6/1 quarter-finals finish
Switzerland have featured in 10 World Cup competitions to date and have reached the quarter-finals on three occasions – 1934, 1938 and 1954. Will they better that effort at Russia 2018? The market doesn’t hold out much hope with 200/1 available in places on them lifting the trophy.
Another quarter-final appearance has been marked up at 6/1 with traders thinking it much more likely La Nati bow out after three group games. It’s easy to see how the money men have arrived at that opinion too with Switzerland dropped into Group E alongside Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia. You’ve got to fancy the Samba Boys to progress as champions leaving the race on for second-place.
Vladimir Petkovic’s team start against Brazil and a heavy defeat there could knock their confidence from the off. Beating Brazil is unlikely, but they’ll aim to perform well and hopefully catch the favourites cold. To get out of the group they’ll need their big game players to perform. Here’s three to look out for…..
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Frei expected to shine
At 3/1 with Bet Victor he’s favourite to finish as Switzerland’s top goal scorer and that bet will stand regardless of how far his team go in the tournament. There doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of competition around him for that prize but chances will be few and far between against the likes of Brazil and Serbia, so he must take what little comes his way.
The 26-year-old striker is currently on the books at Benfica where he wasted no time settling in since arriving last year. 11 goals in 47 games for his country suggests the well-travelled attacker can be relied upon if provided with the ammunition and his team scored six against Panama in a recent friendly and beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in a decider so the service is there.
One of the better-known names in the squad the talented 29-year-old Basel midfielder has featured for Switzerland at every level from Under-16 through to the senior squad. He’s not the kind of player that’ll get forward and score a lot of goals from the middle of the park but is a calm head in the heat of battle and will pull the strings as the team work their way into matches.
Frei was a regular in Switzerland’s Olympic Games team in 2012 and has had no trouble moving into the midfield of Petkovic’s team. Goes into this competition with his club future settled having recently signed a long-term deal to keep him at Basel and that will allow him to go and enjoy the tournament. Scored against Panama in March and Hungary back in October of last year.
The hard-working midfielder Premier League fans will know from his services to the Arsenal cause. 25-year-old Xhaka is far from the complete package at this stage of his career but he’s improving all the time and boasts vital big game experience at club level having played for Basel, Monchengladbach and The Gunners. It does look like his time in London could be over after failing to impress in what has been a difficult season for Arsene Wenger and his troops.
Granit has come in for criticism from the stands and former players with Graeme Souness recently describing his performance as ridiculous and if the player knows his time is up then it’ll be on him to go and make a statement in Russia, encouraging interest from major clubs. It looks like Xhaka is bearing the brunt of fans’ frustration this season, but he has captained Arsenal in the past and has the faith of experienced coach Arsene Wenger.