With both having failed to win so far, Switzerland meet Group A’s bottom side Turkey in their final Euro 2020 group game on Sunday.
To secure a ticket to the knockout stages, three points are now essential in Baku, as neither nation could handle red-hot Italy or overcome Wales – leaving them in a perilous position after the first two matches.
Having been eliminated at the group stage three times before a last-16 exit five years ago, Switzerland are in danger of underperforming on the continental stage again, after a lacklustre start to their Group A campaign.
Ranked 13th in the world, La Nati had won six games in a row coming into these Championships – in a run which stretched back to last November – but have now picked up only one point from two Euro 2020 outings.
After conceding a lead to draw with Wales and then being thumped 3-0 by an impressive Italy side last time out in Rome, the Swiss have now won only two of their 15 fixtures at Euros past and present.
At Stadio Olimpico, on Wednesday, Switzerland barely threatened the well-drilled Italian rearguard despite sharing possession almost equally, with Haris Seferovic and Breel Embolo labouring fruitlessly up front.
Following that deflating defeat, coach Vladimir Petkovic will be dismayed that his team’s destiny is no longer in their own hands, but they could yet finish second in the group and assure safe passage to the last 16.
However, Switzerland will require Wales to lose to a potentially much-changed Azzurri to do so, while also needing to post a better goal difference than Robert Page’s buoyant side.
After losing their first game of a Euros for the fifth consecutive time on the opening night, Turkey’s tournament went from bad to worse on Wednesday, as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against 2016 semi-finalists Wales.
Just before half time in Azerbaijan, Gareth Bale bisected the Turkish defence with a killer pass for Aaron Ramsey to open the scoring, before the Real Madrid man blazed a second-half penalty over the bar. Then, in the dying moments, Bale teed up a decisive second Welsh goal, meaning that Turkey simply must now beat Switzerland in another ‘almost home’ fixture, roared on by a partisan crowd.
Even then, they might still be sent home, as the 2008 semi-finalists’ only remaining option is to advance as one of the four best third-placed teams. For certain, they have already missed out on one of the top two spots which many pundits fancied them to occupy and have a minus five goal difference, so the odds are stacked against them.
A distinct lack of defensive solidity so far has come as a crushing disappointment for the side led by veteran coach Senol Gunes, who masterminded his nation’s remarkable run to the final four of the 2002 World Cup.
The quiet revolution since he took charge for a second time seemed set to lead to success this summer: in fact, Turkey conceded just three times during qualifying and kept eight clean sheets throughout the 10-game process.
Also coming into the main event having lost only three of 26 matches since Gunes stepped back into the hotseat, the former teacher from Trabzon has seen his team crumble in both of their opening encounters, leaving the fallen Crescent-Stars on the verge of elimination after losing back-to-back matches for the first time since 2018.
So, to salvage their Championships from the wreckage, Turkey will have to quickly address claims that inexperience and a lack of physical power – both made by Gunes himself – has seen the weight of a nation’s hopes bear too heavily on their young team’s shoulders.