Belarus are set to host Switzerland in the opening game of their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign as the away nation are looking to bounce back from their round of 16 exit at the World Cup.
The game is being played in Novi Sad, Serbia due to the UEFA imposed ban on Belarus from hosting continental and international matches.
Belarus are currently ranked 97th in Fifa’s world rankings and have only won one of their last eight games. Mikhail Markhel’s side participated in ten fixtures last calendar year, winning three, drawing three and losing four.
Belarus were last in action in a set of friendlies in November against Syria and Oman. In their game against Syria, Belarus managed to keep a clean sheet as they beat Syria, who are ranked 90th in Fifa’s rankings, 1-0 thanks to a late own goal.
Mikhail Markhel’s side were unable to follow this victory up as they were comfortably beaten by Oman 2-0. Considering the vast difference in level of Switzerland compared to Belarus’ past opponents, this weekend’s game will be a much steeper challenge.
Switzerland will be hoping to rebound from their disappointing exit from the 2022 Qatar which came in embarrassing fashion against Portugal. In the group stages, Switzerland recorded a narrow victory over Cameroon and a 3-2 victory over Serbia to secure safe passage into the round of 16 where they faced Portugal.
Portugal coach Fernando Santos dropped Cristiano Ronaldo to the bench for the last-16 meeting with Switzerland and was rewarded with a hat-trick from replacement Goncalo Ramos and a stunning team display as Portugal went on to Thrash Switzerland 6-1.
This game has been shrouded in controversy as Swiss lawmakers have called for Belarus to be banned from Euro 2024 due to human rights violations and Belarus’ support of “russian aggression” in Ukraine. There is still the off chance that the game will not go ahead as Swiss parliamentarians have been on record saying that the game “must not go ahead.”
Breel Embolo is a player to watch here as he has shown impressive form for Monaco so far this campaign. Embolo has netted 12 times in 28 appearances so far this season and will be looking to add to his international tally this weekend.
These sides have met on three prior occasions, all of which have gone the way of the Swiss, whilst managing to keep a clean sheet on all three occasions. The last meeting of these nations came in an international friendly in 2017 which ended 1-0 to Switzerland thanks to an early Xherdan Shaqiri goal.
Unsurprisingly, given the disparity in Fifa rankings of these sides, it is Switzerland who are heavily favoured at the bookies ahead of this meeting @ ⅕, whilst a historic win for Belarus is currently priced @ 14/1.
We are backing Switzerland to win both halves @ 11/8 because of their historical dominance of this fixture paired with their superior quality across all areas of the pitch. We believe that the defensive partnership of Manuel Akanji and Ricardo Rodriguez will prove too tough a task for the Belarus attack.