This U21 European Championship quarter-final saw Switzerland matched up against eventual finalists Spain. Both sides used a 4-2-3-1 shape in a fixture where neither team really managed to establish control for extended passages. Switzerland’s 4-5-1 mid/low block stifled Spain for long periods of the game, but in possession their attempts to draw Spain out with patient build-up before moving the ball forward quickly didn’t generate many chances. With the game tied 1-1 after 90 minutes, Spain scored a deflected effort to emerge as 2-1 victors after extra time.
- A1 – Very good, could play higher
- A2 – Strong potential to play higher
- B1 – Good, strong player at level
- B2 – Potential to be a strong player at level
- C – Average for the level, rewatch
- D – Below average in this match
- Nationality: Swiss
- Age: 21
- Date of birth: 16/02/2002
- Club: Young Boys
- Career: Solothurn (Y), Young Boys (Y)
- Position: Attacking Midfield, Central Midfield
- Preferred foot: Left
Despite an injury cutting his evening short, Fabian Rieder looked self-assured throughout the sixty minutes he played. The 21-year-old midfielder lined up as part of a double pivot, in a role that allowed him to exert his influence on all phases of play.
His rounded performance was perhaps best summarised by his off-ball movement, where Rieder was able to quite drastically alter his tendencies based on the phase. During the first phase of build-up, Rieder periodically became a single pivot; his movements here were disciplined and subtle, carefully picking the moments he showed for the ball, as his primary focus was pinning Spain’s first line of pressure.
In the second and third phase he paired this intelligence with assertiveness. Rieder didn’t just anticipate and identify openings, he reacted sharply to fill them. These movements often aimed to exploit space behind defensive lines, and Rieder used several methods to maximise their effectiveness: he timed his underlaps effectively to disrupt Spain’s last line, and utilised double movements and opponents’ blind spots to get beyond the midfield.
Some of these qualities remained in aspects his defensive positioning. Rieder cut out passes that aimed to initiate counter attacks on a couple of occasions, anticipating his opponent’s intentions as Switzerland attempted to regroup. However his attempts to step forward onto opponents, either to apply direct counter-pressure or from a settled block, were less productive. His timing was off, arriving too late and with an open body shape, making him easy to bypass.
On the ball, Rieder showed a promising technical level. The midfielder scanned astutely, allowing for productive body positioning when receiving. His first touch was fairly secure, and he appeared comfortable taking the ball on in tight spaces, seemingly always confident that the ball would remain in his orbit. This composure allowed him to make good decisions on when to play safe and when to attempt more ambitious exits. His ability to resist pressure was also bolstered by quick shifts of both weight and ball. Rieder isn’t especially imposing, standing at 5’11 with an average build, but these shifts allowed him to either ride or evade contact.
Although not eye-catchingly progressive in this match, there were strong elements to his passing performance. He had a good sense of when to accelerate or slow the tempo, and displayed an encouraging range of passes. Rieder’s execution was solid: mostly left-footed, his weighting was firm but measured, and the selection and accuracy of his passes were largely fine, although perhaps not completely reliable at this stage.
He was reluctant to progress via carrying. When receiving on the half-turn with space ahead of him, Rieder failed to really drive with the ball and draw opponents in. This, in conjunction with releasing the ball too early, limited the space available to his teammates.
Rating – A1
Fabian Rieder looked accomplished at U21 level, and certainly appeared capable of building on his four senior caps for Switzerland. His positional intelligence and versatility particularly stood out, but that shouldn’t overshadow what promises to be a sound set of technical attributes.
Although his technical and physical level may be slightly below what’s required to consistently perform at the very highest level, Rieder definitely has the capacity to contribute to a T5 side aiming to compete in the knock-out stages of the Europa League.