ONEAfter a group stage with two wins (against Ghana and Uruguay) and a defeat (against South Korea), Portugal is preparing to face Switzerland in the ‘eighth’ of the World Cup, with the aim of meeting Morocco or Spain in the ‘rooms’ of the test. However, the mission is not an easy one and only a good response from the national team that is up to the challenge will make millions of Portuguese people smile.
In conversation with Sport by the MinuteJoão Carlos Pereira, former coach of Swiss teams such as Grasshoppers and Servette, dissected about the state of Swiss football, warned of the opponent’s main references and even confessed to having already faced (and beaten) Murat Yakin, the current Switzerland coach.
“I think Switzerland are having a campaign, from my point of view, to be expected. They have a very good generation of players and a good coach. The results [da fase de grupos] don’t surprise me. It is a team that, at the moment, competes with any opponent in this World Cup“, he started to say.
“It won’t be an easy game for Portugal, but it will be an interesting and disputed duel. I hope the result goes our way, obviously. It will probably be Portugal’s strongest opponent in the World Cup so far“, then confessed the 57-year-old coach.
The individualities, the collective and the key
Challenged to point out Switzerland’s main individual references, João Carlos Pereira did not hesitate to highlight some names among the 26 chosen by Murat Yakin and highlighted the importance of the intermediate sector as a “key” of the tie.
“O [Granit] Xhaka is an important player, as is [Manuel] Akanji. O [Yan] Sommer is very good between posts. Ricardo Rodríguez on the left is very mature, as is Ruben Vargas. already the [Breel] The embolus can be a threat, as it is powerful and physically strong. Basically, this is a team with a lot of quality.“, he referred.
“Although they have good players in midfield, I think Portugal has an intermediate sector with more quality and the game can be decided there. Achieving territorial dominance in the center of the field can be a success factor for this game🇧🇷 I believe that, there, Portugal has a lot of quality and can create more problems. It could be the key,” she explained.
“Cristiano Ronaldo is a unique case. He is a player who has tremendous finishing skills (…) He can perfectly solve a game”
The selection of corners was not forgotten in the conversation and, in this case, the former coach at Académica (where he went on four different occasions) singled out between the players with the most positive performance and the athletes who can still be better.
“Bernardo Silva is fine. Bruno Fernandes has shown a very high performance🇧🇷 Rúben Neves has been regular, but he’s still not at his best. João Félix already had very interesting moments in the games he participated in”, he began by listing.
“However, João Cancelo, for example, has not been at the desired level. The centre-backs may also be better. Diogo Costa has tremendous potential, but he is feeling too much responsibility🇧🇷 He’s not loose, he’s very tense and he has to enjoy the games more, take the opportunity to have fun, keeping the focus on performance, naturally.”, he explained, before talking about… Cristiano Ronaldo.
🇧🇷Cristiano Ronaldo is a unique case. He is a player who has tremendous finishing ability🇧🇷 He hasn’t been very well since the beginning of the season due to external problems. This, for a player with the mental strength of the top, like him, naturally affects”, recalling the ‘divorce’ with Manchester United, before adding that, at any time, he can solve a game. “He has had a good performance. He hasn’t scored the goals people expected or wanted. In the first game, he had clear opportunities that, under normal conditions, he did not miss. But he is a player who can perfectly solve a game and, despite everything, he has done a good job”.
Tactical dissection of the opponent… who has already faced
João Carlos Pereira considered that “like Portugal, Switzerland also has top quality players playing in the best teams and leagues in Europe“, so players used to “competing at a high level” will play, admitting certain “similarities” between the two nations, before addressing some differences.
🇧🇷From an individual point of view, I believe that Portugal has more potential🇧🇷 From a collective point of view, I see Switzerland as a very solid team, with short lines to defend and a clear notion of what their dynamics are. It is a team that functions as a functional unit. In that respect, Portugal has not always been a solid team, but I hope that this game does not make childish mistakes like those who are sleepy in this World Cup“, remember.
Switzerland started the World Cup with a triumph against Cameroon, followed by a defeat against Brazil and, in the final round, the victory against Serbia stamped the second place in group G.© Getty Images
🇧🇷Switzerland have players with a lot of quality on the bench, some of them I even know🇧🇷 Everyone knows Seferovic and is not in the starting lineup. Shaqiri is not a very good starter, but deep down they are players who can defend their team if they play or enter during the game”, registered some more famous names.
