By 90Min
June 09, 2019

England needed penalties to get past Switzerland to seal third place in the UEFA Nations League, after a tough 0-0 draw which proved exactly why most fans don't want a third-place playoff.

England almost took the lead after just a minute, only for Harry Kane's fantastic lob to cannon back off the crossbar. Gareth Southgate's men remained on top throughout the first half, with both Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli coming close to finding that elusive opening goal. The Swiss were dangerous on the counter, but neither side could make a breakthrough before half-time.

England's pressure continued after the break and almost forced an own goal from Fabian Schar, who was lucky to see his deflection saved onto the post by Yann Sommer. England thought they had grabbed a late winner through Callum Wilson, only for the goal to be ruled out by VAR for a foul earlier in the move. The referee brought an end to regular time soon after, and we headed to extra-time.

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Clearly keen to avoid penalties, England came out with a renewed sense of adventure, as both Alli and Sterling came close to finding the back of the net on a number of occasions. Sterling saw a free-kick thunder against the crossbar, but England simply could not find a way through, and the two sides needed penalties to separate themselves.

Harry Maguire began proceedings by slamming his effort into the top corner, and the two sides continued perfectly until England had a 6-5 lead. After scoring his own penalty, Jordan Pickford made himself the hero by saving Josip Drmic's effort to ensure the Three Lions finished third in the Nations League.

Check out our breakdown of the game below.


Key Talking Point

The spirited Switzerland side who fought to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet on Wednesday were out on full show once more against England. With a clear game plan of trying to force mistakes out of Gareth Southgate's side, the strikers pressed high, but that simply did not work.

Once England's defence had advanced the ball, it often seemed like Switzerland did not know what to do, so they dropped deep and suffocated the space. It kept England at bay for large parts of the game, even if it did make for difficult watching at times.

Scoring goals has not always come easily for Switzerland, and that was incredibly clear here. They fought to frustrate England, in the hope that they could steal the win with a solitary moment of brilliance. However, such a moment never arrived, so the Swiss need to think of a new strategy in future.

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Sommer (7); Schar (6), Akanji (6), Elvedi (6); Mbabu (7*), Xhaka (6), Fernandes (6), Freuler (5), Rodriguez (5); Shaqiri (4), Seferovic (5).

Substitutes: Zakaria (5), Zuber (6), Drmic (5), Okafor (6).

STAR MAN - With Switzerland dropping deep, counter-attacking was often their main plan of attack, and right back Kevin Mbabu was at the heart of most of that.

Spending a lot of the game almost as a winger, Mbabu used his speed and power to fly up and down the pitch, and England's narrow lineup often gifted him plenty of space near the sideline. The former Newcastle man tried his best to showcase his passing skills and often threatened to cause problems for England's defence.

Mbabu's end product was lacking, although it was clear to see why Wolfsburg fought to sign him this summer. At 24 years old, he has plenty of years to improve, and there is a real belief in Switzerland that the sky could be the limit for Mbabu.


Key Talking Point

Much of the talk heading into this game was about whether England would continue trying to play out of defence, after they shot themselves in the foot in their semi final loss to the Netherlands. Within minutes, we had our answer - yes, they would.

The Three Lions did not shy away from passing the ball around at the back. Maguire enjoyed plenty of possession and Eric Dier regularly dropped deep to give his centre backs an option, which was something England sorely missed against the Netherlands. Unfortunately, with the defending fairly impressive, it was going forward which left a lot to be desired.

The creative midfielders simply did not step up, and they struggled to find a way through a stubborn Swiss defence. They had nothing in their locker to find a goal. It almost seems like when one area of the midfield plays well, the other does not. There is clearly something missing here.

Player Ratings

Starting XI: Pickford (6); Alexander-Arnold (8), Gomez (6), Maguire (8*), Rose (6); Delph (4), Dier (6), Alli (5); Sterling (5), Kane (5), Lingard (4).

Substitutes: Walker (6), Wilson (6), Sancho (6), Barkley (6).

STAR MAN - With England's forward line proving to be utterly ineffective, England's defence took the spotlight, with both Harry Maguire and Trent Alexander-Arnold putting in excellent performance. Both deserve a huge amount of credit, although Maguire's ability to cope with the pressure was especially impressive.

Always available for his teammates, Maguire was composed throughout, even with the Swiss' high press. Whether it was making an early pass or dropping his shoulder to fly past an opponent, he simply knew what he needed to do to keep his side ticking.

Maguire could even be seen bursting into midfield on occasion, carrying the ball forward before looking to unleash players who, on paper, are supposed to be more creative than him. 

Southgate probably thought about playing him in midfield, or even in an attack, as he looked like one of the few players who was capable of winning this.

Looking Ahead

The end of this game signalled the start of a well-deserved summer break for both sides, as players will not get the chance to enjoy several weeks of rest in preparation for the new season.

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