A 1-1 draw against pass masters Spain last weekend showed everyone that Switzerland, despite not being the most flamboyant outfit, are not a team to dismiss overly lightly in Russia. Even in a friendly fixture, Vladimir Petković’s men weren’t expected to make much headway at El Madrigal on Sunday, but they delivered a pleasing performance. The Swiss weren’t on the front foot against a Spain side who dominated the ball, though they defended stoutly, gave little away and even enjoyed a few promising moments in the final third.
Having now seen his side avoid defeat in all but one of their last 15 matches, manager Petkovic will be expecting to see his side do the business against a Japanese team who’ve struggled in recent weeks.
Unlike the Swiss, who created a positive impression in Spain, Japan slumped to a rather poor defeat against a Ghana side that won’t be at the World Cup last time out. Defending continued to be an issue for Akira Nishino’s men, who’re now without a clean sheet in five matches, while they were also lacking offensively.
Having avoided defeat against one of the most creative sides in the world, the hosts ought to fancy themselves ahead of this match. Defending is very much a strong point of the Swiss, so getting the better of a Japanese side who’re anything but strong at the back may not be too complicated.
They may have conceded against Spain, but there’s no shame in conceding just once against a side of that quality, while their overall defensive performance was a pleasing one. What’s more, the Swiss arrive at this juncture having conceded just one goal in their last five fixtures. Prior to their 1-1 draw with the Spanish, Switzerland had kept four clean sheets on the bounce, beating teams such as Greece and Northern Ireland in the process.
In addition to their pleasing defensive record of late, the Swiss approach this game having been extremely difficult to beat on home soil for some time. Since their exit at EURO 2016, Petković’s side are unbeaten on home soil. During that time, they’ve played eight matches, have kept seven clean sheets, have conceded just twice, while they’ve scored no less than 20 goals. Beating the likes of Panama, Andorra and Latvia isn’t anything to shout about, but wins against teams such as Portugal and Hungary are not to be sneezed at.
If Switzerland have done well at home recently, then Japan have struggled on their travels. The visitors lost their last away match against Belgium, while they were disappointingly beaten away against Saudi Arabia prior to that. Failing to score in both of those matches highlighted the offensive struggles that Nishino’s men may face in Russia this summer. Defensively, they’re not strong having kept a clean sheet in just one of their last ten, though they also struggle to really get going offensively.
Off the back of a good result last time out, with a strong home record, against a team who’ve failed to win on four of their last five visits to Europe, Switzerland are backed to come out on top on Friday evening.
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The two nations have met just once before on a football pitch. Back in 2007, the pair played out a seven-goal thriller in which Japan came out on top by four goals to three.
The Swiss could make a few changes after their draw against Spain last time out. Having started as subs on that occasion, the likes of Breel Embolo, Edimilson Fernandes and Josip Drmic could all come into the starting XI.
Shinji Kagawa, Shinji Okazaki and Gaku Shibasaki are all expected to come into the starting XI for this match, while players such as Kesuki Honda and Takashi Usami could drop to the bench.