- Seferovic's hat-trick against Belgium fired Switzerland into the UEFA Nations League finals
- Is Switzerland's search for a centre-forward now over?
- Jeered last year, now cheered by Swiss supporters
This year's FIFA World Cup™ ended as they tend to do for Switzerland – with defeat in the last 16, this time against Sweden. The general consensus in the Swiss camp afterwards was that it was a tie they could have won.
One of the Nati's shortcomings in recent years has been the lack of a world-class striker found in many other national teams, someone who can and should make the difference at international level. Indeed, coach Vladimir Petkovic has experimented with eight different centre-forwards since he was appointed in the summer of 2014.
Strikers under Petkovic
*(Table data only includes goals and matches in which players operated exclusively or primarily as a centre-forward)
Four months after Russia 2018, Switzerland hosted Belgium - who finished in third place at the global showpiece - in a decisive fixture to determine who would progress to the finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Belgium soon raced out to a 2-0 lead in Lucerne, but then Haris Seferovic turned on the style for the Swiss. The 26-year-old scored three times in a 5-2 victory that sent shockwaves around the globe, simultaneously booking Switzerland's place in next summer's showdown with England, the Netherlands and Portugal. Seferovic, who now laces his boots for Benfica, helped his country lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009 and has been considered a candidate to lead the line at senior level ever since that triumph in Nigeria.
Seferovic now has five goals in four matches, having previously hit a brace against Iceland, making him the leading scorer in Nations League A. His haul is what you would expect of a world-class striker, and he has found the net more often than Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo. Seferovic is in a rich vein of form for Benfica as well, playing and scoring regularly both in the Portuguese league and in the UEFA Champions League.
In the past, Seferovic was criticised for poor finishing; that he was unable to step up when it mattered most. However, he has scored over 80 per cent of his 17 international goals in competitive matches. He was even jeered by Switzerland supporters during the play-offs for Russia 2018. "It made me stronger," he says of the incident now, even if it stung at the time. Perhaps Seferovic has developed into the striker Switzerland would have liked to see ever since that triumphant U-17 World Cup in 2009. He will now have the chance to further underline his abilities and perhaps even help Switzerland lift the Nations League title and take the long-awaited step of reaching the quarter-finals of a major tournament at UEFA EURO 2020.
"I've never experienced a match like that. It was a great evening with a crowd that supported us massively. We kept believing in ourselves even after going 2-0 down. We know the quality we have and it's a very good win for our team."
"It's simply a consequence of what I observe. I see how valuable he is for us in every training session and in every match."
Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic on why he keeps selecting Seferovic in his line-up
"It's my first hat-trick. It's a very special moment, definitely one of my best performances in my career. Hard work pays off in the end. That's just the way I am. It's part of my character."