Switzerland will aim to produce a shock of seismic proportions during their Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Monday, as they gear up to meet reigning world champions France at the National Arena in Bucharest.
Les Bleus finished first in the group of death to seal progress into the knockout rounds, while Switzerland managed to qualify as one of the four best third-placed outfits.
Not even the reigning World Cup holders could progress from the Euro 2020 group of death with nine points to their name, as Didier Deschamps’s men could not replicate their opening-day performance against Germany during clashes with Hungary or Portugal in Group F.
The resilient Hungarians – who won the hearts of the neutrals despite finishing bottom of the group – managed to take a point from their clash with France, while a record-equalling and record-breaking evening for Cristiano Ronaldo saw the five-time Ballon d’Or winner cancel out Karim Benzema’s own brace during a 2-2 draw on the final matchday.
A clean sweep in Group F was always going to be a pipe dream for France, but Deschamps nevertheless witnessed his side take top spot in the group to make the knockout stages for the third time in succession, although Hungary have proved that the world champions are far from the force they were in Russia three years ago.
With Kylian Mbappe still struggling to find his shooting boots amid persistent speculation surrounding his future, Deschamps would do well to get the best out of the Paris Saint-Germain attacker lest France risk an underwhelming finish at the Euros, although their last competitive defeat came over two years ago.
Les Bleus’ 2-2 draw with Portugal on June 23 did mark their 10th game unbeaten across all competitions since their shock friendly defeat to Finland last year, and while their favourites tag is still present, Switzerland have every right to believe that a surprise result could be theirs for the taking.
In spite of all of his struggles at Liverpool, Xherdan Shaqiri needed no extra motivation to produce the goods for his national team, as the 29-year-old’s brace set the Swiss on their way to a resounding 3-1 success over an under-performing Turkey on matchday three.
Haris Seferovic’s opener preceded Shaqiri’s brace – while Steven Zuber also grabbed headlines after setting up all three of his country’s goals on the day – as Switzerland recovered from their draw with Wales and defeat to Italy to progress in third place.
It was far from a vintage group-stage campaign for Vladimir Petkovic’s side, but the spot in the last-16 is all that matters for the Swiss, who have now successfully advanced to the knockout stages of a major tournament four times in succession.
However, Switzerland have been sent packing at this stage three times in a row at a World Cup or Euros since 2014, and while France’s somewhat underwhelming results in the group stage do make for positive reading, Petkovic will certainly sprinkle a dose of realism on his side’s chances before facing the world champions.
France and Switzerland played out a drab goalless stalemate at Euro 2016 – two years after Les Bleus ran out 5-2 winners at the 2014 World Cup – and Switzerland are without victory in this fixture since a 1992 friendly.