Friday 15 November 2019

This is not a decider: Petkovic

Vladimir Petkovic
Vladimir Petkovic

The Group D table may tell you otherwise. But Swiss football coach Vladimir Petkovic insists that his team's Euro 2020 qualifier against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium tonight "is not a deciding game."

A home win at the Aviva Stadium tonight would leave Ireland nine points clear of Switzerland in the section. Yes, the teams will play again in Geneva next month, but even winning that face-off might not be enough for the Swiss to regain lost ground in the event of losing this game.

Mick McCarthy's Irish players know what this contest means, and you suspect - for all his denials - that Petkovic does too.

"We've always known this would be a key game for us," admitted the veteran manager, "and that we would have to get a return from this match. We want to get three points if possible, but it is not a deciding game."

Mick McCarthy has spent quite a bit of his resumed Irish tenure talking about players who are not in the squad, whether Declan Rice, Patrick Bamford or the teenage talent he is wary of promoting to the senior set-up.

Yesterday the boot was on the other foot as Petkovic couldn't avoid talking about the absent Xherdan Shaqiri, the 28-year-old Liverpool playmaker, who asked to be left out of the Swiss panel for this match and the game against Gibraltar on Sunday.

He tried to do it, but he couldn't. We will do as good as we can, we will try to give 10% more without Shaqiri.

"We have changed our team a bit since the World Cup Finals, with Stephan Lichtsteiner (formerly Juventus and Arsenal) stepping away and Timm Klose (Norwich) injured, and new players are coming to the fore anyway.

"As for Shaqiri," he continued, "we don't rely on one player."

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