Swiss footballers will play in the Nations League on Friday in Belgium and on Monday in Iceland. For Vladimir Petkovic, it’s also about finding the team and the hierarchy of the future.
Vladimir Petkovic looks down at the city of Zurich from the hotel window on the 15th floor and says that he and his team want to go high again. It’s Petkovic again from before who speaks here, the self-confident one who will later even say: “I hope they’ll make life difficult for me and get me into trouble”. Only a month ago he would never have dared to say such a sentence in public. Life as a Swiss national coach was already difficult enough after all the affairs and sporting setbacks, when he didn’t need to wish himself any more problems on his neck.
Grace of fast-paced life
But a few weeks were enough, and nothing is the same as it was then: a successful press conference in September to work through the World Cup, later a 6-0 win against Iceland – and everything seemed forgiven and forgotten. Football can sometimes be so fast-moving and gracious. And that’s why there are completely different themes before the matches against Belgium on Friday and Iceland on Monday. The biggest problem for Petkovic is that he has to choose the right players. He hasn’t had such nice worries for a long time. He even wants his players to make it really hard for him to choose and get him into trouble; that players like Nico Elvedi, Florent Hadergjonaj or Djibril Sow prove that he has rightly taken them into account in the latest line-up.
Vladimir Petkovic Honours
- FK Sarajevo
- Yugoslav First League: 1984–85
- Malcantone Agno
- 1. Liga: 2002–03
- Coppa Italia: 2012–13
Change light – or more?
The good thing for Petkovic is that he still has plenty of time to find out who the players he trusts really are and what the team of the future should look like. Only in March, when the “right” qualification for Euro 2020 begins, does he need to know who he’s going to bet on. Until then, the Nations League is an experimental field for the coach; this newly created UEFA competition is something between a friendly match and a serious fight. Only in spring will we know what actually happened – a hard upheaval, a light upheaval or just a few modifications.
Petkovic leaves all doors open for the time being. The 34-year-old Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner takes part in this game, another like Valon Behrami refused and complained about Petkovic’s actions. What is certain is that the old hierarchy is shaking: Behrami has resigned, other former leaders like Johan Djourou are missing from the squad. Lichtsteiner is still the official captain, but his future in the team is also open. He has not been called up for the games against Belgium and Iceland. Whether he will be back in November (against Qatar and Belgium), Petkovic left open. Only when the coach knows that he can rely on the boys will he tell the old people that he definitely no longer needs them. The axis that the team should carry into the future is already known: It will consist of granite Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Yann Sommer. Without Lichtsteiner, Xhaka will be captain and the other two vice-captains.
Because the Nations League still has to find its role in the international calendar, every coach keeps it as he wants it to be. Some take the Nations League seriously, others less. And Petkovic is somewhere in the middle. He says the games are “a mixture of security and experimental phase“. Translated: The result is not unimportant, but more important is the development of the team. And that doesn’t just include personnel issues. To know more about OVO Casino, check them out!