July 28, 2021

should we “play” against the France team?

The first round of the France team will not have marked the spirits. Two draws against Hungary (1-1) and Portugal (2-2). A victory against Germany thanks to a goal against his camp by defender Mats Hummels (1-0). But make no mistake: the reigning world champions, favorites among the favorites of the Euro, remained one of the main scarecrows of the tournament in view of the round of 16.

The Swiss team, still looking for a victory in a knockout match, has been fixed since Wednesday evening: it will play against the France team. But between now and Monday, one question remains to be decided: should we to play against the France team?

Since taking office in September 2014, Vladimir Petkovic has not wavered from his desire to control every match. The system evolves, the players change, but the project does not change. “I have always wanted to produce a generally offensive football, with a defensive behavior based on anticipation and preventive placements, and the ambition to recover the ball high in the field”, he explained to us last summer.

“Project outcome”

He repeats it over and over again: his team must not suffer the opponent’s football but impose his own. And this football consists of having possession (54% of the time on average over its first three Euro matches) and patiently testing the opposing lines of defense until you find the loophole. In his strong times, it gives him the air of evolving while in control (the first hour against Wales). But the catastrophe threatens when the game escapes him (the slap against Italy).

Before the match against Turkey, several observers called on the Nati to stop seeing themselves more beautiful than they really are, to endorse football more suited to their true qualities. This time there is another problem: France never seems as comfortable as against an opponent who, precisely, makes the game. It then relies on the talent of its defenders and its recoverers to thwart offensive inclinations. , and has all the necessary arguments to counter. Conversely, when her opponents come forward with a view to defending (Hungary) or leaving her hand after scoring the first goal (Portugal), she seems a little helpless.

It could be a way to harm him. But this does not correspond at all to the identity instilled by Vladimir Petkovic.

“It’s true that there is a small dilemma, notes the coach of Lausanne-Sport, Ilija Borenovic. On the one hand, Switzerland is a team built to have the ball and defend rather high. On the other hand, France has shown itself in difficulty in the face of low blocks which required it to itself have to increase its intensity. “

So, what strategy to adopt? “What is certain is that against the great nations, we cannot afford compromises or in-between, continues the 38-year-old technician. If the national team decides to press hard, they have to do it hard, with a lot of people. If she opts for a totally different plan, she must apply it with discipline. Trying to do a little of this and a little of that is the best way to have regrets in the end. “

The man rather tends to think that Vladimir Petkovic “Will follow through on his ideas”, and ” It is a very good thing “, he emphasizes. “It is based on his vision of things that he composed his team, that he has been preparing for years. And what was put in place worked against Spain, against Germany, against other big teams. This match against France can be the culmination of the project. I find it hard to see Petkovic questioning everything at this stage. “

Play like France

Maurizio Jacobacci, who has just signed with Grenoble in the French Ligue 2 after two good seasons on the bench in Lugano, does not think that the coach of the Nati will turn everything upside down either. “After having delivered his best match of the Euro”. Still, the 58-year-old technician believes a few adjustments would be welcome given the far different nature of adversity.

“On the defensive level, Switzerland only play with three defenders, but against Turkey, even one of them, Ricardo Rodriguez, has risen a lot, he points out. Against France, that would open up spaces that would not forgive. And then, on the offensive level, it absolutely must find a way to verticalize. The pass to ten, against a low and very solid block, will not lead to anything. We will have to be more direct. “

That is to say, play a little more like… France? “In a way, yes, he replies. It would be a mistake to think that we are going to dominate, or even level the playing field. It will be very different from previous matches. It will therefore be necessary to be solid behind, compact in the middle of the field, good at recovery and careful on the blocks. “

There, Ilija Borenovic agrees: the key to the game will be to manage the loss of balls. “Switzerland face the best team in the world in the transitions. She has extraordinary throwing ability and speed. ” Difficult to muzzle a Kylian Mbappé … ” Effectively. We set up the principles of the game, and we try to keep a maximum level of concentration, knowing that what happens in the face goes faster than what we are used to. “

On the other hand, the coach of LS is not sure that Switzerland should give up keeping the ball. It just has to circulate it quickly to escape the very physical nature of the France team. “If it goes very quickly, with few touches of the ball, it can move the French block. The Germans failed, they were still a second late, one too many control, but the Portuguese succeeded. Technically clean, they quickly got rid of the ball and this often brought danger. “

Low block or high block, possession or verticality, defense with three or four, continuity or change… So many questions which must rock the dreams of Vladimir Petkovic and permeate the training of his Nati in Rome while awaiting the shock of Monday. Ilija Borenovic plays down: “In any case, it’s not as if there was a system with which we would be sure to beat a team like France. “

Lionel Pittet

Article published on June 24 in Time

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