France takes on Switzerland in the EURO 2020 Round of 16 at the Arena Nationale in Bucharest tonight. Football Monk takes a look into the five important aspects of the game.

Switzerland, currently 13th in FIFA rankings, scraped past the group stage in 3rd place behind Italy and Wales. They’ll be a tough opponent to face, especially having lost only once in the last 10 matches. France, on the other hand, topped Group F, courtesy of a win against Germany and stalemates with Hungary and Portugal.

A history of the rivalry

The two teams have faced each other 38 times, with France winning 16 of them. The Swiss came out on top in 12 games while the other 10 finished in stalemates. As per major tournaments are concerned, France holds the edge again with 2 wins and 3 draws in 5 games. This includes a 5-2 hammering of the Swiss in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Their last meeting in Euro Cup came 4 years ago in the group phase which finished goalless.

Five aspects to look forward to in the match

  • France will be looking forward to the match to assert their claim as favourites as the business end of the tournament heat up. 
  • With an injury-ravaged defensive lineup, French boss Didier Deschamps would be tempted to try out a 3-5-2 formation. Clement Lenglet will take his place beside Varane and Kimpembe in defence.
Lenglet warming up for France ahead of a match at the EURO 2020
  • Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic would bank on his side-backs Kevin Mbabu and Ricardo Rodriguez to provide much-needed width. He’s expected to go with a central midfield pair of Xhaka and Freuler to provide stability.
  • Deschamps would not be getting the services of Ousmane Dembele, Marcus Thuram and Lucas Digne as they’re out injured. He’s sweating on the fitness of  Lucas Hernandez, who is expected to start on the bench.
  • France’s last two results have ended in draws, something the Swiss players will look to take an advantage of. However, Switzerland failed to make it past the Round of 16 stages in all of their last three competitions. Thus, it will be a battle of grit and character as well for both teams.

Key battles

  • Granit Xhaka vs Paul Pogba

This will be an interesting duel to watch out for. Both players need to step up for their respective teams in their quest to make it to the quarters. Pogba was the stand-out performer for France with impressive displays against Germany and Portugal. He needs to continue from where he left off in order to create chances upfront for the French attacking trio. Xhaka will play a key role in disrupting the French midfield march and create openings on the counter. 

  • Xherdan Shaqiri vs Antoine Griezmann

Xherdan Shaqiri shone in the last game of the group phase to power his team into the knockouts. His experience in the knockouts of major tournaments is valuable as well. No one can forget his overhead kick goal against Poland in EURO 2016. Hence, his contributions will be an utmost necessity against the world champions tonight.

On the other hand, Griezmann has had a quiet tournament so far, with only one goal against Hungary. He’ll need to step up with his goalscoring exploits once again as he did 4 years ago. And hardly he can get a better opportunity than to make his mark against the Swiss tonight. Thus, this is going to be a cracking contest on the pitch.

Author’s take

The French are the favourites going into the match. But in knockouts like these, anything can happen on a given day and the Swiss are no pushovers. They’ll surely take heart from the Czech display against the Dutch last night to make their point.

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