The experienced Portuguese coach highlighted the “more physical football” as one of the most pronounced characteristics in the game matrix of Swiss football which, despite receiving the influence of coaches and players who pass through there, maintains “a more direct style of play” for comparison with the example of Portugal.
“There are many duels and they are teams with great intensity from a physical and mental point of view. As far as the national team is concerned, the presence of players playing in the best leagues has added something to the team, decharacterizing a little even what was the previous Switzerland. Now there is more creative football, in some moments with more pause, in which they circulate the ball more successfully. When they lose the ball, they are closer to being pressed and recovering“, he explained.
João Carlos Pereira did not hesitate to confess that he knows Murat Yakin, the Swiss coach, well after several duels during his two spells in Switzerland. 🇧🇷Last season alone I faced him four times [contra o Schaffhausen] and even offered some training games🇧🇷 When I was at Servette, I also faced him, against Basel. At that time I didn’t win, they had a very strong team and they were chronic champions”.
João Carlos Pereira was at Servette in 2011/12 and later at Grasshoppers in 2020/21.© Global Images
“They used to play with a different structure, in a 4-4-2 diamond, with a more direct game for the two very effective strikers. I believe that this is very much related to the characteristics of the players when playing. At different times, I found different characteristics and dynamics in their teams. That’s why I think he’s a great coach“, before analyzing the tactical evolution of Portugal’s next opponent over the last few years. “This Swiss team, historically, has played with three strikers for a while now, sometimes the defender in a line of five, with three centre-backs. Right now they are playing more with 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. It is a team with a lot of security at center back and, with the ball, they are very successful and know how to play. This is where Xhaka’s influence is decisive, with habits of playing football [no Arsenal]from foot to foot, building from behind🇧🇷
‘Water of the past’… with a view to the present
Portugal and Switzerland faced each other last June, in the League of Nations, on two occasions. In the first duel, Fernando Santos came out smiling with a 4-0 defeat, however, when traveling to Swiss territory, the team from the corners was defeated by 1-0. Regardless, the 57-year-old has rejected any benefit from drawing lessons from those games.
“These are different contexts. This is a World Cup. In football, things change very easily. I believe this game will be different from all the last ones. On a day when the team is quite inspired, Portugal can defeat Switzerland, I wouldn’t say easily, but naturally. But I also resisted that this Switzerland competes with any opponent and will create problems for us. I think that the moment dictates everything, it doesn’t matter to look too much at history. They are in a good moment, despite the defeat with Brazil, which I consider normal”, he won.
“Some players have made childish mistakes. There are times when the team loses control (…) In knockout games, this type of slip can dictate removal”
“For all this, I believe that Switzerland are a solid, consistent and well-organized team, with a lot of maturity too”, he added before highlighting the weight of Portugal’s “childish mistakes” at this stage of the competition. “We have witnessed moments of performance from our selection in which some players have made childish mistakes. There are times when the team loses control of matches. At a time when games are to be eliminated, this type of slip can dictate a removal🇧🇷
“On a good day, you already feel that one team can beat any other. There is some unpredictability in terms of results, there is not that story of ‘these will win for sure’ and this implies that Portugal has to face all the games in a very respectful way, respecting its opponents, but with the confidence that, being well, we can win everyone”, he added.
Asked about the possibilities of Portugal reaching the final scheduled for the 18th of December and leaving smiling, João Carlos Pereira stressed that he had that belief, but did not fail to underline that there are things to “improve”.
🇧🇷I believe that Portugal can and has the conditions to win this World Cup. However, it has to improve performance, be more effective and cannot have moments of deconcentration🇧🇷 Some players have to improve their performances because they are not yet at their best. I have already resisted that, in this World Cup, there are teams that have not managed to win all the games”, he stressed.
“For now we have this Portugal-Switzerland, which will be a good game to follow for football lovers. I foresee a balanced and open game. There are two teams playing to win. I hope Portugal is at its best“, finished.
It should be remembered that Portugal faces Switzerland, this Tuesday, from 19:00 (mainland Portugal time), in a game that will decide the continuity of the national team in the World Cup in Qatar.
Portugal has two triumphs and one defeat in the World Cup in Qatar and, to move on to the ‘quarters’, it will have to come out smiling against Switzerland.© Getty Images