Euro 2024 team guides part four: Switzerland

Estimated read time 8 min read

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified. is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


The current Swiss national team is the most successful in the country’s history. The generation of the 2009 Under-17 World Cup winners has made it to the knockout rounds at the past five major finals, something matched only by France. The coup de grace came at the 2021 European Championship, when they forced France into extra time in the round of 16 after trailing 3-1, and then won the penalty shootout thanks to Yann Sommer’s brilliant save to deny Kylian Mbappé. There was not much wrong with their quarter-final display against Spain either, but they lost that one on penalties.

The Euro 2024 qualifiers were rather less successful. After a very good start, the team slipped into a results crisis in the autumn in what was on paper probably the weakest group. In the past eight games at the time of writing, Switzerland only managed to beat Andorra. The coach, Murat Yakin, was criticised, and he was no longer unchallenged internally either.

In September the captain, Granit Xhaka, publicly criticised the coach and the association, which led to a discussion between him and Yakin. The situation came to a head after disappointing results against Belarus (3-3), Israel (1-1), Kosovo (1-1) and Romania (0-1), but they still qualified in second place behind Romania, and the association decided to stick with Yakin for the tournament in Germany.

Changes were made in the spring, though, as Giorgio Contini, who had previously worked as a head coach in the Swiss league for many years, was appointed as the new assistant coach. Yakin changed the system in the friendly matches away to Denmark (0-0) and Ireland (1-0) and switched to a back three. Expect Switzerland to play with this system this summer.

Switzerland’s minimum goal is to get through the group stage. It is difficult to say whether more is possible. Opinions differ. Some believe Switzerland can achieve more and even reach the semi-finals, while others expect their tournament to be over after the group stages.

The stars such as Xhaka, Sommer and Manuel Akanji are travelling to the tournament with plenty of confidence after strong seasons at their clubs but some players, especially the younger ones, have not been in form recently.

The main problem lies in attack. Switzerland have no strong strikers and Breel Embolo, who is “indispensable” according to Yakin, suffered a thigh injury only a few weeks after his comeback from a cruciate ligament rupture. Like Denis Zakaria, he is unlikely to be fully fit at the start of the tournament. In addition Xherdan Shaqiri, the most important Swiss attacking player in recent years, has been playing in the American MLS for the past two years.

The coach

Murat Yakin is regarded as an outstanding tactical expert and his strength is his ability to perfectly organise his team defensively against higher-ranked opponents. Yakin is the only coach to win twice in a Champions League group stage against a team coached by José Mourinho. His greatest successes as a coach include winning promotion with FC Thun and two Swiss Super League titles with Basel, as well as reaching the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the Europa League. As he did as a player (49 caps for Switzerland), Yakin has a reputation for not making the most of his opportunities as a coach. Last winter he was heavily criticised because Switzerland only just managed to qualify for the European Championship from a weak group. His contract expires after the tournament in Germany – his future is open.

The icon

He has just had the season of his life: Granit Xhaka, Switzerland’s appearance record holder and influential captain. Many felt his transfer from Arsenal to Leverkusen last summer was a step away from the limelight, but how wrong that theory has proved. Despite it being his first season, Xhaka is the leader of the Leverkusen team who won the title for the first time and then became the first team in Bundesliga history to remain undefeated. “I’m not getting any younger, but I’m not getting any older either,” said Xhaka in February.

What has always characterised him is that he thinks big and is not afraid to express his ambitions publicly. Even before the Under-17 World Cup in 2009, he said the Swiss would make it to the final. A few weeks later Switzerland sensationally became world champions. The coach at the time, Dani Ryser, said in the autumn: “Granit was a late developer, not as physically advanced as others. But his talent could not be overlooked and he had an incredible will and huge ambition. You could tell in every training session that there was someone who wanted to get better every day.” And Granit’s older brother Taulant, who plays for Basel, says: ‘When it comes to football, he’s crazy in the head. He looks at everything. Diet, drinks, rest and sleep times. He has also hired a personal trainer. Granit does everything for success.”

One to watch

No other Swiss player has the pace of Dan Ndoye. The Bologna winger has the ability to cause problems for any defender with his speed. Although he has been a permanent fixture in the national team only since last autumn, he earned himself a regular place in the spring thanks to his adjustment to the new system. The 23-year-old has also immediately developed into a key player at his club following his move from Basel, helping unfancied Bologna to qualify for the Champions League next season.

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The maverick

Xherdan Shaqiri has been delighting Swiss fans for 14 years. It is unlikely he will continue in the national team after this tournament though, and he will want to go out with a bang. Due to a lack of options in the forward line, much will depend on the player who now plies his trade for Chicago Fire in MLS. If Switzerland are to be successful in Germany, Shaqiri will be key – he is the only player they have who can suddenly decide a game out of nothing. Although his left foot is still magical, a lot can depend on his desire and fitness – if “Shaq attack” is unhappy, Switzerland can seem as if they have one less player on the pitch.

Swiss international Xherdan Shaqiri interacts with supporters during a training session in preparation for the European Qualifiers 2024 against Belarus in October 2023.View image in fullscreen

The spine

Yakin decided on the Internazionale keeper Yann Sommer in goal early on, even though many experts consider Dortmund’s Gregor Kobel to be at least as good, if not better. Manuel Akanji, who has established himself at Manchester City and won various titles and can play in several positions during a game, is the leader of the defence. The boss of the defensive midfield is Granit Xhaka, the captain and pacemaker. Breel Embolo would be the man up front but the Monaco player suffered a thigh injury just a few weeks after his comeback (following a cruciate ligament rupture) and is unlikely to be fully fit for the start of the tournament. It remains to be seen who will replace him. The most likely candidate is Zeki Amdouni from the relegated Premier League side Burnley, even if he has been out of form recently.

Probable starting XI

Switzerland predicted lineupView image in fullscreen

Celebrity fan

It’s no secret that Roger Federer is an avid supporter of his home club Basel. Of course the greatest Swiss sportsman in history is also rooting for his national team. In May 2022, the retired tennis superstar visited Murat Yakin and the team at their training camp in Bad Ragaz – and had to pose for photos with all the players. The 42-year-old also dropped by the team hotel last March in the run-up to the European Championship qualifier against Israel. Afterwards, Federer watched the 3-0 victory from the stands.

Culinary delight

Classic Swiss dishes such as fondue or raclette are very cheese-heavy and are more appropriate in winter. When it comes to football, the Swiss tend to go for grilled sausages. The Swiss national sausage is the “Cervelat”, a boiled sausage, but classic sausages are also very popular. However, there are certain rules. In eastern Switzerland it is a mortal sin to eat bratwurst with mustard. In the stadium, the sausage is usually accompanied by a bread roll, and at home in the garden by various salads or crisps.

The Switzerland team guide was written by Lucas Werder, Sebastian Wendel and Christian Finkbeiner for Blick


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