Sports Mole previews Sunday’s UEFA Nations League third-place playoff between Switzerland and England, including team news and predicted lineups.
Switzerland and England will lock horns in the UEFA Nations League third-place playoff on Sunday afternoon, with both teams losing their semi-finals by a 3-1 scoreline.
Indeed, Switzerland lost to Portugal on Wednesday night before England suffered a defeat to Netherlands, who scored twice in extra-time to overcome Gareth Southgate‘s side.
It did appear that Wednesday’s first semi-final between Portugal and Switzerland would be heading for extra-time with Ricardo Rodriguez cancelling out a first-half strike from Cristiano Ronaldo. The Juventus forward added two more goals in the final moments, however, to send Fernando Santos‘s side into Sunday’s final.
To be brutally honest, the third-place playoff is a match that both Switzerland and England could do without. It will mean more than a straightforward international friendly, but club managers will not exactly be delighted that their players have to take part in the controversial fixture.
It has been a decent few years for the Swiss national team, who reached the last-16 stage of both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup, in addition to making the round of 16 at Euro 2016. They are short of the top teams when it comes to quality, but there is no question that the squad is packed full of talent.
Vladimir Petkovic‘s team impressively topped their UEFA Nations League group ahead of Belgium, who they beat 5-2 in November 2018. The national team have also made a decent start to their Euro 2020 qualification campaign, having drawn with Denmark and beaten Georgia in their first two fixtures.
It would be a surprise if they did not qualify for the finals of next summer’s European championships. Indeed, the Swiss have been present in three of the last four tournaments, although they have never been past the round of 16.
In terms of what is ahead for Petkovic’s side, they will return to Euro 2020 qualification action with a trip to Republic of Ireland on September 5, before hosting Gibraltar three days later. By that point the 2019-20 campaign will be well underway and the country’s focus will be on next summer’s championships.
It will certainly be interesting to see what team is sent onto the field for this match. On the one hand, Petkovic will be keen to have a look at a number of different options in a competitive setting, but overcoming England would be huge in terms of confidence for the A-Team.
Switzerland will be the underdogs entering Sunday afternoon’s affair, however, as they have lost six of the last seven meetings between the two nations and are without a victory over the Three Lions since May 1981.
Recent form: WLWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WLWWDL
In the end, it was the same old story for England. Southgate’s side played well for periods of their semi-final with Netherlands but it is difficult to say with any confidence that they deserved to progress to the final.
A mistake from Matthijs de Ligt ultimately led to England receiving a penalty, which Marcus Rashford dispatched to send the Three Lions ahead on the night. De Ligt made amends with a leveller in the second period, though, and extra-time arrived after Jesse Lingard saw his late strike chalked off following a VAR check.
A horror mistake from John Stones saw Netherlands take the lead courtesy of a Kyle Walker own goal, before Ross Barkley made an error to allow Quincy Promes to score a third for Ronald Koeman‘s side. There were positive signs, but England’s lack of midfield control would have been a concern.
The Three Lions have a lot of talent in the final third, but a lack of top-drawer midfielders could cost them when it comes to the latter stages of tournament football. England would have been looking to make the final after falling in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, but it just was not to be.
Like Switzerland, England will not exactly be relishing taking part in this match. It does seem strange that there is a third-place playoff for the Nations League, particularly when the winner of the competition itself is not even guaranteed automatic qualification for the European championships next summer.
In terms of what is ahead for England, they will return to Euro 2020 qualification action at home to Bulgaria in September. Southgate’s side have beaten Czech Republic and Montenegro in their first two matches, scoring 10 times in the process to comfortably sit top of their section.
England also impressed in the group stages of the Nations League, collecting seven points from four matches against Spain and Croatia to top the group. The nation will be a force at Euro 2020 but a lot of things will have to change if they are to seriously challenge the likes of France and Belgium for the crown.
Southgate will surely revert back to a 3-5-2 formation that served him well at the World Cup, although that would leave the head coach with a huge decision to make on Harry Kane. It seems unthinkable that the Tottenham Hotspur striker would be left out of any match when fully fit, but Raheem Sterling cannot be dropped as the Manchester City attacker is brilliant both on and off the pitch.
Sunday’s clash with Switzerland will not mean too much in the grand scheme of things. However, Southgate will be desperate for his team to return to winning ways with a clean and non-dramatic performance.
Recent form: LDWWL
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWL
It will certainly be interesting to see what type of Switzerland XI is sent onto the field. Premier League duo Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka could both be rested with the likes of Josip Drmic, Renato Steffen and Edimilson Fernandes coming into the side.
Newcastle United’s Fabian Schar should keep his spot at the heart of the defence, but Michael Lang is in line to replace Kevin Mbabu at wing-back.
Uncapped 19-year-old Noah Okafor will also be hoping to play a part against the Three Lions.
As for England, It seems likely that Southgate will ring the changes for Sunday’s match, with Kane, Jordan Henderson, Lingard and Dele Alli – who all came off the bench against Netherlands – in line to start.
Jack Butland could be given the nod between the sticks, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Danny Rose potentially coming into the wing-back positions. Joe Gomez and Michael Keane will also be eyeing starts in central defence.
It might well be that Southgate changes his entire XI, with Callum Wilson and Eric Dier also pushing for starts, meaning that the likes of Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho will drop out.
Rashford is a slight doubt with the injury that he picked up against Netherlands although it seems unlikely that the Manchester United attacker would have started even if he had been fully fit.
Switzerland possible starting lineup:
Mvogo; Elvedi, Schar, Rodriguez; Lang, Sow, Fernandes, Moubandje; Steffen, Drmic, Zakaria
England possible starting lineup:
Butland; Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Gomez, Rose; Dier, Henderson, Alli; Lingard, Kane, Wilson
Head To Head
The two nations have locked horns on 25 occasions in international football, with England leading the head-to-head record 17 wins to Switzerland’s three.
The Three Lions recorded a 1-0 win in their last meeting in September 2018, with Rashford scoring the only goal of the international friendly.
Their last two competitive meetings occurred during qualification for Euro 2016 and the Three Lions won 2-0 both home and away against the Swiss. Switzerland have not actually beaten England since May 1981, which was their first win in this fixture since May 1947.
We say: Switzerland 1-2 England
It is difficult to predict what type of match will occur with both managers set to make extensive changes. England have the greater quality in the final third, though, and should have enough to claim the win.