Switzerland promise to attack
Switzerland have vowed to attack Spain in the final of the UEFA European Under-21 Championships on Saturday night, despite being underdogs for the trophy.
Spain have dominated possession in all four of their matches in Denmark and each team they have played have sat deep and tried to counter-attack, yet Spain remain undefeated with three wins and a draw.
However, Switzerland don't want to follow that pattern. The Swiss playing style has reaped seven goals and they haven't conceded at the tournament.
"I would like to attack Spain, to do something special, you know," Swiss defender Timm Klose has said in the lead up to the final. "Spain maybe thinks we'll do the same thing like Belarus but no: we're Switzerland and we've done a good job up till now and I want to attack them in the final."
Switzerland's defensive record might imply a stoic, defensive attitude but the reality is much different. The Alpiners are a well-organised unit that pressure their opposition all over the pitch. Plus, once they win the ball, the Swiss have a handful of exciting individuals who can decide a game with one piece of brilliance.
Five different players have got on the scoresheet for Switzerland and Innocent Emeghara rates this as one of the big strengths of the Swiss team.
"When it's not your day, it's his day," the left-winger explains. "We're a team that are trying to show our individual qualities and every game we have one player that is having a good day and that's what can win a match."
Switzerland came into the Under-21 finals without much fanfare. The pre-tournament excitement focused on the big names of Spain and England, the undefeated Czechs and the high-scoring Iceland side.
Switzerland have proved themselves though and one player in particular has stood out - Xherdan Shaqiri has been involved in many of Switzerland's best moments and the diminutive attacking midfielder scored the winner in Switzerland's defeat of Denmark, which started the current run of form.
Shaqiri has had a big year. The FC Basel youngster came off the bench against Honduras at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa and played a key role in his club's league triumph of the past season. An Under-21 European title would be a great bonus and, with both a delicate pass and a thunderous shot part of Shaqiri's repertoire, don't be surprised if it's his left foot that decides Saturday's final.
"He's a great player and he can always do something special," Klose says of the Swiss playmaker. "When he gets the ball, you always think, 'Do something, little man'. I'm very happy that he's playing with me, not against me."
But not all are convinced the Swiss can compete against the Spanish. Czech striker Tomas Pekhart played against both finalists during the tournament and his prediction for the final is clear.
"I have to say Spain. They play in a different class," Pekhart says. "I think they're going to win it."
Klose agrees that Spain are a special team but that excites the young defender rather than worries him.
"I think they're the best Under-21 and senior national team at the moment and so we want to beat the best," he says, "so I'm very happy that we're in the final."
Spain are a settled team and coach Luis Milla has changed his starting line-up only once this tournament. After his side's opening match draw against England, Milla replaced Jeffren with Iker Muniain and the tiny blonde winger has added some spice to the side.
Muniain played 37 matches and scored five goals for Athletic Bilbao in the past season and the Pamplona-born teenager brings a bit of attitude to Spain's youth side, just like the bullfighters of his hometown. Muniain gets under the skin of opposition players, dances around them with the ball and has a tendency to make the most of any contact. The 18-year-old also doesn't mind standing up to opponents, getting in their face and making his point heard.
Muniain has also linked well with left-back Didac Vila. Vila and his right-sided counterpart, Martin Montoya, have been crucial to Spain's attacking set-up and Montoya provided a classic snapshot of the Spanish full-backs' abilities against Ukraine. The 20-year-old bombed forward in the first half to gather in Thiago's pass and, at full speed, Montoya whipped in a cross for Adrian to slide in at the back post and score Spain's second goal of the game.
Muniain's main benefit to Milla's side is that he creates space that his team-mates can exploit. Valencia's Juan Mata has enjoyed that space and, although nominally playing right wing, he floats around the front third for Spain. He scored twice against Ukraine but he's almost more important as a creator, setting up both of Adrian's goals against Czech Republic and also getting involved in the build-up to both of the striker's goals in the semi-final victory against Belarus.
Saturday's final pits the tournament's best attack, with Spain having scored nine goals, against the best defence, with Switzerland yet to concede. But considering that the Spaniards have only conceded twice and the Swiss have hit the back of the net seven times, the match in Aarhus looks like it will be a close contest in all aspects.