Italy – Switzerland: Clinical Performance Sends Italy To Knockout Stages (3-0)
Italy made it back-to-back impressive showings as they handily dealt with Switzerland. The Italians were not fazed by the Swiss pressure, regularly cutting through. Their numbers in the attacking third were tough to deal with, both centrally and on the flanks, while clinical play, led by a Locatelli brace, ensured they cruised to victory.
Tactical analysis and match report by Julian Chingoma.
Italy impressed in the EURO 2020 opener as they comfortably dispatched of a toothless Turkey. Many would expect Switzerland to provide a sterner test, although the Swiss had a less pleasing outcome after sharing the spoils in their opener. The draw with Wales was more disappointing as they seemed the better side, led by a thrilling second-half performance from Breel Embolo. While they were looking to truly kickstart their tournament, Italy were aiming for knockout-stage qualification.
Italy were lined up in a 4-3-3 formation by Mancini with a single change from the Turkey game, as Giovanni Di Lorenzo was brought in for Alessandro Florenzi. Jorginho, Nicolò Barella and Manuel Locatelli were the dynamic midfield three, while the attacking trio once again consisted of Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Domenico Berardi.
Vladimir Petković sent out an unchanged Switzerland side in a 3-4-1-2 formation. Yann Sommer was in goal and they used a backline of Nico Elvedi, Fabian Schär and Manuel Akanji. The wing-backs of
Kevin Mbabu and Ricardo Rodríguez flanked the central midfield pairing of Remo Freuler and Granit Xhaka. It was Xherdan Shaqiri who supported the front two of Haris Seferović and the aforementioned Embolo.
Italy had a truly dominant first half illustrated by the discrepancy of chances created. Switzerland were severely limited in their appearances in the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. and thus, rarely threatened. It all started with difficulty in maintaining possession as they were often troubled by the Italy high press. Italy ensured the three center-backs were regularly pressured with varying coverage on the Swiss midfielders behind their pressing front line.
An example pattern was Barella switching between marking Xhaka and pressing a wide center-back while Berardi pressed the center-back in the former and discouraged the wing-back pass in the latter. Locatelli and Jorginho would curtail balls into the halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. but rotated well to apply pressure to those who received in midfield. As the near options were usually marked, Switzerland then needed to find these line-breaking passes over longer distances which they struggled with. Even attempts to rotate defensive-line players into midfield did not destabilize the Italy press as they shifted marking assignments well.
Italy pressing Switzerland’s buildup as Xhaka drops into the defensive line. Afterwards, Locatelli and Jorginho rotate wide as Elvedi receives, via Shaqiri, to push them back again.
Once Italy were in a medium block, A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. Switzerland, on occasion, could find players between the lines. There were a few instances where the Italy midfield got drawn into a press which left accessible gaps behind them. A particular instance saw the Jorginho-Locatelli double pivot Two central midfielders next to each other. get sucked out wide leaving a chasm for Shaqiri to release a teammate into. This showed some of the vulnerability in those central areas for Italy.
Italy assert control throughout the half
Italy switched between 4-2 and 3-2 structures during deep buildup with the latter more common as Spinazzola pushed up high frequently. If Switzerland did not press aggressively, the midfielders could progress with minimal pressure while an intense Swiss press meant Italy could exploit the space behind the pressing midfield line as well.
As Switzerland pressed, Shaqiri initially looked to block off Jorginho. After the deep buildup, he would often shift wide to help in the wide areas. Insigne would drift centrally while Spinazzola moved high. Locatelli would roam slightly left and offer a base to the work on the left side. Generating one-versus-one scenarios on the left were a frequent occurrence. Spinazzola taking on Elvedi, or Mbabu, and getting off crosses looked like a promising avenue for creating chances. Insigne dragging Mbabu, or Elvedi, towards the center helped facilitate this. A good-quality tenth-minute heading opportunity for Immobile came from such a situation.
As Jorginho predominantly occupied the central role, Locatelli would vary the width of his left-sided positioning to differing effects. Moving into the left back area as Spinazzola advanced, he could offer a wide option to outnumber Switzerland’s front three. If quite deep then the right-sided Switzerland attacker may stall their press to split the difference between Locatelli and the left center-back.
If he was followed by Freuler then this immediately opened access to Insigne into the halfspace. Along with Spinazzola pinning Mbabu, these all contributed to moving the ball down the left which offered Switzerland the most consistent trouble. Another key feature of the buildup, to exploit some of the Swiss gaps, would be the ball-playing qualities of the deep players. This included long-distance line-breaking passes behind the pressing lines from the likes of Bonucci or the ability of Jorginho and Locatelli to produce passes while moving into some space under pressure.
Italy building up against Switzerland’s five-at-the-back medium block. Bonucci can find Barella behind the midfield as Shaqiri presses him.
After a disallowed goal and Chiellini injury, Italy, on a more positive note, opened the scoring in the 26th minute. After getting first to a second ball in midfield, Locatelli sent the ball expertly to release a wide Berardi. Berardi immediately attacked Rodríguez, got to the byline and played across for a supporting Locatelli to smash home. The half ended with Switzerland slowly growing into the contest but Italy constantly caused danger on the counterattack. Ultimately, Switzerland generated little from a shot count perspective.
More of the same as Switzerland struggle
Switzerland kicked the half off with an aggressive high press but Italy continued to beat the press with balls into space. There was some regularity of vertical passes to find players centrally behind the first line. Immobile, for example, would drop into the vacated midfield space, as Switzerland’s midfield helped press high, to try to lay the ball off or flick it into space for onrushing teammates. As this dynamic in Italy’s buildup continued, much of the game seemed to flow similarly to the first half.
Locatelli grabbed his second in the 52nd minute to put Italy firmly in control. A slowed-down attack saw the ball worked horizontally from right towards the left. There was no pressure on Locatelli as Barella dragged away a central presence. Locatelli then rifled a strike into the bottom corner with his left foot for his brace.
An Italy attempt at beating the press illustrating common patterns. From a pass from Bonucci, Di Lorenzo passes to Jorginho to find Barella in the space Rodríguez vacated.
Some notable Italy changes saw Federico Chiesa and Rafael Tolói brought on for Insigne and Berardi respectively. Tolói slotted in at right center-back while Chiesa partnered Immobile as Italy shifted to a 3-5-2 shape. The front two were primed for the counterattacking dynamic Italy would adopt. They threatened with pace and directness to challenge the Swiss transition defense. The threat remained throughout the half.
Going in the other direction, Switzerland were afforded more possession to try to claw their way back. Their deep structure found more ease against a two-man frontline. Then when faced with Italy’s medium block, they could freely move into the wide areas as the front of Italy’s shape is narrow. This contributed to sustained Switzerland possession to close out the game. They found it tough to penetrate centrally, especially with Shaqiri off, and instead, they aimed crosses into the box. Their fortunes did not change and they barely troubled Italy concretely. Even though they found themselves probing in front of a deep block on a few occasions. A long-range Immobile goal sealed it after a Swiss midfield turnover. Italy then managed the closing stages well to claim the win.
Italy confirmed their place in the Round of 16 after a fairly comfortable outing. They maintained a constant final-third threat, while regularly bypassing a subpar Swiss pressure. Switzerland only managed regular periods of control as the scoreline went further against them.
Switzerland now have everything left to do against Turkey. And to better their chances of qualifying for the next round, they will hope for a favour from Italy facing the Welsh.
We decided to make all of our EURO 2020 articles free to read. If you want to support our work, consider taking a subscription.