Soccer-Luis Enrique talks up Swiss unity

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Spain Training - Petrovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, Russia - July 1, 2021 Spain coach Luis Enrique during training REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

ST PETERSBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Spain coach Luis Enrique described Switzerland as one of the hardest-working and most cohesive teams at the European Championship despite having few household names and predicted a gruelling match for his side in Friday's quarter-final.

Switzerland, who will be contesting their first quarter-final in a major tournament since the 1954 World Cup, pulled off the shock of Euro 2020 by knocking out world champions France in the last 16, hauling themselves back from 3-1 down to draw 3-3 before winning on penalties.

"They'll be a difficult for us, they may not have many big-name players known to fans but as a block they are one of the best at the tournament," Luis Enrique told a news conference on Thursday.

"They're at our level, without any doubt, because of the way they press and attack. They have a magnificent coach in Vladimir Petkovic and they'll cause us a lot of problems."

The teams met twice in the Nations League last year, Spain winning 1-0 in Madrid but only scraping a 1-1 draw in the away game thanks to an 89th-minute equaliser from Gerard Moreno after the Swiss were reduced to 10 men.

"We were superior to them in Madrid even though the scoreline didn't reflect that and they only created one chance all game. But both games were tough because they press you high in your own half, run very hard and I don't expect anything different tomorrow," Luis Enrique said.

"In this tournament they've been a reflection of what they are, which is a very hard team to beat who can go all the way, just like us."

While Spain have enjoyed far greater success than Switzerland and won a hat-trick of international trophies between 2008 and 2012, they also achieved a major milestone in beating Croatia 5-3 after extra-time on Monday to win their first major tournament knockout game since the Euro 2012 final.

Like Switzerland, Spain were forced into extra-time in their last fixture but the coach was not worried about his players feeling tired.

"The physical impact won't affect us, we have great fitness coaches and the data we have seen is incredible," he said.

"The mental factor is just as important and if you are convinced about what you're doing and feel good in the head, you can fly out on the pitch. I think we're in top shape physically."

(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)

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