When it comes to FIFA Rankings, seeing Switzerland in the top 10 may catch some off guard. However, they have a good core of young players to go with a wealth of coaching experience. Ottmar Hitzfeld will lead the Swiss in the World Cup for the second time after a strange campaign in 2010. They beat eventual champion Spain 1-0 in the group stage but failed to score another goal while setting a record for consecutive minutes without conceding a goal. This experience along with talent and the World Cup being the coach’s farewell tour are reasons this could be the best performance on the world’s stage for Switzerland.
Hitzfeld will call it quits after a 45-year career when the World Cup is over. He has won seven Bundesliga titles and two Champions League winners’ medals. Hitzfeld is a striker that started his playing career and coaching career in Switzerland. He is a former math teacher that stresses discipline. Hitzfeld turned down a two-year contract extension to leave what he called the “strength-sapping world of football” to be with his wife and enjoy life.
Xherdan Shaqiri has not gotten big minutes at Bayern Munich but is considered a potential star in Brazil. His best assets are strength and balance that help him create his own space. Shaqiri moved from Kosovo at a young age because of war and now has a chance to shine in the World Cup. He will most likely start on the flanks and provide service but is capable of getting off a shot.
Shaqiri and Eren Derdiyok have the most experience up front for Switzerland in a fairly inexperienced position on the team. Derdiyok has been struggling in his career for the last two years, so Admir Mehmedi will be waiting in the wings. Mehmedi has excelled after his loan to Freiburg.
Captain Gokhan Inler once showed up to his Napoli press conference in a lion mask. That may tell you all you need to know about the hard-tackling midfielder. He chose to represent Switzerland, his country of birth, after playing for the youth teams of Turkey. Inler will celebrate his 30th birthday in Brazil but will be fighting his Napoli teammates, Valon Behrami and Blerim Dzemaili, for playing time should he struggle early.
Another player that plies their trade in the Bundesliga will be the main attacking midfielder. Tranquillo Barnetta has a few more caps than Inler and has scored 10 international goals. Barnetta missed in the penalty shootout to defeat Ukraine and move onto the 2006 World Cup quarterfinals. He will enter his third World Cup with the responsibility to link up with the central forward.
Fabian Schaer is a 22-year-old central defender that is becoming a household name. He has not only gained the reputation as a great defender, but also a dead ball specialist. He scored both goals in a win over Norway in September that essentially sealed Switzerland’s World Cup birth. Schaer has even taken penalty kicks for his club team Basel. A good World Cup could see the defender on the move this summer. He did encounter some injuries concerns in the winter, but seems to be fully healed.
Diego Benaglio of Wolfsburg has been the keeper since 2008. Benaglio is often described as a introvert off the field but commands the penalty area very well.
Switzerland is the favorite to win their group according to FIFA Rankings. However they will be playing France and have tricky matches with Honduras and Ecuador. Advancing should come down to the match with Ecuador. Finishing second most likely means a date with Argentina. They will exit in the round of 16, just like in 2006.