Preview: Belarus vs. Switzerland
Belarus and Switzerland meet in Novi Sad in the opening set of fixtures for Euro 2024 qualification.
The game is being played in Serbia due to the UEFA-imposed ban on Belarus from hosting continental and international matches.
This will be Switzerland’s first outing since being thrashed 6-1 by Portugal in the last 16 of the World Cup.
Despite that humiliation on the big stage, the Swiss have stuck with Murat Yakin as manager, evidently giving him credit for infamously edging out Italy in their qualifying section for the finals in Qatar.
However, since then, Switzerland have won only five of 13 matches, albeit a lot of them coming at the World Cup and a tough UEFA Nations League group.
Their respectable Nations League campaign did see them beat all of the sides in a section containing Portugal, Spain and Czech Republic.
They are a very efficient side at navigating qualification sections, having missed only one of the last 10 major tournaments – Euro 2012.
The Swiss will fancy their chances again being the highest-ranked side in a relatively weak group this time around.
Romania, Kosovo and Israel are expected to be the only realistic challengers and it is likely they will all be targeting second spot behind Switzerland, as two of those sides have never reached a major tournament while competing in Europe.
Given Belarus’ close ties with Russia, there is some controversy that they are still allowed to compete at all in UEFA competitions.
The European football governing body remain content at preventing matches from being hosted in the country as a sufficient sanction for now, but unlike Russia would have, Belarus have very slim hopes of causing many problems for nations in Group I.
All four of their friendly matches since the sanctioning being played away from home against sides from Asia shows the reluctance from European nations to associate with the country too, so they will get fewer opportunities to test themselves against high-level opponents.
No competitive wins in 13 matches including 10 defeats dating back two years shows why Belarus are such underdogs for this clash.
Having no home advantage will also be to the detriment of the team who were just two matches away from qualifying for Euro 2020 after winning their Nations League group in 2019.
That was only the second occasion where they have come close to reaching a major finals, after a defeat in Wales in their final qualifier for the 2002 World Cup saw them narrowly miss out on a playoff spot.
After being ranked as high as 36th in the world back in 2011, during the heydays of BATE Borisov performing stoutly in Europe, Belarus now find themselves barely inside the top 100.
Belarus form (all competitions):
Switzerland form (all competitions):
We say: Belarus 0-3 Switzerland
These two nations met in qualification for Euro 2000 and in a friendly in 2017 with Switzerland winning all three encounters to nil.
A repeat of that result looks likely with Belarus out of sorts given off-the-field matters.