Spain 1-2: Switzerland: Manuel Akanji and Breel Embolo produce Nations League upset in Zaragoza

Spain have fallen to a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Switzerland to surrender their UEFA Nations League Group A2 lead.

Manuel Akanji gave the visitors a shock lead on 21 minutes, dominating Cesar Azpilicueta physically at a corner before heading down and out of the reach of Unai Simon.

Spain, playing with Real Madrid winger Marco Asensio as their central attacker, dominated the midfield and the flanks, but had no presence in the Swiss box.

UEFA Nations League

Soler and Sarabia fire Spain to win over Czech Republic in Nations League

12/06/2022 AT 18:10

The home side virtually monopolised possession for long spells, but could do little with it.

The Swiss had just 31% possession but finished with more shots, more shots on target, more corners and more offsides.

Switzerland pressed selectively, not over-committing in defence, as they effectively stifled Spain.

Asensio made Spain’s equaliser with a sensational run early in the second half, drawing the entire Swiss defence out of position before rolling a pass into the path of Jordi Alba who could not miss.

Switzerland were back in front just four minutes later though, as the impressive Akanji turned provider, flicking on a corner for Breel Embolo to score. The goal was eventually awarded as an own goal against Eric Garcia.

Five second-half substitutions from Spain did little to change the nature of the game as the Swiss continued to pack the box and mute the home side’s attack.

Switzerland had never before beaten Spain in Spain, and only tasted success against their illustrious opponents once before in any meeting – that the famous 2010 World Cup group stage clash – but they were well worth their victory against their toothless hosts.

The upset moves Switzerland off the bottom of the group, while Spain relinquish top spot to Portugal, who they will face on Tuesday in a de facto playoff for a semi-final berth.

au Torres of Spain, Unai Simon of Spain during the UEFA Nations league match between Spain v Switzerland at the Estadio La Romareda on September 24, 2022 in Zaragoza Spain (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Image credit: Getty Images

Player of the Match – Manuel Akanji

Akanji was immense for Switzerland against Spain. For the visitors to win, they needed their centre backs to deliver big performances, and Akanji did just that. Under constant pressure from Spanish possession, Akanji stayed calm. The Manchester City defender headed everything away, but also read the game impeccably and was constantly cleaning up on the ground as well. Beyond a faultless defensive performance, Akanji also scored Switzerland’s opening goal by dominating Azpilicueta, and got the crucial flick-on for their winner.

He was also the only Swiss player to get through 90 minutes without conceding a foul.

Player ratings

Spain: Unai Simon 5, Alba 6, Pau Torres 5, Garcia 6, Azpilicueta 4, Pedri 6, Busquets 6, Gavi 5, Sarabia 5, Asensio 6, Ferran Torres 7 Subs: Borja 7, Soler 7, Williams 7, Pino 7, Marcos Llorente 7

Switzerland: Sommer 7, Elvedi 6, Akanji 9, Rodriguez 6, Widmer 6, Shaqiri 7, Xhaka 7, Freuler 6, Embolo 8, Vargas 8, Sow 6. Subs: Steffen 7, Seferovic N/A, Aebischer 6, Zakaria 6, Ndoye 6

Match highlights


Manuel Akanji does brilliantly to body Azpilucueta, before heading down and out of reach of Unai Simon.


Widmer’s dangerous cross only just evades the leaping Vargas. That could easily have been 2-0.


The ex-Liverpool man dances right through the Spanish defence and takes on Simon, but his shot flashes just wide of the post.


A magnificent run from Marco Asensio in the inside right channel drags the entire Swiss defence out of position before the Real Madrid winger rolls a ball into the path of Jordi Alba who cannot miss.


Akanji flicks on from a corner and Breel Embolo stands strong under pressure as he turns it goalwards.


Switzerland break fast and in numbers, and Unai Simon spills the resultant cross at the feet of Vargas who somehow fails to score from point-blank range.

Key stats

Spain: 0 – Spain were unable to muster even a single attacking header against Switzerland. On its own, that may not seem like such an issue, but it demonstrates the obvious flaw in their approach. Consistently playing the ball out to the flanks and swinging in crosses to nobody in particular was never likely to work, and it played right into Switzerland’s game plan. The issue here is not that Spain couldn’t succeed doing this, but that they took 80 minutes to realise that they would have to try another approach.

Switzerland: 30 – Breel Embolo made more touches than any of Switzerland’s other attackers against Spain as he produced a textbook defensive number nine performance. Embolo held up the ball, won headers and battled constantly to be the outlet that his team needed him to be. 20 of his 30 touches were in the opposition half, including his assist for the winner, but it was his physical, self-sacrificing defending that really stood out.

UEFA Nations League

Switzerland stun Portugal in Nations League thanks to record-breaking Seferovic goal

12/06/2022 AT 18:03

UEFA Nations League

Sarabia fires Spain to Nations League win at Switzerland

09/06/2022 AT 17:50

Read the full article here