Wales V Switzerland
Friday 7 October, 2011 – 19:45 (GMT)
UEFA EURO 2012 Qualifier, Group G
It has been yet another miserable qualifying campaign for the Welsh, who were the first nation in Group G to drop out of contention after losing all four opening qualifiers; failing to even score in three of those. The solution? A change of manager. And it’s prompted a mini renaissance.
Although Gary Speed’s first couple of games in charge weren’t ones to be savoured, the 42-year-old former midfielder will have salivated over his team’s recent displays. A stunning win over Montenegro in Cardiff was followed by a valiant display at Wembley versus England, a match they were definitely deserving of a point but yet, somewhat typically, they ended up losing by the odd goal – the latter typifies their whole campaign.
Last month’s 1-0 defeat to England was Wales’ third 1-0 reverse of Euro 2012 Qualifying, after previously going down by the odd goal in Montenegro and at home to Bulgaria. So it isn’t as though Wales have been played off the park in Group G, far from it, they were simply lacking a bit of thrust in the final third that Gareth Bale and Craig Bellamy have given them in recent qualifiers. The team was also severely deprived of self-belief and confidence, something Speed has clearly instilled during his short time at the helm.
Judging by their September exploits against England and Montenegro, I would say the future is bright for Wales. To leave Wembley feeling disgruntled with a loss is a massive transformation from when they left Cardiff in the reverse meeting back in March feeling they should have lost by a far bigger margin than just the two goals. Now it’s simple a case of sustaining the flow of momentum, which is why earning a result on Friday against decent opposition in the form of Switzerland is pivotal to Wales’ future plans, with qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup less than a year away.
Nullifying the Swiss won’t be easy, mind. Managed by a coach whose tactical nous is almost unrivalled, especially at international level, Switzerland will arrive in Cardiff with one thing in mind: winning! Anything less and Ottmar Hitzfeld must pray that England take maximum points from their clash with Montenegro in Podgorica – and The Three Lions only need a point from that game in order to secure top spot.
So it’s all or nothing from the visitors, which should make for another highly entertaining encounter at the Liberty Stadium. I don’t see the home side holding back, not with Gareth Bale and Craig Bellamy back to their menacing bests, while Switzerland cannot contemplate anything other than victory. Goals it is then, for both sides as well.
Switzerland haven’t been shy in front of goal – only England have scored more in the group than their tally of 10 from six qualifiers – and even slammed four past Wales in the reverse encounter in Basel, in June of last year. Wales will no doubt be seeking revenge for that humbling, and I wouldn’t count against them exacting some as well in front of a decent-sized home following in Swansea.
However, I do expect the visitors to edge this. Ottmar Hitzfeld is a wise cookie and his experience in management dwarfs that of Gary Speed’s. The German also posses a deeper pool of talent to pick from, as well as more experienced pros. They also head into the game HAVING TO WIN! That doesn’t necessarily mean they will, however their superior personnel should tell over the course of 90 minutes.
Switzerland to WIN @ 20/23 Boylesports
Both Teams to Score @ EVENS Bet365