Switzerland enters the World Cup in the 8 spot of FIFA’s rankings. They are the top seed in Group E, which consists of #23 Ecuador, #19 France, and #41 Honduras. So, they have a reasonable chance of being the top team coming out of this group. It was a bit of an up-and-down qualifying journey for the Swiss, as they looked out of form in draws against Iceland, Cyprus, and Norway. In the end, they finished the qualifying campaign with an unbeaten record. With this being their tenth trip to the World Cup, Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld’s Switzerland squad will look to make it a memorable one. 2010 looked like it was going to be the year they would put their name on the map after an opening 1-0 victory against Spain, but they still failed to make it past group play. Fortunately for them, this year’s chances of advancing to the knockout stages looks more promising. Not only this, but the young nature of this club could potentially shock soccer giants this summer.
Players to Watch For
Xherdan Shaqiri – He will, without a doubt, be one of the key attacking threats for the Swiss side. With the left-footed game resembling a young Arjen Robben, Shaqiri has the talent to lead this young Swiss side to new heights in international play. Like Robben, Shaqiri currently plays for German powerhouse Bayern Munich. Although the playing time hasn’t been too consistent, Shaqiri has proved his worth when he has made his way onto the pitch, scoring 6 goals in 10 Bundesliga games.
Diego Benaglio – The top keeper from the Swiss side will need to be in top-form if they are to make a run through the knockout stages. The 30-year-old Benaglio currently suits up for VfL Wolfsburg and has proved in the past he can hold his own against tough opponents. In 2009 with Wolfsburg, they claimed their first Bundesliga title with Benaglio manning the goal that season. The remarkable performances in 2009 placed him on the 2008-09 Bundesliga Champion squad.
Granit Xhaka – Along with Shaqiri and a few others, Xhaka helps make up the group of talented youngsters set to play meaningful roles on the Swiss squad. The 21-year-old midfielder will likely play nearby Shaqiri and will be counted on to control the pace of the game. Like the previous two players I mentioned, Xhaka also plays in the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach. He hasn’t scored yet in Bundesliga play this season, but did net one in a World Cup qualifying game. Xhaka possesses a sound ability to step up and take the free kicks getting them in the box to attacking players.
Group Stage Games
June 15 vs. Ecuador
June 20 vs. France
June 25 vs. Honduras
The mix of experience and youth definitely intrigues me when looking at how far the Swiss could go in the World Cup. Barring an unforeseen setback, I expect them to get past group play along with France. Getting to the quarterfinals is also possible, but it may depend on where they finish group E. If they finish 1st, they could get Bosnia, whereas if they take the 2nd spot, they could very well get Argentina. Ultimately, I predict them to advance past group stage, but their road then ends in the Round of 16.