With club football finally reaching the conclusion of the season, it's time to return to the international stage in the form of the Nations League finals. Hosts Portugal, World Cup semi-finalists England and the rejuvenated Netherlands are all tipped for glory in Portugal, with all three in with a shot of winning. However, it seems that people are forgetting that there is a fourth nation present.
There is no denying that I'm a massive Switzerland fan. I've been following the Schweizer Nati for years now, even travelling to last year's World Cup to see them play. Despite being one of Europe’s best, many people still seem to underestimate them.
However, now that Vladimir Petković's side has qualified for the Final Four, they can certainly be identified as the favourites. Ranked eighth in the world, Switzerland are just four places below England and just one place behind Portugal. They even rank ahead of the Netherlands, who sit in 16th place. It has been a meteoric rise for the Swiss, who were ranked 65th when I was born.
Switzerland reached the Final Four with the best group stage record of all four of the finalists, amassing nine points after four games. Portugal only managed eight, with England and the Netherlands mustering seven each. While these point tallies are still very good, it seems peculiar to call the strongest qualifier the biggest underdog.
Switzerland’s squad is at full strength, with the only injury-related absence being Breel Embolo. With the likes of in-form Haris Seferović, Champions League winner Xherdan Shaqiri and top class goalkeeper Yann Sommer among their ranks, there is so much depth and class in Petković’s side.
While Switzerland did qualify for the Nations League finals, they were very close to missing out. After beating Iceland twice either side of a 2-1 defeat to Belgium in Brussels, it went down to the final matchday. The Schweizer Nati needed to win by a clear margin to stand any chance of qualifying - the Red Devils just had to avoid defeat.
When Belgium took a 2-0 lead within 17 minutes, it looked to be all over for Switzerland. But in the miracle of Luzern, five goals without reply from the Swiss saw them prevail 5-2 and snatch the top spot on goal difference, qualifying for Portugal in style.
That win back in November epitomised everything that is great about the Swiss national team. They kept on fighting, they didn’t give up and they managed to outclass the top ranked side in the world in a spectacular performance. Switzerland were the underdogs then, and they go to Portugal with the same label.
I couldn't be prouder of my national team, Hopp Schwiiz für immer. Good night ❤️ pic.twitter.com/jEzhdJmNbI— Nischal (@NischalCFC) November 18, 2018
Switzerland also know how to play against the best countries in the world. As well as that performance against Belgium, the World Cup draw against Brazil a year ago was a tactical masterclass from Petković. While the Seleção had their chances and got their goal, the Swiss fought hard and got a well-deserved point.
The Schweizer Nati may be viewed as underdogs, but they are just as strong as their fellow finalists. After all, they must be good enough to be here in the Nations League finals. Facing Portugal in their own backyard will not be easy, and it is certain to be a tough test for the Swiss. However, no one should doubt Switzerland, as they look to make history in Porto.