Wales 1-1 Switzerland – Tactical Analysis

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After Italy’s strong victory over Turkey on the opening day of Euro 2020, the pressure was on Wales and Switzerland to match Italy stride for stride and put greater distance between themselves and the Turks. Switzerland dominated the game both through their possession and overall approach, but Wales snatched a surprise goal to level the score at 1-1. Here is our tactical analysis of the match.

wales – 4-1-4-1

(GK) Danny Ward, (RB) Connor Roberts, (CB) Joe Rodon, (CB) Chris Mepham, (LB) Ben Davies, (DM) Joe Allen, (RW) Gareth Bale, (CM) Joe Morrell, (CM) Aaron Ramsey, (LW) Daniel James, (CF) Kieffer Moore

out of possession

Wales showed very little life in the first half in particular, and spent over 64% of the match without the ball. As a result, most of their time in the match was spent in their own defensive end. Wales looked to remain relatively compact in their 4-1-4-1 / 4-3-3 shape. The 4-1-4-1 was the more common shape, due to Ramsey and Morrell’s desire to track Freuler and Xhaka, who themselves were often very low during Switzerland’s build-up. The wingers meanwhile followed the movement of Switzerland’s wing-backs, truly falling into the midfield line. The fullbacks on the other hand tucked in alongside the centre-backs and looked to lend a helping hand to Rodon and Mepham in dealing with the fluid movement of Switzerland’s front-three. Joe Allen remained detached from the other two central midfielders and looked to track the movement of Embolo or Shaqiri as they would drop deep from the forward to midfield lines. Wales’ defense wasn’t remarkable throughout the match, but they did stop Switzerland from scoring from open play and were incredibly organized at the back.

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Wales often tried to push up together with the play and catch Switzerland’s strikers offside, which ended up being crucial in the second half to stop Petkovic’s side gaining a second. Higher up the pitch they didn’t have quite the same urgency in stepping up with the play and looked to sit off Switzerland and allow them space and time to pass the ball out from the back. Kieffer Moore had the tiring role of following Switzerland’s passes between their centre-backs, and while the others in behind him looked to track the movement of their opposite numbers, Wales rarely threw themselves into tackles. They rarely threw themselves into defensive actions of any kind in actuality, only looking to clear the ball out of danger when absolutely needed (in their own third). Despite this reserved approach, Wales conceded only from a corner kick and held on long enough to get the game back within their reach.

in possession

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Wales never really got a foothold of the ball, but they were successful in creating solid goal-scoring opportunities nonetheless. Their counter attack down the left was ferocious, thanks to Daniel James’ incredible pace on the break. Wales looked to attack down the left whenever they could (42%), through James’ speed and intensity. They looked to take advantage of the high position of Kevin Mbabu after winning the ball in open play, or the high position of the centre-backs off of Switzerland’s corner kicks. This is where Wales looked the most dangerous, and created their best opportunities in the first half. James delivered an excellent cross early on in the match right onto the noggin of Kieffer Moore, and this was certainly a warning sign for what could be to come from Wales had they been able to gain more possession. Unfortunately, Wales couldn’t keep the ball for long enough in building out from the back, and had to rely on these few counter attacks to get them up the pitch.

Wales’ build-up was actually quite inefficient and slow. They failed to find line-breaking-passes between Switzerland’s structure and often couldn’t even connect more than four passes before Switzerland’s tame press won the ball. That made it all the more frustrating watching Wales play, as Switzerland weren’t even being that aggressive or pressing that well, and still ended up easily winning the ball on several occasions. The fact that Switzerland won 11 tackles to Wales’ 7 despite all of their possession suggests as exactly that. However, it wasn’t all bad for Wales and they did eventually break Switzerland’s duck, through a big header from their big 6’5 striker Kieffer Moore. The move came from an intricate short-pass corner kick routine that saw Joe Morrell receive the ball in acres of space at the top of the box, and from there all Moore needed was a half-decent delivery to climb up and nod the ball into the back of the net.

