the Nati can go all the way on one condition

Leonardo Genoni can play a decisive role for the Nati in Prague.Image: keystone

The Nati can legitimately dream of beating Canada in the semi-final (this Saturday from 6:20 p.m.) and even winning the title. The feat depends on one person.

klaus zaugg, prague

Switzerland is in the semi-final. The duty is accomplished. Now, it is the “free program” of this World Cup which begins. With the sky as the only limit.

The Nati are clearly better than when they won silver in 2013 and 2018, with the exception of the goalkeeper position. A place in the last four is no longer a sensation like in 2013 and 2018. Not even a surprise. The victory against Germany was logical and obligatory.

In 2013 and 2018, Reto Berra, Roman Josi, Nino Niederreiter and Patrick Fischer were already present. The latter was assistant to Sean Simpson 11 years ago and already coach six years ago. Andres Ambühl only participated in the 2013 campaign.

Roman Josi (left) and Nino Niederreiter were already there in 2013.Image: KEYSTONE

For their part, Leonardo Genoni, Sven Andrighetto, Kevin Fiala, Michael Fora, Gaëtan Haas, Dean Kukan and Tristan Scherwey wore the red jersey with white cross in 2018.

This little preview shows just how much experience the team has when it comes to Worlds semi-finals: almost half of the players in the current contingent know how to win one. Not to mention that Roman Josi and Kevin Fiala have never been better. In short: Switzerland’s chances against Canada on Saturday are at least 50%.

A role crucial

Leonardo Genoni stopped 43 of 45 shots in the semi-final against Canada in 2018. The Swiss won 3-2, with goals from Gaëtan Haas, Tristan Scherwey and Grégory Hofmann.

In 2013, in the last four, Reto Berra achieved a shutout against the United States (3-0). The goals were scored by Nino Niederreiter, Julian Walker and Reto Suri.

Switzerlands goalkeeper Reto Berra in action during an ice hockey World Cup preparation match between Switzerland and Latvia at the Stimo Arena in Kloten, Switzerland, Saturday, April 27, 2024. (Keyst ...

Reto Berra, 37, is no longer at the peak of his career.Image: keystone

These two matches lead us to this observation: the goalkeeper makes the difference in the semi-final.

With a Reto Berra in his 2013 form or a Leonardo Genoni in 2018, we would win on Saturday against Canada and probably be world champions.

But now, the current Reto Berra is far from being that of 2013. The question is therefore the following: will Leonardo Genoni still be as good in the last four in 2024 as in 2018?

Of intelligence and titans

The statistics say it’s even better. Its current rate of saves in this World Cup (92.55%) is in fact higher than that of 2018 (91.50%). But are the statistics right? No. Leonardo Genoni (36) is no better in 2024 than in 2018. He doesn’t have to be.

One thing is certain: if Genoni plays against Canada, Switzerland will not lose because of him. The following question remains: can she win thanks to him?

Why not? It may be that the former ZSC Lions junior, seven-time Swiss champion, is no longer as agile and quick in his reflexes as in 2018, but he remains one of the smartest goalkeepers in this World Championship.

Team Switzerland goaltender Leonardo Genoni during the ice hockey game during the SWISS Ice Hockey Games between Team Switzerland and Team Czech Republic on Saturday, 16. December 2023, in Zuerich. (K...

Leonardo Genoni benefits from a lot of experience. Image: KEYSTONE

He compensates for his loss of mobility and reflexes – in case these have indeed diminished – with his playing intelligence and his experience. Added to this is the fact that defensively, the Helvetians are more solid than in 2018. Against Germany, they did not concede a goal for the sixth time in a row at five against five. And against Canada, during the group match (2-3 defeat), they only conceded 23 shots.

Offensively, with the four titans of the NHL who are Roman Josi, Nico Hischier, Kevin Fiala and Nino Niederreiter, the Swiss are more unpredictable and more magical than in 2018. Niederreiter’s record (2 goals and 4 assists) may seem like a mistake. little disappointment. But the intensity of the Canadians’ game will suit him perfectly.

The objective analysis, based on statistics, of our national team in this World Cup before the semi-final is explicit:

the Nati is better defensively and offensively than in 2018. She is ripe for the title of world champion.

A beneficial journey and a square for two

The fact that Patrick Fischer’s protégés had to travel by train to Ostrava for their quarter-final against Germany (less than 4 hours’ journey), while the Canadians were able to stay in Prague for their quarter-final against Germany. Slovakia, is not a disadvantage. It is rather an advantage: such a trip allows you to get some fresh air with a change of scenery and to foster team spirit.

Switzerland's Kevin Fiala celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the preliminary round match between Finland and Switzerland at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Prague, C ...

NHL star Kevin Fiala is one of the best Swiss scorers with six goals and five assists.Image: keystone

We can turn things in all directions: a victory over Canada (title holder) or even the final coronation depends on the goalkeeper.

Patrick Fischer has the choice between two goalkeepers. Number 1 Leonardo Genoni (92.55% saves), beaten by Canada in the pools, but winner against the Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark and therefore Germany in the quarter-final. Or number 2 Akira Schmid (94.50%), winner against Austria (he played the last third), Great Britain and Finland. Reto Berra (66.67% saves in the first 40 minutes against Austria) can contribute a lot to the good atmosphere off the ice. But he no longer has his place on the ice.

Switzerland's Goalkeeper Akira Schmid speaks during a media meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, on Friday, May 17, 2024. (KEYSTONE/Peter Schneider)

Akira Schmid is number 2 in the hierarchy of Nati goalkeepers. Image: KEYSTONE

The question of goalkeepers shows us that a national coach cannot simply rely blindly on statistics to choose his starter. If that were the case, the job would be too easy.

French adaptation: Yoann Graber

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