Twenty minutes in the company of Swiss coach Vladimir Petkovic and his premier league players Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) and Fabien Schar (Newcastle), you wondered today if they think they’ll play the Irish rugby team on Saturday and not the Football team in an European Championship qualifier tomorrow.
The words “physical”, “aggressive” and “hard” kept cropping up as the Swiss came into a game they dare not lose.
“Physically, the Irish team is pretty strong, but we’ll have a solution to take them over,” Xhaka said, without giving away.
Schar went in the same direction. “I know some of the Irish players from the game against them in the Premier League, I’m sure the Irish fans trust in their team, but we trust in ours They will attack us, and that’s what we expect a really tough match that will be a big fight. “
There was also evidence of Switzerland’s World Cup play-off against Northern Ireland 22 months ago, when a two-legged contest with a controversial penalty was decided.
“We remember it, and we will draw from it,” said Xhaka.
Of course, Irish football fans are used to a game in which a big player is missing for one reason or another. Here was the boot on the other foot and although Petkovic wanted to avoid talking about Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri, he could not.
“We will do as well as possible,” said the experienced coach. “We will try to do 10% more without Shaqiri, we have changed our team a bit since the World Cup final, Stephan Lichtsteiner is back and new players are coming to the fore, yes we are not the same
Switzerland as before. We may change our formation, we respect Ireland and what they will bring to the game, they will go for the win.”