Rodriguez a mainstay for Switzerland despite relegation worries at club level
He set up the all-important opening goal against Bulgaria
Says Switzerland are “more unpredictable than other teams”
The past couple of seasons have not been particularly easy for Ricardo Rodriguez. Last year he went on loan to PSV Eindhoven from AC Milan, but while his stint there initially looked promising, it was soon brought to an end by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This term he is at Torino in Serie A, where the team have surprisingly become involved in a relegation battle. All the better, then, that the left-footer also plays for the Switzerland national team and is an experienced cornerstone of the side with 74 international caps to date, operating either at left-back, as a left midfielder or as part of a back three.
The Swiss began their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Group C qualifying campaign with a comfortable 3-1 win in Bulgaria, with Rodriguez teeing up the opening goal after just six minutes with an inch-perfect cross onto Breel Embolo’s head. Before the team’s next match against Lithuania in St. Gallen on Sunday, the Zurich native took time out for an interview with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com:What do you think is your best position at the moment? As part of a back three, as a winger in a formation with a back three, or as a more traditional full-back?
Ricardo Rodriguez:I can play in any role. As banal as it sounds, I’ll play wherever the coach puts me. I’d say that I’m pretty versatile.
You’ve got over 70 international caps and are one of the team’s most experienced players. How has your role developed?
I came into the national team when I was 18. I obviously can’t deny that I’ve got older, if only from a biological point of view. I’ve gained experience and maturity over the years. I’ve shouldered responsibility and try to give back to the team and the coach by performing well.
Switzerland’s European Championship qualifying campaign went smoothly overall. What will be the key to World Cup qualifying?
That we focus on our own strengths. We aim to impose our game on every opponent, to express ourselves, to be efficient and to play as a team. I think we’re more unpredictable than other teams because we’re a unit and don’t depend on individual players.
What still needs to be improved with a view to having a successful World Cup qualifying campaign and European Championship?
I think we’re on the right track. Now it’s about being ready at the right moments and the important moments so that we can play to our best. We recently proved in the Nations League that we can hold our own against big teams. That is and should continue to be our benchmark.
What do you associate with Italy, where you’ve been playing for several years now?
In terms of football, the very well-drilled defensive and tactical approach in Serie A. In terms of everything else: I enjoy the Italian way of life, the food, the culture and the warmth.
Can we expect a tussle between Italy and Switzerland for top spot in Group C, or would that be too presumptuous?
Italy are certainly the favourites to win the group, but we see ourselves on equal terms with them. We have nothing to fear, and we won’t fear them.
What is your view on Italy rebuilding their national team? What are their strengths and what will be important for Switzerland in your matches against them?
Italy’s team has changed in recent years. There are new faces and some very good players. They’ve got a very good tactical understanding, scored a lot of goals in European Championship qualifying, and have had a good run recently. So we’ll need to be wary.
What sort of games are you expecting during World Cup qualification?
It’s the start of a new campaign so we’ll need to hit our stride and not make any mistakes. But I’m optimistic that we’ll get off to a good start if we focus on ourselves, keeping in mind that we’re going up against tough opponents.
In a separate interview, you recently commented on how quickly time flies as a footballer. What goals do you set yourself in your late 20s?
You pay even more attention to your body and to recovering well. In general, you pay more attention to things than you did before.