FIFA World Cup Prospectus: Switzerland
By Young Kim
Football.com will countdown the remaining time leading up to the World Cup with a 32-day preview of each team that will be participating. For those of you who want to know each team inside and out, the 32-Day 2014 FIFA World Cup Prospectus is the World Cup preview.
Group C: Japan
Group D: Uruguay
Group F: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Group G: United States
Nickname: La Nati
Previous World Cups: 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1994, 2006, 2010
FIFA Ranking: 8th
How Did Switzerland Get Here?
By the grace of God (or filthy hands of Sepp Blatter*), the Swiss were placed in an easy qualifying group with Iceland, Slovenia, Cyprus, Norway, and Albania. The Swiss made easy work and got out of the group in first place.
*Side Rant: I visited FIFA Headquarters in the summer of 2013 and was seriously underwhelmed by the place. There was nothing to do since everything was off-limits for visitors. My heightened anticipation became a waste of time. Also, how did he allow the corruption of the Qatar World Cup bid happen right in front of his face? I didn’t think anyone could screw up more than Joao Havelenge. Sepp somehow did.
Opponents (Match Date): Ecuador (6/15), France (6/20), Honduras (6/25)
Projected Group Finish: Fourth
Why They’ll Finish In Fourth?
I had to think long and hard about this, but the more I factor in things like climate, home field advantage, and team cohesion, the likelihood of Ecuador finishing in second over Switzerland seems more and more likely. Ecuador are fresh, energetic, and are led by an enigmatic yet talent group of players who play in Liga MX or other South American leagues.
Physically, the Swiss are bound to get overwhelmed. After losing to Ecuador and a superior France squad, they will face off against a gritty Honduras team that is playing for pride. Meanwhile, Switzerland will be too demoralized and send their scrubs to see defeat against the Hondurans.
How They Can Escape The Group:
The Swiss have talent, but they don’t have the mental game or a superstar player to rally behind and get them out of this Group of Underrated Death. If anything, they must rely on the creativity of their Napoli midfielders (Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami, and Blerim Dzemaili) to carve up the fragile Ecuadorian and Honduran defense to leave the group with two wins and a loss.
Grading each position:
Wolfsburg’s Diego Benaglio will be behind the posts for the Swiss side. Benaglio has amazing reflexes and reaction. His ability to see shots and react quickly to them almost qualifies him to become a certified ninja.
He does like to gamble a bit in his positioning, which has led to near-risk goals, and could be so tunneled into his goalkeeping skills that he forgets to give commands to his defense. He reminds me of a modern day Rene Higuita
Aside from national team mainstay Philippe Senderos, Switzerland also has a young rising talent in Fabian Schar—a 22-year-old center back from FC Basel—who will most likely be transferring to a big Bundesliga or Premier League club in the near future.
Left-back Reto Ziegler and right-back Stephan Lichsteiner, both of whom are extremely average by world standard, man the flanks. The decreasing form of Senderos and the lackluster talent of Ziegler and Lichsteiner raise a lot of concern about the Swiss defense.
hey aren’t awful, but they’re not impressive either. They’re just average at best. Perhaps in the future when Senderos steps down and Schar becomes the super-talented anchor, the Swiss will have a reliable defensive stalwart, but now is not the time.
The Swiss midfield boasts a combination of playmakers, play-breakers, speedy wingers, and ball-protectors. Unfortunately, these combinations happen to not work well with one another, leaving the Swiss with a midfield that is inconsistent with their cohesiveness.
The Napoli trio of Inler, Behrami, and Dzemaili are nearly interchangeable and will likely sub in for one another. Speedy winger Xherdan Shaqiri—who is Pro Evolution Soccer’s nominee for Speed Whore of the Year—and rising playmaker Granit Xhaka will flank two of the three aforementioned midfielders.
With the exception of Shaqiri, the midfielders are decently talented but they’re no superstars. The cohesiveness of this squad will be the major issue coming forward, and that’s more important that talent itself.
The Swiss will likely feature Josip Drmic up top and Admir Mehmedi behind him at second striker. Drmic is coming off a breakout season at FC Nurnberg and is primed for a move to Bayer Leverkeusen. Mehmedi scored 12 goals for SC Freiburg last season, but hasn’t found the same goal-scoring form for his country.
The two will likely be the next scoring tandem for Switzerland in the coming years and the true successors to Alexander Frei and Hakan Yakin. Drmic is clinical and knows how to use his body, but he isn’t athletic or pacey.
Mehmedi has great movement on and off the ball, but doesn’t have a refined scoring touch like his partner. The two are still in the process of developing chemistry, and when they do, it will be dangerous. Just not this year.
Ottmar Hitzfeld announced he’ll retire from coaching after the World Cup concludes, and the timing can’t be any more perfect. Although he has led his team well in the recent qualifying rounds for the World Cup, he has failed to instill Switzerland the confidence to perform well in major tournaments.
Ever since his appointment in 2008, bowing out of the group stages in the 2010 World Cup and failing to qualify for the 2012 Euros. Hitzfeld didn’t make significant improvements to the national side and always seemed to simply work with what he had. All he did was keep Switzerland in form and make them the okay team in Europe that can beat the lesser teams but fail to shock the strong teams.
How Can They Win The World Cup?
If Sepp Blatter has any reason to tarnish his already crappy reputation before he leaves office, he can at least do something to make his homeland happy. *Cough Cough.
What’s There to like about Switzerland?
If you are from Switzerland, I just want to say your country is full of the nicest people in the world. I doubt none of you guys are offended by my harsh criticism and low expectation of your national team because your country is just too pleasant and nice.
Take a trip to the Alps and spend a good three to five days hiking there. The Bernese Oberland mountain range and the Jungfraujoch are just beautiful sites to behold. Once you hike in the Alps, your standards of natural sightseeing get raised too high and hiking will never be the same. Do it! I spent 10 days in the Alps and I didn’t regret it. The trip changed my life.
Their chocolate is one of the world’s best and their cuisine is quite hearty. If you ever finish a hike, feel free to order yourself a large plate of Rosti (Swiss Hash Browns) or alpine macaroni (Mac and cheese with potatoes and bacon mixed in). Wash it all down with a glass of beer and you’re good to go.
Nothing out of the ordinary. A red shirt with the cross patch for the home kit and a white shirt with the patch for the away kit.