Wales v Switzerland | Saturday 12th June 2021, 14:00 | BBC
Wales and Switzerland commence their Euro 2020 campaign in Baku, with both knowing the importance of a strong start knowing how tight Group A could and should be. With many anticipating Italy to go well in the competition, these two along with Turkey will likely be chasing down second spot to 100% confirm progression to the knockout round, although of course third spot may still be enough, but not for definite.
This will only be the second time Wales will be appearing at the European Championships, and their last and only appearance in 2016 saw them produce a memorable run to the semi-final stage. Whilst there are some pretty big differences between then and now, there are still some pretty big similarities.
Most notably, the impact of Gareth Bale is likely to have a big say in if they do indeed make it out of this group. Aaron Ramsey as well, and he’ll feel as though he’ll have a point to prove after an indifferent campaign with Juventus. Daniel James and David Brooks could also have a big say, but defensively they’ll need to show up as you don’t expect them to score many goals.
That is because only once since the beginning of 2020 have Wales netted two or more goals in a game, and even that was against a Finland side who had a man sent off after 12 minutes. Robert Page will be leading the charges because of the off-field issues surrounding Ryan Giggs, and perhaps this kind of drama could lead to reducing expectations, and the Welsh will be more than happy for that to be the case. The bookies place Wales as the outsiders of Group A.
Switzerland have never really made their mark at a European Championships. Four times they have appeared at one but have only won a collective two games out of 13. On three of the four occasions they would fail to progress out of the group.
Having the third place possible consolation this time around increases prospects of progression, but of course they won’t want to have to rely on third spot being enough. They did however make it out the group in the last World Cup, so this cycle of players have another chance to try and go one step further.
The Swiss have perhaps always fallen short of having a true star player within their ranks and that again looks to be the case once more. Xherdan Shaqiri has once taken on this tag, but he is very much a benchwarmer at Liverpool these days.
Haris Seferovic has enjoyed a fine season at Benfica, but he is hardly a player that’ll necessarily spark fear into the Welsh backline. Still, on paper it is probably a stronger all-round squad in comparison to Wales, but in a one-off match this looks a very tough one to call.
Vladimir Petkovic’s side are enjoying a six-match winning streak entering the tournament at least. Ukraine is probably the most notable of opposition they faced in that period, whilst half were indeed friendlies. Make of that what you will. Prior to that six they were winless in seven however when facing much stronger opponents in the form of Belgium, Spain and Germany to name three, but Wales aren’t of that standard, and Petkovic will expect a winning start.
First games are normally cagey affairs, especially when there isn’t necessarily a huge amount between the two teams. With three teams possibly going through however, could both of these really look to take the game to the opposition?
Switzerland are the most likely of the two to do so, but Wales will be quite content to sit back and try to counter attack with the pace of Bale and James, and they are capable of keeping things tight. 14 of their last 18 games finished with under 2.5 goals, and I think it is almost nailed on for this to be another adding to that.
Tactically, I can see both cancelling one another out, and although I think Wales could surprise one or two at this competition, I do hand a narrow edge to Switzerland, but not enough for me to back them outright. A bet-builder combination of Switzerland or Draw, Under 3 Goals & Both Teams To Score ‘No’ is available at 13/10 (Bet365).
I can only picture a very close match and not necessarily one which will fall into the ‘classic’ category, but it should still be a good watch, especially with both believing they can qualify in second.
Wales v Switzerland – Switzerland Double Chance, Under 3 Goals and Both Teams To Score ‘No’ (13/10 Bet365)