HomeFeatured ArticlesEURO 2024 Preview: Can Granit Xhaka Lead Switzerland to European Glory?

EURO 2024 Preview: Can Granit Xhaka Lead Switzerland to European Glory?

Switzerland’s Journey to EURO 2024: Challenges and Stars to Watch

As EURO 2024 approaches, the Swiss national team, led by Murat Yakin, confronts its share of hurdles and expectations. Despite a roster brimming with top-tier talent, the path to surpassing their quarter-final best at major tournaments appears daunting.

Managerial Spotlight: Murat Yakin’s Tumultuous Tenure

Murat Yakin, once a celebrated player for the national team, continues to command the helm despite a tumultuous period. His leadership was initially embraced when he took over in 2021, but a 6-1 thrashing by Portugal in the World Cup’s round of 16 cast a long shadow over his capabilities.

Switzerland’s subsequent performance in the qualifiers only added to the scepticism, limping to a second-place finish in a considered weak group. Yakin’s strategy seems to waver, as seen in recent friendlies where he unexpectedly shifted from his usual four-back formation to a three-back system, possibly influenced by his new assistant, Giorgio Contini. This move has not gone unnoticed and does little to solidify his position or tactical identity.

Photo: IMAGO

Granit Xhaka: The Beating Heart of Switzerland

In the midst of managerial uncertainty, Granit Xhaka remains a pivotal figure for Switzerland. Fresh from a stellar season with Bayer Leverkusen, where he lifted two trophies, Xhaka’s form will be crucial for Switzerland at EURO 2024. His ability to control the midfield and his experience on the international stage could set the tone for Switzerland’s campaign.

Emerging Talent and Veteran Presence

While Xhaka and goalkeeper Yann Sommer enter the tournament decorated with domestic glory, the team’s strength undoubtedly lies in its blend of seasoned campaigners and emerging talent. The likes of Manuel Akanji and Fabian Schar have been consistent for their clubs, providing Switzerland with a solid foundation. However, the spotlight also turns to younger players like Dan Ndoye, whose agility and skill have lit up Bologna’s flanks. Yet, the tactical setup under Yakin might not fully exploit Ndoye’s natural abilities, a concern for a team needing to maximize every asset.

Concerns Over Scoring and Squad Depth

Despite the experienced lineup, questions loom over Switzerland’s attacking potency. Breel Embolo, a key forward, has just returned from a serious injury, and his sharpness in front of goal remains uncertain. Moreover, the younger forwards like Noah Okafor and Zeki Amdouni have shown flashes of potential, but their modest goal tally in the lead-up to the tournament hardly instils confidence.

The squad’s depth also poses a concern. Beyond the starting XI, Switzerland’s options appear limited, particularly in terms of impactful game-changers. This could prove problematic in a tournament known for its intensity and the need for squad rotation.

Cultural Phenomenon: The Unexpected Hero

Off the pitch, Switzerland’s football culture found an unlikely icon during Euro 2020. Luca Loutenbach, the bespectacled Swiss fan whose emotional rollercoaster during the France match turned him into a viral sensation, embodies the passionate support the team can expect in Germany. His story, from meme to minor celebrity, highlights the unique and sometimes whimsical nature of football fandom.

Realistic Expectations for EURO 2024

The consensus in Switzerland is cautious at best. The disappointing end to their World Cup journey and the shaky EURO qualifiers have tempered expectations. However, they find themselves in a balanced group with Germany, Scotland, and Hungary, which might offer a path to the knockout stages. From there, the unpredictable nature of knockout football could provide a platform for surprises.

In conclusion, while Switzerland faces significant challenges at EURO 2024, the tournament presents an opportunity for redemption and perhaps, a chance to outdo their historical performances. With key players like Xhaka in form and a potential tactical rethink from Yakin, Switzerland could yet defy the odds.

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