Vladimir Petkovic had some big shoes to fill when he took over as head coach of the Swiss national team in 2014 following Ottmar Hitzfeld’s successful tenure. But the 57-year-old has proven himself, and his contract was extended until the end of 2022 just a few months ago.
Petkovic, who was at the helm of Lazio in the Serie A just eight months before taking on his current role, has led Switzerland to qualification for both UEFA EURO 2016 in France and the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. However, they were knocked out in the last 16 at both tournaments, leaving them with unhappy memories of the 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to Poland in Saint-Etienne and of the 1-0 reverse to Sweden two years ago in St. Petersburg.
FIFA.com caught up with Petkovic shortly before the European qualifying draw for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.
FIFA.com: Vladimir, what would be your verdict on 2020?
Vladimir Petkovic: The year 2020 will go down in the history books. The whole world was surprised by a pandemic, and it also affected football. I always take life as it comes and try to make the best out of it. After a long break, we had eight games in just under three months. It was both an intensive and informative time for my team and I. We played against the best teams in Europe in League A of the UEFA Nations League. In terms of results, there was room for improvement, but in the matches against Germany and Spain we saw that we’re developing positively, can compete with the best and assert ourselves.
To what extent has your work as a national team coach changed during the pandemic?
We weren’t able to meet up or play any matches for a very long time. In the end we were only actively out on the pitch for three months. We organised virtual meetings to maintain communication between the staff and players. Sometimes it was just so that we could see each other and have a drink together. I phoned the players a lot and watched the majority of their behind-closed-doors games on television, rather than at the stadiums. The players adapted to the new conditions, and my staff and I had to implement everything we hadn’t been able to before within a very short space of time. As I mentioned, I take everything as it comes and try to make the best of every situation.
What are your expectations for 2021? How far can you go at the European Championship?
It’ll be an intensive and eventful year for football in 2021. We’re looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers and the EURO, and we hope we’ll soon be able to play and experience football again like we did before the pandemic. We invested a lot in our Nations League campaign as preparations for the EURO. We want to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar and go as far as we can at the European Championship. A lot is possible with this team. If everything comes together we can go a long way and we hope that there will soon…
Read More:FIFA World Cup 2022 – News – Petkovic: Switzerland have no reason to fear