Tuesday 17 September 2019

'Physical, aggressive, hard' - Switzerland preparing for tough Irish challenge in crunch Euro 2020 qualifier

A Switzerland training session at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
A Switzerland training session at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

John Brennan

Twenty minutes in the company of Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic and his Premier League players Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) and Fabien Schar (Newcastle) today left you wondering if they thinking they are playing the Irish rugby team on Saturday and not the football team in a Euro 2020 qualifier tomorrow.

The words 'physical', 'aggressive' and 'hard' kept coming up as the Swiss face into a match they dare not lose.

"Physically the Irish team is quite strong, but we will have a solution to take them on," said Xhaka, without revealing it.

Schar went along the same lines. "I know quite a few of the Irish players from playing against them in the Premier League, I'm sure the Irish fans trust in their team, but we trust in ours. They will attack us and that is what we are expecting, a really hard match that will be a big battle."

There were also references to Switzerland's World Cup play-off against Northern Ireland 22 months ago, when a two-leg contest was settled by one contentious penalty.

"We remember that and we will draw from it," said Xhaka.

Of course Irish football fans are used to a match where a big player is missing for one reason or another. Here the boot was on the other foot and though Petkovic wanted to avoid talking about Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri, he couldn't.

"We will do as good as we can," said the veteran coach. "We will try to give 10% more without Shaqiri. We have changed our team a bit since the World Cup Finals, with Stephan Lichtsteiner stepping away, and new players are coming to the fore anyway. Yes, we are not the same Switzerland as before. We may change our formation, we respect Ireland and what they will bring to the game, they will go for the win."

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