England open up their European 2016 qualifiers with tough away trip to Basel to face Switzerland; a team which narrowly exited the World Cup at the last 16 stage after defeat in extra time by Argentina. England lie 11 places below their opponents in the recent FIFA rankings and did not look that impressive in their 1-0 friendly win over Norway last week.
England will be without striker Daniel Sturridge who picked up a thigh injury in training during the week. Newly named captain, Wayne Rooney will most likely be the focal point in attack with Raheem Sterling occupying the no. 10 role. England boss Roy Hodgson has the tough decision of where to play the Liverpool youngster in the team on the wing or in the no 10 role. Sterling started the Norway friendly on the wing but after changing into middle he shone in a somewhat subdue England performance. Sterling starred last season in a central role and recently in Liverpool’s 3-0 win at Tottenham with a man of the match display.
Youth is the phrase used within the England camp after Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard announced their International retirement recently. Wayne Rooney highlighted in a recent press conference that the young lads “will need to step up”. Jordan Henderson and Jack Wilshere look to keep their place in central midfield but will be against a tough Swiss pair in Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami who both had brilliant World Cups. Both were unlucky to be on the losing side against Argentina along with Xherdan Shaqiri who at the age of 22 is still developing although it seems like he has been around for years.
Switzerland can be caught in defence especially on the break with the French highlighting this in their 5-2 win over them in the World Cup group stages. The fast breaking French team cut through the Swiss defence on numerous occasions and with the youthful English team this could prove pivotal. Utilising Sterling in a central role with Oxlade-Chamberlain wide, England could pose the Swiss all sorts of problems in defence.
The last time the two teams met was in a 2012 qualifier where England fought back to a 2-2 draw with Frank Lampard and Ashley Young grabbing the goals. In the same qualification England were victorious in Basel with a 3-1 win but Switzerland are much stronger than last time out. Switzerland will provide a battle for England and depending on the result we will see what this youthful England team is made off.
This is England toughest test of qualification and will settle for a point in Basel with a home game against San Marino and away trip to Estonia next up in October they will be looking for a maximum return.