World Cup Team Profile - Switzerland
Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld
Captain: Gokhan Inler (Napoli)
Full Switzerland Roster
The Road to Rio: There were a lot of contenders in Group E along with Switzerland, but no true heavyweights. Slovenia had just made the 2010 Final in South Africa and Norway is no slouch, but apart from the upstarts from Iceland, there was little competition for the Swiss.
In fact, apart from a wild draw in Bern that saw Iceland erase a 4-1 deficit, the Swiss conceded just two goals. That game aside, the Swiss posted a 7-2-0 record, with a pair of additional draws coming at home against Norway and one at Cyprus. The Swiss would punch their tickets to Brazil with a game to spare.
Alongside Uruguay and Belgium, the Swiss were another side that found themselves in the first seeding pot for the World Cup draw. Like the other two, they would find themselves avoiding the Groups of Death in Brazil.
Last World Cup appearance: South Africa 2010 (Group Stage)
First World Cup appearance: Italy 1934 (Quarter-Finals)
Previous World Cup appearances: 9
Best World Cup finish: Quarter-Finals (3 – Italy 1934, France 1938, Switzerland 1954)
Swiss football has needed a palette cleanser since the 2010 World Cup and Hitzfeld, the man who led Bayern Munich to Champions League glory in 2001, hopes that his squad will able to provide one in Brazil.
After defeating eventual World Cup-winners Spain in their first group stage match in Brazil and riding high, the Swiss followed up with a loss to Chile. Needing a victory in their final match, Switzerland could only muster up a 0-0 draw with lowly Honduras and bowed out of the tournament. Not qualifying for Euro 2012 only made matters worse and a good showing in Brazil could help assuage the disappointment that has gripped Swiss football fans for the past four years.
With a young, but experienced squad, Hitzfeld won't surprise anybody with his squad selections, as his starting XI is pretty much already confirmed.
Wolfsburg iron man Ricardo Rodriguez and Juve's Stephan Lichsteiner represent a rock solid pair of full-backs, but it's in the centre of defence where problems could arise for the Swiss in front of 'keeper Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg). The pairing of Steve von Bergen (Young Boys) and Fabian Schaer (Basel) isn't exactly sure-footed and could easily fall prey to a crafty attacker. Luckily, though, the two will have support in front of them in defensive midfielders Inler and Valon Behrami. The Napoli duo should be able to help ease some of the pressure on their half-backs.
The attack will be led by Bayern's Xherden Shaqiri. Gifted with flair and pace, it's easy to see why he's often compared to a younger version of club teammate Arjen Robben (perhaps, with better defending capabilities). Shaqiri will link up with Hertha Berlin's Valentin Stocker just in front of Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Ball movement in the midfield shouldn't be an issue, but finishing might be one. In fact, Schaer was actually Switzerland's leading goal-scorer in qualifying. Handed the role of bulging the twine will be Josip Drmic, who scored 17 times for Nurnberg this past term in the Bundesliga. Hitzfeld will hope that Drmic, who recently transferred to Bayer Leverkusen, can replicate that form in Brazil.
While not guaranteed, the Swiss understand that a spot in the knockout round is there for the taking. What could be even sweeter for Swizterland is the opportunity to take it from Honduras, the team that stymied them in South Africa.