Relaxed Swiss before the round of 16 against Portugal

The Swiss footballers want to continue writing World Cup history beyond the round of 16 against Portugal. The sick players Yann Sommer, Nico Elvedi and Fabian Schär are healthy again.

“It’s nice that I can experience that”: Murat Yakin feels joy every day at his first final tournament as a coach.

Ali Haider/EPO

It’s the day before the World Cup Round of 16 against Portugal. Switzerland coach Murat Yakin and striker Breel Embolo enter Media Room 2 in the huge Press Center in Doha. It takes 28 hours until kick-off in the Lusail stadium, the arena offers space for almost 90,000 spectators, it is covered with golden fleece, and the final will take place in the Lusail on December 18th.

“We want to continue writing the story, we’re looking forward to the game,” says Yakin in his opening words, “we know about the euphoria in Switzerland and want to give people another game.” Yakin probably prepared these sentences beforehand. He later wanted to know about the history of this tournament.

Always the next task

Because the story that the Swiss footballers are in a World Cup round of 16 for the fourth time after 2006, 2014, 2018 and could win it for the first time – that’s not a thought that occupies Yakin. “Neither in the game preparation nor at the moment when the match starts,” he says, “at some point you might be able to write that in the books and talk about it later. But in sport it’s always about the next task, the past is over.”

When Yakin is reminded of his own past, he allows a moment of incredulous amazement. Just 16 months ago he was the trainer of a Challenge League club in the Schaffhausen province, now he is in the World Cup round of 16. “It’s incredible for me too,” says Yakin, “It’s nice that I can experience it and feel the joy of this fantastic tournament every day. I take it as it comes. I’ve always done it that way.”

So Yakin seems to be in his right mind ahead of the game against Portugal: take what comes. Portugal were opponents in the Nations League twice in the autumn; the 4-0 defeat in Lisbon was followed by a 1-0 win in Geneva. The team has developed since then, says Yakin, which also applies to “the three very different group games”.

Special praise for Granit Xhaka

The game against Serbia in particular was “emotionally special” for some players, said Yakin – and gave Granit Xhaka special praise: “He is a character player, he leads with his maturity, the team appreciates that.”

Yakin attests his team’s growing tactical understanding and a good feeling for crucial situations. “You could see at this World Cup how important the short moments of disorder are when switching moments,” says Yakin, “we also want to use that in our game.” He expects an open, attractive game. Yakin promises: “We will get our chances.”

Breel Embolo is the striker who should play a key role in converting one of those chances. Embolo caused a laugh when asked which Portugal player he would like out if he could wish. “All goalies, then it would be easier,” said Embolo. As the new number 1 striker, the 25-year-old impressed at this World Cup. He scored the 1-0 against Cameroon, against Brazil he completed the task of the early disruptor with a lot of running work, he shone with physique and overview against Serbia.

The sick players Yann Sommer, Nico Elvedi and Fabian Schär are fit again, reports Yakin, but he has to sleep again about who he will let play from the start. The only question mark is Ruben Vargas, which means that Noah Okafor could be preferred on the left in attack. If he doesn’t, the Swiss start with the same formation as in the first group game against Cameroon: Sommer in goal, Rodriguez, Elvedi, Akanji, Widmer in the back four, Freuler, Xhaka, Sow in midfield, Shaqiri, Embolo and Vargas in attack .

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