King Power Stadium
Switzerland can beat England. Some of you will probably laugh at that statement. Switzerland are coming up against World Cup semi-finalists and a side they have only beaten once and drawn with a few times over the course of history and they are taking them on in their own backyard. On paper, it looks pretty straightforward for the Three Lions but if you look beyond that, there is a real possibility for a Swiss side in good form and coming off of a successful World Cup campaign in their own right.
Switzerland and England are very familiar foes these last few years having matched up in qualification for Euro 2012 and 2016 with England winning three of the four with the other ending in a 2-2 draw after the Swiss took a shock 2-0 lead through a Tranquillo Barnetta brace. This time it is a less pressured environment with this only being a friendly. Both sides kicked off their Nations League campaigns in contrasting fashion over the weekend with Switzerland hammering Iceland and England losing out, somewhat controversially, to Spain.
So, what is different now to all the other times Switzerland have come up short? Well, firstly, it’s important not to get carried away after the demolition of a weakening Iceland team that seems to have peaked and is coming back down the mountain but Switzerland were exciting on Saturday but most importantly, clinical. That isn’t always a trait of the Swiss. Sure, they can send plenty of goals past the likes of San Marino and Latvia but they don’t often scores lot of goals so to do so against an experienced side that had been so good defensively is encouraging.
Some of the new players provide plenty of optimism too with Kevin Mbabu continuing to shine brightly as he took to his international debut like a duck to water. Albian Ajeti also came off the bench to grab a debut goal and as for those already involved, Haris Seferovic provided his best performances for some time in a Swiss shirt and was a constant menace in front of the Icelandic goal. He too was rewarded with a strike while the likes of Xhaka, Zakaria and Zuber all produced good performances. Shaqiri was his busy, innovative self too.
England are of course riding the crest of a wave after their World Cup campaign and the feelgood factor around the country continues despite their defeat to Spain on Saturday evening. For me, this England side is far from being as strong as some of the other sides that Switzerland have paired up with in the last few years. I think while England did great to reach the semi-final, they benefited from a big slice of luck. They were always going to get out of their group and Colombia and Sweden provided a tricky but comfortable passage through to the semi-final. For me, it is telling that the two top sides that they have faced since have managed to defeat them.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Switzerland are a top team and I am well aware that England eliminated Sweden, a side that eliminated Switzerland in the round of 16 but I think all of this is important to mention. England, from my point of view, have been overhyped and simply are not as good as they are made out to be. They did ever so well and deserve every credit for getting to that semi-final but put them in the other side of the draw and in my opinion, they wouldn’t have made it beyond Brazil. Their side of the World Cup draw was extremely weak, some would say the weakest ever.
Again, I don’t want to discredit England. They still are a good team with several good players. They have one of the best finishers in Europe in Harry Kane and will be favourites but there is no reason that Switzerland should have an inferiority complex or give England too much respect. They have every chance of going to Leicester and leaving with at least a draw and the fact it is a friendly may help them in that regard too.
It should be a fascinating match and it shouldn’t, if Switzerland play to their best, be a walkover by any means for England. In the end, I’ll plump for a 2-2 draw for two sides that are closer together in quality for the first time in a long time, if not ever.
Switzerland can do it and Leicester is already quite well-known for it’s surprises after the last few seasons so there is no reason why Switzerland can’t add another memorable moment at the King Power Stadium, at least for themselves anyway.
Prediction: 2-2 (Ajeti, Shaqiri)
The King Power Stadium hosts tonight’s friendly match.