Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer already has a clean sheet under his belt at the 2022 World Cup ahead of facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. - © DFL
Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer already has a clean sheet under his belt at the 2022 World Cup ahead of facing Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. - © DFL

Borussia Mönchengladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer: Switzerland's man to stop Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal


Kylian Mbappe, Sergio Ramos, Jorginho and Bayern Munich have all hit a wall against Yann Sommer in recent times. Is the Borussia Mönchengladbach and Switzerland goalkeeper the man to stop Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal in 2022 World Cup Group G?

Portugal and Ronaldo are many pundits' favourites to get the better of Switzerland in the last 16, but Sommer has previous when it comes to upsetting some of the game’s biggest names. Having recovered from an ankle injury which had cast plenty of doubt over his involvement in the finals, he has given Switzerland a timely boost as they bid to reach the quarter-finals for the first time in well over half a century.

"I didn't have to think too much about my foot,” Sommer said after coming through Die Nati's World Cup warm-up defeat to Ghana unscathed. “It’s fine,” he added, prompting a collective sigh of relief in the Swiss camp.

The importance of the Gladbach goal-tender was there for all to see in their first group game against Cameroon, with the 33-year-old making several key interventions to keep out Bayern hot-shot Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and his teammates in a 1-0 win.

Sommer (l.) was his usual unbeatable self as Switzerland defeated Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (c.) and Cameroon 1-0 in their 2022 World Cup opener. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Switzerland largely have Sommer to thank for the fact they are at the World Cup at all. In a qualifying group containing European champions Italy, few would have expected the Swiss to come out on top. But they did – unbeaten – with Sommer conceding just two goals all campaign – fewer than any other goalkeeper throughout global qualifying.

“This number shows that we do a really good job as a team defensively,” Sommer told “As a goalkeeper, it's a dream to work with such an excellent defence. This subsequently is reflected in the low number of goals conceded. This kind of performance should be an advantage for us at the World Cup.”

Indeed, defending champions France conceded just once in the group stage in 2018. Having already shut out Cameroon, running a tight ship against Brazil and Serbia was key to Switzerland reaching the knockout stages - and that is a Sommer speciality. On Matchday 4, he set a new Bundesliga record for saves in a single match, denying Bayern no fewer than 19 times in a 1-1 draw.

Watch: Sommer sets new Bundesliga record with save-fest against Bayern

“We may only be a small country, but we face these challenges with a lot of courage,” Sommer said. “I think we’ve proven to ourselves once again that we’re capable of achieving a great deal. We believe in ourselves. When we face big nations, we’re not afraid, we stand our ground.”

Italy midfielder Jorginho can vouch for that.

The Italian was hypnotised by Sommer, whose consequent penalty save was a defining moment of Switzerland’s qualification. Jorginho was outwitted again in the reverse fixture, sending another penalty over the crossbar and, with it, Italy's qualifying hopes evaporated.

With more penalties expected as a result of VAR, and the threat of a shootout if requited, Switzerland may well have a get-out-of-jail-free card in their No.1. A record 29 penalties were awarded at the 2018 World Cup, where VAR debuted in a major competition. By comparison, the previous highest was 18 at a 32-team World Cup tournament.

France's Mbappe and Spain's Ramos (twice) have also tried and failed to beat the last line of the Swiss defence from the spot, and some of the spectacular saves Sommer has made in the Bundesliga this season will not really fill a spot-kick taker like Ronaldo with confidence.

Sommer's penalty save from Kylian Mbappe sent world champions France out of UEFA Euro 2020. - Daniel Mihailescu - Pool/Getty Images

The two nations have already faced off this year in the UEFA Nations League, with a 1-0 win for the Swiss helping thwart Portugal's chances of advancing to the finals. History now beckons for Die Nati, and their defensive resolve could set an even greater stage for Sommer to show off his skills, with the Swiss holding good tickets if a penalty shootout lottery should ensue.

Sommer turns 34 the day before the World Cup final. History shows he should have a good few reasons to celebrate before then.