Early goals have been key to Switzerland enjoying a positive start to the year as Swiss football journalist Peter Birrer explained to FC Cymru recently.

“Undoubtedly, the main thing is that the team has started its World Cup qualifying campaign with two wins,” said Birrer. Goals from Breel Embolo, Haris Seferović and Steven Zuber opened the campaign with a  3-1 over Bulgaria in Sofia, and a few days later Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Lithuania. A successful March camp was the rounded-off with a convincing 3-1 win over Finland.

“In the victory in Sofia against Bulgaria the start to the match was outstanding,” Birrer added. “The three Swiss goals came within the first 13 minutes. This is a record in the history of the association! National coach Vladimir Petković had expressed the wish for a quick opening goal in the run-up to the match, but he hardly expected things to go so well straight away. And in the second game against Lithuania too, the Swiss proved to be quick starters. Xherdan Shaqiri scored after less than 100 seconds to make it 1-0 and it stayed that way.”

Switzerland were close to being relegated from UEFA Nations League group at the end of 2020 but only remained in League A through a better head-to-head record against Ukraine to finish third. The side only registered one victory from their six games and it proved to be decisive in the final standings. Having lost 2-1 to Ukraine in Lviv, Switzerland were rewarded a 3-0 victory in the return fixture as Ukraine were unable to compete through quarantine requirements. It was the only positive result for Switzerland during 2020, but the nation now has an optimistic view for the future.

“Players like Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and goalkeeper Yann Sommer have been shaping the team for a long time,” Birrer explained. “Seferović and Ricardo Rodríguez are also undisputed regulars. One player who has recently attracted attention with his light-hearted style of play is Ruben Vargas who is a lively offensive player, while Nico Elvedi can also be a discovery. The Borussia Mönchengladbach centre-back impresses with his composed style and consistently strong performances.

“The Swiss national team has become a regular at major tournaments in the new millennium. Even though we are a small country with manageable resources, since EURO 2004, the only finals we have not qualified for was EURO 2012. But one major goal has not been achieved so far - the quarter-finals. The team came close at EURO 2016, but lost to Poland in a penalty shoot-out in the round of 16, and were beaten by Sweden at the same stage at the 2018 World Cup. Players, coaches and spectators are longing for a place in the quarter-finals. That is the big goal.”

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