The Swiss will not be the favorites of the shock at the top of the qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup this Friday in Palermo. But with four players absent because of the Covid, the Transalpines are not serene.
An opportunity not to be missed. The Swiss team can take a big step towards the World Cup in Australia / New Zealand, if it brings back a positive result from its trip to Palermo (5.30 p.m.) this Friday. If the coach Nils Nielsen said that all his players were in good shape on the eve of this deadline, this is not the case for Italy. The transalpine team this week deplored the packages of five players: Elisa Bartoli and Giada Greggi (AS Roma), Martina Rosucci, Valentina Cernoia and Arianna Caruso (Juventus). The first four were diagnosed positive for the coronavirus, the last had to forfeit after an injury which occurred last week in the Champions League.
Without its three Turin midfielders, Squadra Azzurra will therefore approach this shock of group G of the qualifiers for the 2023 World Cup, with a fair amount of uncertainty. « Some players will have to adapt, » admitted coach Milena Bertolini at a pre-match press conference. But I have been training them for a long time, and they have always given their all on the pitch. With willpower, we can compensate for everything ”. Even more with the support of some 10,000 spectators who should be present at the Renzo-Barbera stadium.
Italy slightly favorite
Nevertheless, these absences will preterite the Italian collective and its automatisms, main reasons which made the Squadra Azzurra slightly favorite of this confrontation, as Caroline Abbé had entrusted to us. The Nati must therefore take the opportunity to keep the lead of its group – thanks to a greater number of goals scored – in order to approach the return matches with serenity. As a reminder, only the first place grants a direct ticket to Oceania, which would avoid going through complicated roadblocks (see box). This will undoubtedly be played between the two selections, which fly over the debates (4 matches, 12 points, + 16 goal difference for the two teams), even if it will still be necessary to play the other matches, as the nuance the national coach.
This meeting will also be an opportunity for Nils Nielsen’s troop to situate their level, just over 7 months from the Euro (July 6-31 in England). Because the quarter-finalist of the last World Cup represents an opponent of a completely different caliber than Romania, Croatia, Lithuania and Moldova. “Italy has a very strong team,” emphasizes gatekeeper Gaëlle Thalmann. We’re not necessarily favorites, but it’s a hell of a challenge. We are delighted with this duel ”.
« We are going to attack »
However, the Nati does not intend to hide during this shock at the top. « We will do everything to have the ball and put our game, » said the national coach. Italy’s, which is based more on quick transitions than possession of the ball, should suit the Nati well. « And if we do not succeed because of the opposing pressure, we will find other solutions, we have exercised other patterns, warns the Dane. But we will try to attack ”.
To qualify for the next Euro, Switzerland had to go through the play-offs after a large 4-0 defeat in Belgium almost a year ago, against a team considered also slightly superior. « Many things have changed. Mentally, we have become much stronger. New players have arrived and bring a new dynamic. We now have more solutions and more confidence in ourselves. And the whole team has improved since then ”. Until what point? Answer this Friday evening in the field.
The system of play-offs between the nine best runners-up in the European zone is quite complex. They take place in two rounds, in the form of single matches: the three best runners-up are directly qualified for the second round, while the other 6 must go through a first round knockout. Among the three winners of the second round, a classification is made taking into account the group stage and the result of the second round. The first two are qualified for the World Cup, the third must play intercontinental dams.