Sweden have got to be the most impressive team of the World Cup. They knocked out the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup qualifications and they then went on to dump Italy in the sudden death knockout game to qualify for the World Cup. And now, they have done the unthinkable. Their results have directly had a hand in dumping World Cup holders Germany out of the World Cup. And they have done all of this without their big guy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
They are on a dream roller-coaster ride, a ride they don’t want to wake up from. But they come up against a side which is so similar, yet so different from them. Switzerland are a side filled with both finesse and flair, pace and static defending. With so much going, there is little surety of the kind of approach they will take to the game, but one thing is pretty sure, they will put up an almighty fight. While the nation is not known to be rough and tough, their football team surely is.
After Serbia landed a hard punch which knocked them off their feet, Switzerland came back roaring, with a Granit Xhaka screamer and a calm and cool Xherdan Shaqiri finish ensuring that they turned it all around and got one up against their biggest political and geographical rivals. The emotions were clearly visible from their celebration, with both Xhaka and Shaqiri sanctioned for their super eagles symboled celebration, which referred to the Albanian National flag.
This victory will surely have a positive effect on Switzerland, spurring them on and igniting its players. They will come up against a Sweden side which has got height, has got muscle and will be a test very similar to Serbia. Sweden though, have the discipline that Serbia could not show, which was in full display against Mexico. Even at 3-0 down, their midfielders ran up and down the pitch, going after hopeful balls and returning back into their original positions within the next 5 seconds of giving up on the ball.
This discipline almost always goes unnoticed, something that has helped the plucky Swedes top their group. In Andreas Granqvist and Victor Lindeloef, Sweden have one of the best centre-back pairing which is resolute, which heads everything coming into their box, and which can also play the ball out from defence. In Emil Forsberg and Victor Claessen, they have two creative midfielders who provide constant and quality service to their strikers Ola Toivonen and Marcus Berg. But their lack of goals and over-dependence on Granqvist penalties will concern Sweden and they will need to do more in the final third on their own to threaten the Swiss defence.
Manuel Akanji has been one of the finds of the World Cup for Switzerland. While the young and talented ball playing centre back has already got his big club move to Borussia Dortmund, he had not yet announced himself to Europe and the World. But his performances for Switzerland have finally done that. The 22 year old has been a big presence, with his ball-playing ability particularly catching the eye. He created the winner for Switzerland against Serbia by passing ahead clearance straight to Granit Xhaka, who picked out Xherdan Shaqiri perfectly which resulted in the winner. With young talents and rugged players in every position, Switzerland will be looking to go deep into the World Cup, and Sweden could prove a big and tough test for them.