Euro 2020: Switzerland aware of France depth, Croatia upbeat despite Perisic setback

June 28, 2021 03:45 PM

The Euro 2020 talking points have undergone a drastic change. The rest of the tournament will be without the Netherlands, the record-breaking Cristiano Ronaldo, and an upbeat Austria who made it to their first ever knockouts stage. Czech Republic, Denmark, Belgium and Italy are already through to the quarterfinals. Tonight, it’s time for Croatia, who are without Ivan Perisic, to take on Luis Enrique's Spain. And France, who are also dealing with a host of injury concerns, take on Switzerland in the round of 16.

Here's what's in store tonight:

Spain vs Croatia (9:30 pm, IST)
Venue: Parken Stadium

Croatia and Spain have had a similar run to the round of 16. Both were winless in their first two group stage games, and then romped into the knockout stage with a convincing victory in the third one. The Croats beat Scotland 3-1 while La Roja 5-0 rout of Slovakia, spurred on by the return of Sergio Busquets, came as a welcome relief.

Zlatko Dalic’s side will be without one of their best players for the game in Copenhagen after Ivan Perisic tested positive for Covid-19. Perisic, who scored two goals during the group stage, will have to self-isolate for 10 days and would also miss the quarterfinals and semifinals, if Croatia advance that far.

“Perisic is hard to replace and he's been our key player in the group stage but this can happen and we have to adapt. Fortunately, we have more options in Perisic's position than in any other at this tournament so whoever steps in should be able to do a good job,” Dalic told the media on Sunday.

Both the teams have strong tournament pedigree. Croatia reached the 2018 World Cup final before losing to France, and 13 of those players are still in the squad.

Spain won three straight major tournaments between 2008-2012, including two European Championships, but lost in the round of 16 at both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Only seven La Roja players in the Spain squad have played at a previous major tournament, one of them being Busquets.

Croatia midfielder Nikola Vlasic has warned against giving Spain too much time on the ball. “We certainly must prevent them from feeling comfortable and playing their football,” Vlasic said. “That would be deadly for us, because they're really excellent technically.”

Enrique will probably hope for the game not to move into the penalty shootout. Spain have missed their last five penalties overall including two at Euro 2020.

Players to watch out for:

Luka Modric showed with his goal against Scotland that he remains a formidable force at 35, and will be the player trying to dictate the game. When it comes to Spain's attack, much of the focus will again be on Alvaro Morata. The Spain striker received a torrent of online abuse after missing a penalty against Slovakia and was also heavily criticised after the first two games, despite scoring against Poland.

France vs Switzerland (12: 30 am IST, Tuesday)
Venue: National Arena

France’s Euro 2020 campaign hasn't gone as expected as they have won only one group stage game, and Kylian Mbappe hasn't found the back of the net yet. But the concerns are far more deep-seated for coach Didier Deschamps. Les Bleus have been marred by injuries in the run up to their round of 16 match versus Switzerland.

Ousmane Dembele limped out of the tournament with a knee injury last week. Left-back Lucas Hernandez is doubtful for tonight's game, and his replacement Lucas Digne is also nursing a hamstring niggle. Midfielder Adrien Rabiot, who has also been down with an ankle injury, is not 100 per cent. To make matters worse, Thomas Lemar suffered a leg injury and Marcus Thuram hurt his right thigh in training on Thursday, hobbling off the pitch with the support of medical staff.

But Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic isn't drawing any optimism from the tragedy that has struck Deschamps. “I don’t think this affects us. These are problems for Didier Deschamps but he has so many good players to choose from,” Petkovic told a news conference.

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe swap quick passes and switch positions high up the field, with the quick-thinking and skilful Griezmann operating behind them. But none of them were able to score in the opening 1-0 win over Germany, a match decided by Mats Hummels' own-goal.

Antoine Griezmann did get on the scoreboard in the 1-1 draw against Hungary, while Benzema scored both in the 2-2 draw against Portugal after rejoining the national squad following an exile of almost six years.

The 22-year-old Mbappe, who scored a career-high 42 goals for Paris Saint-Germain this season, excelled at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, scoring four goals on the way to helping France win its second title at the tournament. He scored one of those goals in the 4-2 victory over Croatia in the final.

Switzerland have their own battle with history to deal with.

The Swiss are hoping to end a run of three consecutive exits in the round of 16 at major tournaments. Overall, they have not won a match in a knockout stage at any major tournament in 67 years. Switzerland finished third in Group A with four points, advancing as one of the four best third-place teams. After a 1-1 draw with Wales and a 3-0 loss to Italy, Petkovic was under fire for what critics saw as negative tactics and a lack of creativity.

Switzerland has never beaten France in a competitive game. In their previous encounter at Euro 2016, the Swiss held host France to a 0-0 draw in a group match.

“The pressure will be on them,” Switzerland defender Loris Benito said. “We'll remain positive.”

Players to watch out for:

With Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, Deschamps has enough attacking power to deliver back-to-back major titles, something that would match the country's achievement in 1998 and 2000. The Swiss are expected to rely on Xherdan Shaqiri and Breel Embolo.

Have something to say? Post your comment