International Friendly: Switzerland vs Panama – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Switzerland welcome World Cup debutants Panama on Tuesday for an international friendly.
18:00 BST, Tuesday 27th March, Swissporarena (Lucerne, Switzerland)
World Cup debutants Panama have a tough task on their hands given the fact that their group includes England, Belgium and Tunisia.
They’ll be going into their friendly with Switzerland on Tuesday hoping for a boost looking forward to the summer competition.
Both teams are defensively solid. The Swiss have kept clean sheets in nine of their last 11 international matches, including their last three fixtures. Of these 11 matches, they have won eight of them to nil so Panama will have their work cut out as they look to break them down.
Panama, though, will be hopeful to give a good account of themselves. Last week, they held out to a 1-0 loss to Denmark – a credible result all things considered.
Where they have a weakness is in the forward line: three of the five forward players are 34 years old or older. Expect this to be something of a tentative fixture.
Last Time Out
Greece 0-1 Switzerland (International friendly)
Unsurprisingly, given their recent record, the Swiss ran out 1-0 winners when they visited Athens last week. The only goal of the game came from a beautiful overhead kick by Blerim Dzemaili in 59th minute.
The hosts failed to register a shot on target in the entire game, only managing to find space to shoot six times and making it clear why they failed to qualify for the World Cup.
Switzerland, though, will be worried that their own profligacy in front of goal continues. If they are to progress in Russia, they will need to find a more prolific source of goals going forwards.
Denmark 1-0 Panama (International friendly)
Despite the scoreline, this was a positive result for Panama. Undone by a moment of brilliance by Pione Sisto after Blas Pérez’s dangerous challenge on Kasper Schmeichel had reduced the Panamanians to ten men.
“We are not going to be as easy an opponent as everybody thinks,” Hernán Darío Gómez concluded after the game, a worrying proposition for an England team who have struggled to break down deep-lying teams.
Vladimir Petković is without talisman Xherdan Shaqiri who is continuing to struggle with injury. He’ll be replaced by Josip Drmic on the right-hand side.
Given Blas Pérez’s red card against Denmark last week, he’ll be suspended for the fixture against Switzerland. He’ll be replaced by Gabriel Torres.
Key Battle: Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) vs Roman Torres (Panama)
Although he has received a lot of criticism for his performances at Arsenal since he arrived last season, Granit Xhaka is the beating heart of the Switzerland side, controlling the ball in possession and winning it back out of possession.
With the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, Xhaka will be even more fundamental to the way Switzerland play on Tuesday. If he can perform well for the Swiss, then he could be the difference between success or failure.
Roman Torres will go down in Panamanian folklore: when he scored an 87th-minute winner for Panama’s National Team in the last qualifying game against Costa Rica, he assured their qualification for a maiden World Cup.
Despite playing in the centre of the back line, Torres is also a useful source of goals. With an aging forward line, Panama will be thankful for any help he can offer in the goal-scoring department.
Can Switzerland score?
The combination of a lack of goal-scoring clout and the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri means that this game could be a low scorer.
Against a side like Panama, though, despite their defensive organisation, Petković will be hopeful that his team can open their account and tally up a number of goals.
Last week, against Greece, Blerim Džemaili scored an impressive overhead kick but Petković would be happier if his forwards could be more prolific.
Haris Seferović, despite his domestic record, is nowhere near productive enough for his country, scoring three in nine this calender year and only one in eleven the previous year. If he can bag a few goals against Panama, it could do his confidence (and his coach’s heart-rate) the world of good.
How do Panama match up?
An impressive result against Denmark is not quite enough to convince everyone that Panama will be a tricky prospect at the World Cup. If they can manage another respectable result against Switzerland, then maybe heads will begin to turn, though.
Coming through the CONCACAF group’s Hex stage, Panama were perhaps lucky especially given the fact, for their goal in the deciding game against Costa Rica, the ball appeared not to cross the line.
With the CONCACAF group including teams of variable ability, the Switzerland game should give a better account of the level that Panama are at.
Prediction: Switzerland 1-0 Panama
A perhaps unimaginative prediction given Switzerland’s tendency to concede none and score very few, it seems unlikely that Panama can pull off a famous victory in Lucerne.
Expect the Central Americans to give a good account of themselves, though, making them a tough prospect for the participants in Group G.