Wales take on Switzerland in Baku in the second game of Euro2020 on June 12. The Welsh have a lot to live up to having reached the semi-finals in their debut appearance in the European Championships in France in 2016, and they face a Swiss side who have never made it past the group of 16 in their four appearances.
Wales come into the tournament having only lost twice in their last eleven international appearances. They’re not exactly a free scoring team having scored more than one goal in only one of those 11 games, but they have kept eight clean sheets and if they are to get anywhere in this tournament they will need to maintain that defensive strength. However, a 3-0 defeat to England and a 3-1 defeat to Belgium show that Wales do find it harder against the bigger teams.
The Swiss come into the tournament on the back of wins over Bulgaria, Lithuania and Finland which have seen them score seven goals in three games. However, that run came after a sequence of seven games without a win and they have only kept two clean sheets in their last 12 fixtures. Like Wales, against the stronger teams in Europe Switzerland have struggled and they will need to step up their performances for this tournament.
The last few months have been tough for the Dragons, with Rob Page having to step in as caretaker coach after manager Ryan Giggs was charged with assaulting two women. Page has taken charge of the last five games that Wales have played, and has picked a preliminary 28-man squad that includes Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey and forward Gareth Bale fresh from a fairly successful loan spell with Spurs. Ramsey has suffered with a thigh issue towards the end of the season but returned to fitness in April.
Swiss boss Vladimir Petkovic has named a 29-man preliminary squad for the warm-up friendlies with USA and Liechtenstein which includes Premier League quartet Granit Xhaka of Arsenal, Xherdan Shaqiri of Liverpool, Fabian Schar of Newcasle and uncapped Brighton forward Andi Zeqiri. Schar missed ten games with a knee injury over the spring while Xhaka has had a groin problem in the last few weeks at Arsenal. Both are key players for Switzerland and Petkovic will need them at full fitness if Switzerland are to progress.
This is quite a tough game to call, as is evidenced by how the markets stand currently. Switzerland are favourites to win but not by much which probably reflects Switzerland’s better international ranking than Wales. Neither side performs particularly well in crunch games, and it’s likely to be a test of how resilient the Welsh defence is. The travel to Baku is going to be arduous, particularly in a Covid-secure bubble and we think that and the pressure to perform will not work in Wales’ favour.