Phillip Buckley

What: UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifying
Who: Switzerland vs England (Group G)
When: Tuesday 7th September, 2010, at 19:45 UK Time
Where: St. Jakob-Park, Basel, Switzerland

Getting Off to the Right Start

When Switzerland step out against England they will be beginning their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign; having only played a friendly on the Friday this is Switzerland’s first group game and as such one they will not want to lose. They come into the duel with words of warning ringing in their ears from coach Ottmar Hitzfeld after the 0-0 draw with Australia. "Defensively we were too open", said the German, "England will not be as forgiving as Australia with these opportunities." The former Bayern Munich coach will want the side to recover its well known defensive poise, aware even one goal could prove crucial on the night.

An area in which Hitzfeld was keen to improve following the country’s exit at the World Cup – a failure to beat Honduras in their final group game ensured the Swiss did not make the knockout phase in South Africa – the attack, was lauded after the Australia game. "We have improved in attack", said Hitzfeld, "and produced more scoring chances." It is likely though that the Swiss will first look to nulify England’s attack, closing down space and trying to win the midfield battle, before they go on any forays of their own. With an experienced tactician like Hitzfeld calling the shots, Switzerland have some cards to play.

Following Up Bulgaria Blasting

England had begun life after the World Cup with an uninspiring 2-1 win over Hungary at Wembley, but any worries the hangover may continue to their first Euro 2012 qualifier were quickly dispelled. It took just three minutes for Jermain Defoe to score the first of his three goals against the Bulgarians as Fabio Capello’s men blew away the visitors. Bulgaria had arrived confident, with the words of winger Martin Petrov, who plays his football in the Premier League, ringing in their ears. England were overrated said the Bolton man. They didn’t work as a team. They were less than the sum of their parts. Needless to say, the shaven headed wideman will be keeping a low profile when he returns to the Reebok Stadium later this week.

With England though, nothing is simple, and even Wembley, with its fortress-like structure, cannot keep allegations about players’ private lives at bay. In a week where Ashley Cole was granted a divorce from his popstar wife Cheryl Cole, team-mate Wayne Rooney is at the centre of press reports that he slept with a prostitute while his wife was pregnant. Rooney is expected to travel to Switzerland, but whether this latest feeding frenzy will have an impact on his performance on the pitch remains to be seen. All the while England are quietly having to do some defensive reshuffling with Michael Dawson succumbing to injury against Bulgaria and Chelsea’s John Terry still ruled out.


Recent form

Switzerland 0-0 Honduras (25/06; World Cup – Group H)
Austria 0-1 Switzerland (11/08; Friendly)
Switzerland 0-0 Australia (03/09; Friendly)

Germany 4-1 Bulgaria (27/06; World Cup Second Round)
England 2-1 Hungary (11/08; Friendly)
England 4-0 Bulgaria (03/09; Euro 2012 Qualification – Group G)

Players to watch

Switzerland – Gokhan Inler: Tough-tackling midfielder Inler could well prove crucial to Switzerland’s chances against England. With the contest for the midfield likely to be hard fought, the Udinese player should be in the thick of the action. Chased by Napoli and rumoured to be monitored by Liverpool over the summer, Inler is upwardly mobile and making a bigger impression as the seasons progress. The 26-year-old has a big role here.

England – Jermain Defoe: The Tottenham Hotspur striker has had many years to wait to truly show what he could do for England and now he will have good reason to feel happy with himself. A hat-trick against Bulgaria put the small, nippy striker firmly in the spotlight. Defoe is seemingly in a purple patch and, with rumour swirling around Wayne Rooney, may well be England’s best bet for goals against a Swiss defence. Hailed by Capello as important for the side, the striker can cement his spot.

Match prediction

England will approach this game full of confidence, while Switzerland appear to still be getting back into their groove after the World Cup. While Ottmar Hitzfeld is keen to improve his side’s potency in front of goal, he will well accept that attack should not be emphasised in front of defence here. Expect the Swiss to press England, close down space and work very hard. England have the quality to do something special and steal it 1-0, but an uneventful draw looks a reasonable possibility.

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