Home » The Pinnacle of Swiss Football – Euro 2020: Switzerland’s Euro Memories

The Pinnacle of Swiss Football – Euro 2020: Switzerland’s Euro Memories

The Pinnacle of Swiss Football – Euro 2020: Switzerland’s Euro Memories

Switzerland will begin their Euro 2024 efforts against Hungary, on June 15 2024 at the home of FC Köln, the RhienEnergieStadion.

The Swiss Nati have only qualified for the final tournament five times previously, and this summer they will aim to qualify from the group stages for the third time in six attempts.

Switzerland’s appearances in the European Championships have all come in recent history, first qualifying for the tournament in 1996 where they failed to record a single victory, and came bottom of their group.

Their first victory in the tournament would not come until their third edition of the Euros, in 2008 when they co-hosted the tournament alongside Austria, and secured a surprise 2-0 victory over Portugal in their final group game.

The Swiss Nati have shown continuous improvement since Euro 2008, qualifying for the round of 16 at Euro 2016, where they suffered a devastating penalty shootout defeat to Poland.

This improvement was furthered at Euro 2020, where Switzerland achieved their best performance in a major tournament in the history of Swiss football, and they will hope that their golden generation can improve upon this, beginning against Hungary.

Switzerland were placed in Group A of Euro 2020, and would face hosts Italy, Turkey and Wales. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament was delayed until the summer of 2021, and was hosted by 11 cities in 11 different countries.

In what was deemed one of the toughest groups of the tournament Switzerland would have been at their best to progress past an Italy side containing world-class superstars such as the likes of Giorgio Chiellini, Nicolò Barella, Leonardo Bonucci, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Federico Chiesa

Gareth Bale spearheaded a Wales side looking to improve upon their semi-final appearance at Euro 2016 and Turkey were considered by many to be dark horses going into the tournament, led by captain Burak Yilmaz.

  • The Manager – Vladimir Petković

On 23 December 2013, it was announced that Petković was to succeed Ottmar Hitzfeld as the manager of Switzerland after the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

The Bosnian-born manager therefore took over the reins in July 2014 and oversaw the national team’s most successful period in their history. Under his tenure the the Swiss Nati qualified to the round of 16 in both Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA World Cup

He had previously managed domestically in Switzerland at Bellinzona, BSC Young Boys, and Sion, and would over oversee 78 games in charge of the Red Crosses, winning 41 games, before departing at the conclusion of Euro 2020.

Switzerland began their Euro 2020 campaign against Wales on the 12th June 2021. Despite taking the lead through a Breel Embolo header in the 49th minute and dominating the match, a late Kieffer Moore strike shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw. 

The second round of fixtures, saw the Swiss Nati face eventual champions Italy. Gli Azzurri ruthlessly dispatched Petković’s side in a dominant display. A brace from Manuel Locatelli and a late goal from talisman Ciro Immobile condemned Switzerland to a 3-0 defeat, mounting the pressure on the Red Crosses to get a result in their final group game. 

With Wales defeating Turkey 2-0 in their second-round fixture, Petković’s squad knew they had to beat Turkey in emphatic fashion, whilst hoping that Wales failed to beat Italy to qualify automatically, otherwise they would be reliant on being one of the four best third-placed group teams to make the knockout stages.

Switzerland rose to the occasion reigning victorious 3-1. Haris Seferovic opened the scoring in the 6th minute before Xherdan Shaqiri doubled the Swiss lead in the 26th minute. Turkey threatened to stage a comeback through Irfan Kahveci, but Shaqiri confirmed victory with an excellent finish from a Steven Zuber cross, who ended the game with a hat-trick of assists.

Italy did defeat Wales 1-0, however Wales’ superior goal difference meant they occupied second-place in Group A and qualified for the knockout stages alongside Italy.  

Petković’s had an agonising wait to see if they would qualify for the knockouts as one of the best third-placed teams, which they did so after finishing with the third best record. This set up a round of 16 clash with 2018 FIFA World Cup winners France.

A thrilling contest saw the tie go to penalties. Despite an early goal from Seferovic, the then-world champions had sauntered into a 3-1 lead with 10 minutes to go. Seferovic grabbed his second of the game with a header in the 81st minute, and just when it seemed like France had seen off the potential comeback to make it to the quarter-finals, substitute Mario Gavronovic rifled a long-range effort into the back of the net to send the fixture to extra-time. 

A tense extra-time saw no further goals and both sides prepared for penalties. Switzerland went first, and it was goal-scorer Gavronovic who duly dispatched his penalty. Successful spot-kicks from Fabian SchärManuel AkanjiRuben Vargas and Admir Mehmedi, saw the Red Crosses take a 5-4 advantage after nine perfect penalties. 

It was Kylian Mbappé who stepped up to take the final French penalty, but Yann Sommer denied the Parisian-born striker, diving low down to his right to save the penalty and dump hot favourites Les Bleus out of the tournament.

A quarter-final tie with previous European Championship winners Spain awaited Switzerland where a Shaqiri equaliser, cancelled out a Denis Zakaria own goal as Petković’s side battled resolutely in a game La Roja dominated, particularly after midfielder Remo Freuler had been sent off,  to send the match to penalties. 

Switzerland opted for the same four penalty-takers who had opened for them versus France, but sadly only Gavronovic could find success, with Unai Simón saving  Schär and Akanji’s penalties before Vargas blazed over. Mikel Oyarzabal scored the winning penalty to cruelly end Switzerland’s Euro 2020 campaign, but it was still a tournament that the Swiss Nati can look back on with pride, as they recorded their highest-ever European Championship finish.

The forward has developed a reputation as Switzerland’s go-to man, and this continued in Euro 2020. 

It was Shaqiri who assisted Embolo’s header in the game versus Wales. It was Shaqiri who scored twice in the must-win game against Turkey. And it was Shaqiri who equalised against Spain to get Switzerland back into the game. 

The forward has scored 31 times in 131 appearances, and the star of the golden generation led from the front, showcasing his creativity and taking on responsibility in the big moments for his national side.

  • How did their 2024 Qualifying go?

Switzerland qualified through a qualification group consisting of Romania, Israel, Belarus, Kosovo, and Andorra.

The Swiss Nati began their campaign with a flourish, winning their first three games, the highlight being a 5-0 away victory over Belarus. The encouraging start, for the highest-ranked side in their qualifying group, sparked ambitions of topping the standings.

Murat Yakin’s side failed to continue this promise, having an underwhelming remainder of their qualifying campaign, winning only one of their last seven games, against an Andorra side who finished bottom of the group. This resulted in finishing 2nd in their group behind Romania, and, subsequently, Switzerland were placed in pot four of the Euro 2024 draw.

The Swiss Nati can at least take positives from the fact they are unbeaten in their last four matches, as they aim to progress through a tough group containing hosts Germany, Hungary and Scotland. They will need to do so if they are to match or improve upon their Euro 2020 performance.