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World Cup Preview – Switzerland (18/32)

Switzerland

UEFA

Group E

Best WC Performance: Quarter Finals – 1954

Current World Ranking: 6

History

Switzerland have had a mixed and overall, underwhelming history at the World Cup. Though they have qualified for the last three tournaments, and progressed past the group stage in two of those, the last time they really “did” anything at a World Cup was in 1954 when they reached the quarters.

A 28-year period of failing to qualify from 1966 to 1994, and a 12 year one from 1994 to 2006, is emblematic of the struggles this nation has had with this biggest of tournaments.


Perhaps the greatest World Cup moment Switzerland has experienced, was beating Spain, who would go on to become Champions that year, in the group stage of 2010 World Cup. A 1-0 surprise victory was the only highlight of an otherwise disappointing tournament for the Swiss.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Roman Buerki (Borussia Dortmund), Yvon Mvogo (Leipzig), Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach).

Defenders: Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), Johan Djourou (Antalyaspor), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Lang (Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Jacques-Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodriguez (Milan), Fabian Schaer (Deportivo La Coruna).

Midfielders: Valon Behrami (Udinese), Blerim Dzemaili (Bologna), Gelson Fernandes (Eintracht Frankfurt), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Steven Zuber (1899 Hoffenheim), Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach).

Forwards: Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach), Breel Embolo (Schalke), Mario Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Haris Seferovic (Benfica).

Group Fixtures:

  1. Vs Brazil 19:00, 17.06.18                  Rostov Arena, Rostov
  2. Vs Serbia 19:00, 22.06.18                  Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad
  3. Vs Costa Rica 19:00, 27.06.18                  Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod

Manager – Vladimir Petković

Petković is certainly not the most well-known manager at this tournament. Most of his managerial career has been spent in the Swiss League with a range of small to mid-level teams like Young Boys and Sion. After a brief spell in Turkey with Samsunspor, he was appointed Lazio manager. In his two years in Rome, he won the Biancocelesti a Coppa Italia.

In 2014, just days after the last World Cup, he became the new Swiss national team manager.

A mediocre Euro 2016 will not necessarily have bred huge amounts of confidence in his stewardship.

Qualification

World Cup Qualifying, European Group B was one of those you could have predicted the final table for when it was drawn.

Switzerland were in a group with Portugal, the obvious favourites, and then a range of minnows of greater and lesser proportions. Andorra, Latvia, Faroe Islands and Hungary hardly provide too stiff a test and so it bore out, with the Swiss securing maximum points at home, and the sole away loss coming at the hands of Portugal, though in the reverse fixture Switzerland managed to triumph.

An inferior goal difference meant Switzerland still finished second to Portugal, and therefore went through to a playoff against Northern Ireland. A 1-0 win on aggregate saw the Swiss qualify for Russia 2018.

Captain – Stephan Lichtsteiner

The now veteran full-back/wing-back Stephan Lichtsteiner will wear the armband for the Swiss in Russia.

Having swapped Juventus for Arsenal this summer, his wealth of experience at the very highest level is still of huge value to the national team and the right-back berth has been his alone now for the last decade.

If the Swiss make it through the group, Lichtsteiner could earn his 100th cap at the tournament – a deserved way to reach that milestone for such a committed, hard-working player.

Danger man – Xherdan Shaqiri

This Swiss team has a few players who are capable of changing a game, but only really one who has the talent to do so consistently, and that is the Stoke man, Xherdan Shaqiri. Premier League fans will be familiar with his mazing runs, thunderbusting shots and silky skills.

Perhaps finally finding his groove as a club player, in spite of suffering relegation this season, his form for the national team is no joke either: 20 goals in 67 games for a midfielder is by no means a bad return.


He memorably scored one of the goals of the tournament at Euro 2016 and a hat-trick in Brazil four years ago, and there’s every chance he could pull off a repeat performance this time around.

Young Player – Breel Embolo

Fans of Fifa career mode will be well aware of Breel Embolo. The young forward can end up being one of the deadliest strikers in the game after a few years.

Having shone at Basel, Embolo now plies his trade for Schalke in Germany. A poor season in terms of goal returns has followed one in which he suffered a severe, career-threatening ankle injury, and so some mitigation should be allowed.

Still only 21, this tournament could be the perfect opportunity to restart his career and get his form back on track. A couple of big performances could see his stock rise, and a move to a bigger German or other European team after the tournament could be on the cards.

Premier League Players

Shaqiri, as mentioned, will be familiar to all PL fans, as will Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, of course. The hard-hitting midfielder has had a mixed start to his Premier League career, some match-winning displays contrast with a tendency to go off the rails, meaning that he comes into the tournament with a point to prove. Xhaka will be joined at Arsenal next season by Stephan Lichtsteiner.

Otherwise, the majority of the remaining Swiss squad play outside of England, the bulk in Germany, though there are a few other familiar faces. Johann Djourou and Valon Behrami saw some success in England with Arsenal, and West Ham and Watford respectively, while older fans may remember Gelson Fernandes from his time at a pre-Sheikh Man City all the way back in 2007.

Prediction

Not the easiest group for the Swiss. Favourites Brazil will almost certainly take top spot and so realistically it will be a battle between Serbia, Costa Rica and Switzerland for second place.

With an opener against the Selecao too, it might be difficult for Switzerland to build up the momentum needed to progress.

The quality is there in the side, and if the big-hitters like Shaqiri, Xhaka and Lichtsteiner perform, they’ll have every chance of reaching the second round.


Game two versus Serbia appears key. Win and their fate ought to be in their own hands.

But things won’t get any easier if they do progress. A last-16 clash against Germany beckons, and so another second-round exit is surely on the cards.

Written by Jackson Rawlings. 

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