Euro 2016 Team Guide: Stuttering Swiss face test of belief

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Vladimir Petkovic's side have the quality to make progress to the latter stages of Euro 2016 but confidence could be the key to their hopes

Coach: Vladimir Petkovic

Key player: Xherdan Shaqiri

Qualifying form: W7, L3, D0

Top scorers in qualifying: Xherdan Shaqiri (4), Haris Seferovic, Josip Drmic (both 3)

Switzerland went close to making the quarter-finals at the World Cup two years ago, but a number of concerns must be addressed - and quickly - if they are to cause a similar stir at Euro 2016.

Vladimir Petkovic oversaw a successful qualifying campaign behind unbeaten England, but questions remain over the coach's ideal system and their defensive record - they only conceded one goal less than Estonia, who finished fourth in Group E.

Tactical experiments in the recent friendlies with Republic of Ireland and Bosnia-Herzegovina also proved fruitless, as Switzerland lost both without scoring a goal, stretching a barren run.

Petkovic lamented afterwards that "there aren't many players currently in form" - and he was right.

Xherdan Shaqiri - the creative star whose four strikes and five assists proved crucial in qualifying - has had an up-and-down first season with Stoke City in the Premier League, with odd moments of magic too often undermined by fitness concerns and poor performances.

Switzerland are also facing a striker problem. Josip Drmic will miss the tournament with a knee injury, while Haris Seferovic has endured frustrating form with Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany.

Much of the goalscoring burden will, therefore, fall on the young shoulders of Breel Embolo - the Basel star who has enjoyed another productive season despite being regularly deployed in a wide role. He will be as determined as anyone to impress in France in order to attract some big-money suitors.

Defensive worries persist - indeed, national newspaper 20 Minuten has described them as Petkovic's most urgent concern. ​The Swiss boast outstanding goalkeepers in Yann Sommer and Roman Burki, and quality full-backs in new captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, but the central pairing is a problem. Johan Djourou and Fabian Schar have battled illness and injury, Timm Klose failed to recover fitness in time, and Fabian Lustenberger has been sidelined ever since a falling-out with Petkovic.

Philippe Senderos was also cut from the final squad after failing to convince in a friendly loss against Belgium.

A shrewd midfield set-up could provide a solution. Gokhan Inler has paid the price for a lack of playing time with Premier League champions Leicester City, but ​Granit Xhaka - who has completed a reported  €45million switch to Arsenal - has blossomed into a star in the past two years and is the perfect complement to the more defensive Valon Behrami or Blerim Dzemaili.

Xhaka has been played out wide at times but his combative streak and technical skill make him a perfect box-to-box leader in the centre. It seems he agrees: "I'm twice as good in the middle, and the coach knows this," he said recently.

Switzerland face an intriguing match-up at the finals having been drawn in Group A. 

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A game with Albania will pit a number of familiar players against each other - including Xhaka brothers Granit and Taulant, the latter of whom chose to represent his adopted country rather than that of his birth, while the Swiss will also be desperate to avenge their 5-2 loss to France at the World Cup.

Romania are their other test, but if key players are fit and firing in a system that suits, Switzerland have the quality not just to progress from Group A, but to win it.

Belief, however, could be the crucial factor.

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