SWITZERLAND – 3-1-4-2

(GK) Yann Sommer, (CB) Nico Elvedi, (CB) Fabian Schar, (CB) Manuel Akanji, (RWB) Kevin Mbabu, (CM) Remo Freuler, (CM) Granit Xhaka, (LWB) Ricardo Rodriguez, (AM) Xherdan Shaqiri, (RS) Haris Seferovic, (LS) Breel Embolo

out of possession

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Switzerland spent most of the match with the ball (64%), and as a result, didn’t have too much defending to do. On the few moments where Wales gained control on the counter, Switzerland struggled to react. They couldn’t contain Daniel James’ lightning quick pace, while Kieffer Moore was a handful to deal with in the air.

The Swiss team were however more effective in defending when given enough time to set up, such as when Wales attempted to play out from the back. They pressed in a 3-4-3 shape without much in the way of vigour or intensity, but still ended up winning the ball back fairly comfortably on several occasions. Their press relied on triangular shapes between mainly the wing-back, attacking midfielder and near-sided central midfielder, although the near-sided striker was also sometimes a part of that mix to form a diamond quartet. This shape worked almost by itself in stopping Wales from playing out, and Nico Elvedi often stepped up to the plate if the ball found its way past Switzerland’s midfield.

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A final note on Switzerland’s defense is that they gave away a few great chances to Wales, and space in behind Mbabu was generally a concern. While Mbabu pressed well and was crucial to Switzerland’s build-up and attack, he couldn’t get a hold of Dan James for most of the match. They looked vulnerable to Switzerland’s counter attacks and lacked any sort of pace to contain Wales’ speed. Sommer was called upon in the first half to make an excellent save, denying Kieffer Moore in the process. But if the Monchengladbach man had not been up to the task, Wales could easily have found themselves with an underserved lead early on in the fixture.

in possession

Switzerland built-out from the back in a 3-4-3 shape, with Embolo and Shaqiri taking turns to drop deep and make the shape more 3-4-1-2. In this build-up structure, the three centre-backs circulated the ball around with ease, with a slight focus toward Akanji, Rodriguez and Xhaka to draw Wales over to Switzerland’s left. Petkovic’s team would then look to switch play over to the right with Mbabu, and use his crossing ability to deliver the ball into the box. Due to Wales sitting off and sitting deep, Mbabu often had plenty of room to deliver crosses or diagonals, where Embolo and Seferovic sometimes troubled Wales enough to win corner kicks. Switzerland then held a decent threat from corner kicks, and that’s exactly how they ended up breaking the deadlock. While Akanji and Schar’s first efforts couldn’t find a way past Ward, Embolo easily found room at the top of the six-yard-box in the second half to nod the ball into the back of the net from Shaqiri’s delivery.

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The goal also came from a bit of intense running power from Embolo moments prior, as the Monchengladbach man was a constant nuisance for Mepham and Rodon to contend with throughout the fixture. The 24-year-old was superb in creating opportunities for his team to score throughout the game, and a lot of the time that was through his own individual brilliance. The powerful striker often even took matters into his own hands to get on the ball deeper on the field, which was Switzerland’s other main method of building out from the back. As Xhaka and Freuler hung very low or came toward the centre-back in possession, they naturally took Wales’ central midfielders with them. This then opened up space for Shaqiri and Embolo to move into. While in the first half they then generally looked to shift the ball wide, Embolo in particular became more adventurous in the second half in trying to break lines on the dribble. The former Basel man completed four take-on’s in the match, double that of second place Dan James. The threat that he provided was key for Switzerland in establishing control over the match, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to secure a victory.

conclusion

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While a draw doesn’t do much good for either Switzerland or Wales in their opening fixture, it does put them above Turkey in the table. Both nations will need to step up their game against Italy in order to secure their progression to the next round. If they don’t, the Turks could easily climb back up to second.


So there it is! A tactical analysis of the Group A fixture between Wales and Switzerland. Be sure to check out more Match Analyses, Euro 2020 articles and follow on Twitter @mastermindsite. If you are interested in becoming a subscriber to the site also be sure to check out our free and paid subscription options. Thanks for reading and see you soon.

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