In an era where more penalties than ever are awarded at the World Cup due to video review, Switzerland can count on Yann Sommer.
The list of players who have saved spot kicks from the Swiss goalkeeper in league matches over the past two years is impressive: Kylian Mbappe; Sergio Ramos, twice; Jorginho; Rodri Hernandez; Thomas Soucek.
The save against Mbappe was Sommer’s best moment. It sealed a penalty shootout win over World Cup champions France in the round of 16 of the European Championship last year.
The save against Jorginho is one of the reasons why Switzerland goes to Qatar and Italy stays at home.
Sommer outsmarted the midfielder’s trademark slow jump-and-kick technique in a qualifier that finished 0-0.
Two months later in Rome, Jorginho changed his style and sent a penalty 90 minutes too high over Sommer’s goal. The game ended 1-1, allowing the Swiss to win the group and drop Italy to the play-offs – where the four-time champion lost.
Swiss television reflected national pride in Sommer when he saved a shot from Soucek during a Nations League game in September.
“Yann is the number 1 penalty killer in European football,” the commentator said in German.
A record 29 penalty kicks were awarded at the 2018 World Cup, where video reviews meant officials missed fewer incidents. The previous highest was 18 in a 32-team World Cup tournament.
Qatar will be Sommer’s third World Cup and his second as first-choice goalkeeper. He played 76 games for the Swiss national team.
Sommer, who turns 34 the day before the World Cup final, started his career with Basel but is currently in his ninth season with German club Borussia Mönchengladbach. However, his preparation for Qatar was interrupted on October 18 by an injury to his left ankle.
NEW COACH Murat Yakin was hired midway through the qualifying group in August 2021 when he coached second division Swiss club Schaffhausen.
His predecessor, Vladimir Petkovic, cashed in after a run to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals and moved to French club Bordeaux. He was fired from that job in February.
Within weeks, Yakin led his team to a draw against European champions Italy – results leading to automatic World Cup qualifiers as group winners.
Yakin played 49 times for Switzerland as a central defender and coached Basel to two league titles.
YOUNG ATTACKS Switzerland is firmly anchored in defense by Manchester City’s Manuel Akanji and looks dangerous on offense with two young forwards who have had impressive seasons – Breel Embolo and Noah Okafor.
At 25, Embolo is heading into his fourth major tournament and arguably first as the established first-choice forward. He scored winning goals against Spain and the Czech Republic in September’s Nations League matches and quickly established himself with French club Monaco after leaving Monchengladbach.
Okafor scored in three consecutive Champions League appearances for Austrian club Salzburg.
With family ties to Cameroon and Nigeria respectively, Embolo and Okafor epitomize the Swiss squad’s diverse roots.
REMATCH SERVI Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri’s ties to their Kosovar Albanian heritage were evident in their lavish celebrations after scoring in a 2-1 win over Serbia at the 2018 World Cup.
The Swiss and Serbs will meet again on December 2 in Qatar in Group G.
FIFA fined both Xhaka and Shaqiri for their Albanian eagle hand gestures four years ago and a repeat may be unlikely. It is also unlikely that Serbia’s players and fans have forgotten.
SCHEDULE Switzerland will warm up for its three Group G matches by taking on Ghana – a potential round of 16 opponents – in Abu Dhabi on November 17.
In addition to Serbia, the Swiss will also play against Cameroon and Brazil in the group stage in Qatar.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)