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Fully fit Embolo flexing his muscles for Switzerland at Euro 2024

After enduring an injury hampered previous 12 months with AS Monaco, where he finally made his return in the final stages of the Ligue 1 campaign after being sidelined for 323 days, it’s been wonderful to see Breel Embolo holding his own at Euro 2024.

Now recovered from his multiple knee injuries, with the latter ACL one he suffered last pre-season particularly nasty, Embolo’s been an integral component for Murat Yakin’s hugely impressive and undefeated Swiss side.

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Having scored in Switzerland’s vital win over Hungary before coming off the bench in their draw with Scotland and performing solidly vs. Germany, he then excelled as a starter against Italy, in a tournament where there’s been much to like about his contribution.

To focus on the smashing recent Round of 16 triumph over defending champions Italy, and despite not finding the back of the net, the ASM marksman was brilliant.

Leading the line superbly for his outstanding team, who completely outplayed Luciano Spalletti’s men, his adversaries found him a hugely difficult man to contain.

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Capable of hurting opponents in a variety of ways, both with and without possession, the 27-year-old forward was a constant thorn in the side of the Azzurri.

Forever asking questions of Alessandro Bastoni and Gianluca Mancini with his clever movement and positional sense, how he regularly mixed things up ensured they couldn’t settle into a rhythm of how best to nullify him.

Embolo’s Heat Map vs. Italy

So good at dropping deep to link play between the lines, he timed his checks towards the ball excellently to often get free in dangerous central areas. And even if a marker did follow him, his tremendous strength and ability to adjust his receiving posture to shield and protect the ball saw him shine with his back to goal.

Embolo getting free centrally after dovetailing with his teammates nicely

Comfortable under pressure in such situations, the way he held the ball up and brought others into play in ideal forward facing postures, plus drew defenders out of shape, enhanced his worth.

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Seeing as he’s such a physical presence and a terrific reference point for his team, he also flexed his muscles, as is usually the case, in aerial confrontations, where his size, strength and reading of the ball’s trajectory made him a fantastic option.

Able to be a quality out ball for his team to bypass the press to progress upfield quickly, using him as an outlet in this manner helped his side to win crucial second balls higher, for he could oblige runners with flick ons or knock the ball down to nearby colleagues.

Extra upside could be taken from his astutely executed rotations to compound issues for his foes, as he’d frequently switch with his fellow attackers and midfielders. Proving fruitful in terms of opening passing lanes, generating disconnects in the Italian stopping setup and causing confusion on who should mark who, Embolo’s dovetailing with his teammates was a joy to watch.

Crisp rotation to unbalance the Italy structure
Slick rotation with Vargas

It was also important to note that when he dropped deep and lured out a tracker, a teammate would be alert to run in behind, as these opposite movements were a handy source of chance creation.

Supplementing the above with his neatly timed runs in behind and how he pinned opponents to allow his partners in crime space to surge upfield or get dangerous between the lines, this accentuated his menace.

Brilliantly timed run in behind
Pinning his tracker so Freuler can receive between the lines and turn
Pinning his marker to free up his teammate

His involvement in the Swiss opener epitomised his threat, for his crisp space finding behind the Italian midfield initially breathed life into the passage before his presence then manufactured room for Remo Freuler to exploit and score.

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Dropping deep astutely prior to the Swiss opener
Occupying two markers smartly to create room for Freuler to score

While his movement was where he wreaked havoc the most, some of his work with the ball at his feet caught the eye too, in a match where his slick flicks and backheels, in combination with his powerful dribbles and ability to weave away from trouble in close quarters, amplified his impact.

Swiss average positions and pass connections map

Following a lengthy spell on the outer, watching him strut his stuff has been a huge source of positivity, especially considering he was a doubt for selection heading in.

 “We knew we made the right decision to bring him. We knew he wasn’t available for the last two weeks [of the season], but the decision to call him up was right. He makes us very calm in holding the ball up,” Swiss coach Yakin explained.

Bringing so much to the table, a real game-changer and with Switzerland now into the quarter-finals, where they’ll do battle with England, expect the man who’s the only Swiss player to score in the last three tournaments to continue his momentum.

Whatever happens, though, it’s a huge victory just to see Embolo back in action after he’s all been through on his long and arduous road to recovery.

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