England beware as repeat of Denmark nightmare awaits Southgate against dark horses Switzerland

Lewis Oldham
Switzerland v Germany
Granit Xhaka in action for Switzerland.

England are in line to face Group A runners-up Switzerland in the quarter-finals of Euro 2024, which means a repeat of that Denmark nightmare is pending.

 

Before Euro 2024 started, F365 picked Switzerland as our official dark horse for the tournament. 

We don’t always get it right (Turkey were picked for Euro 2020 and they lost all three of their group games… What were we thinking?!), but Switzerland’s start to the tournament has got us feeling pretty smug.

Switzerland set their stall out with a richly deserved 3-1 win in their opener against Hungary. Their follow-up 1-1 draw against a resurgent Scotland side was less good, but Murat Yakin’s side returned to form in their Group A finale against tournament hosts and well-fancied contenders Germany.

The buzz around this German team has grown nicely since Julian Nagelsmann’s men gave Scotland a royal spanking in the Euro 2024 curtain-raiser with gifted starlets Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz combining beautifully with veterans Ilkay Gundogan and Toni Kroos, while Arsenal’s Kai Havertz continues to love life in his increasingly comfortably home as a No.9.

But in tournament football, teams that progress deep into the competition rarely have it all their way and there’s often at least one dud to get over along the way.

Thankfully for Germany, said dud came in their final group game after knowing pre-match that they were already guaranteed a spot in the knockout stages.

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t England vs Denmark bad, but Switzerland’s meticulous organisation and driven performance led by captain fantastic Granit Xhaka (who has emphatically silenced any of his remaining doubters at Bayer Leverkusen) made for a frustrating evening for the hosts.

On that awful Frankfurt pitch where Gareth Southgate’s England tried and failed to resemble top-level footballers, Germany had their fair share of issues as they struggled to break down a resolute Switzerland side, who refused to be rushed in possession and caused problems on the counter-attack.

Switzerland and Yann Sommer were given an early reprieve around the 15th minute as Robert Andrich’s long-range strike (which the goalkeeper really should have saved) was rightly chalked off after a late foul from Musiala in the build-up.

The Swiss then silenced the home crowd with their first shot on target as Bologna’s Dan Ndoye did brilliantly to get on the end of Remo Freuler’s cross to place the ball into the roof of the net past Manuel Neuer.

The opening two group games placed Musiala as an early leading contender for Player of the Tournament (and earned him a spot in Team of the Tournament so far).

But Ndoye is deserving of equal praise as a candidate for Euro 2024 breakout star. He impressed against Hungary and Scotland, but this performance was at another level as the attacking midfielder came close to scoring his and his side’s second a few minutes after breaking the deadlock.

He overcame a significant size disadvantage to do something Erling Haaland couldn’t when succumbing to his kryptonite as the tenacious little bugger outmuscled and got in behind Antonio Rudiger before his shot unluckily went just wide.

MORE EURO 2024 COVERAGE ON F365…
👉 England squad friction: Kane calls summit after Foden plays ‘peacemaker’ between Three Lions pair
👉 England: Scholes selects new position to start ‘wasted’ Alexander-Arnold in three changes for Slovenia
👉 Southgate out? Six managers who were sacked mid-tournament as England fans pray

Germany did improve after the interval and it took a ridiculously good last-gasp block from Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji to deny an almost certain goal as Joshua Kimmich shot just outside of the six-yard box.

Switzerland’s players exuded assuredness in defence and attack while showing England what’s possible when you play with an all-action and compact high press as they had plenty of joy when taking the sting out of any building Germany momentum.

While the hosts huffed and puffed as the second half wore on, their well-drilled opponents could have easily doubled their lead as Ruben Vargas had a goal chalked off for a narrow offside and Xhaka’s strike from distance was well-saved by Neuer.

Before this game, Germany had scored in 52 of their previous 53 matches against Switzerland and Niclas Fullkrug’s stoppage-time leveller added to this record.

📣TO THE COMMENTS! Who will win Euro 2024? Join the debate here

It was hard not to feel for Switzerland as this late header found the net; their relentless endeavour warranted maximum points. But taking away my unyielding preference for an underdog, Germany’s equaliser was deserved on the balance of play as their pressure finally told.

This match ends up being one that gives a boost to each side. For Germany, it looked like they were letting their mask slip as they were en route to defeat, but they showed great perseverance to eventually get back into the game against opponents who produced a near-perfect defensive display.

The defensive aspect of Germany’s game is certainly their weak point and a stronger opponent could exploit that, but going forward they have the potential to be breathtaking so this result does not take away from the feeling that Euro 2024 glory for the host nation is one of the tournament’s most likely outcomes.

The late equaliser for Group A winners Germany is a blessing in disguise for England as it means the Three Lions will now not get a one-sided battering in the quarter-finals against Nagelsmann’s side if each team gets past their respective round of 16 ties.

However, it’s not all good news for England as they are now in line to face Switzerland in the last eight. This is provided they get past Italy, Albania or Croatia in the last 16 and going off the performances of all four teams, you’d have to back the Swiss to progress.

Given how Southgate’s team fared against Denmark (a side of lesser quality but with a similar set-up to Switzerland’s with a three-man defence), this potential quarter-final meeting fills me with dread in anticipation of major tournament specialist Xherdan Shaqiri coming in clutch for the Euro 2024 dark horses to end Southgate’s spell as manager on an appropriately depressing low.

READ NEXT: BBC pundit the ‘perfect man for England’ but then anyone’s better than Southgate