Switzerland could bore into second round

By Edward Ssekalo

Switzerland has mastered the art of boring opponents into submission, and become impregnable in the process. Vladimir Petkovic’s side has lost just two competitive games in two years, and although it needed a dubious penalty to overcome Northern Ireland 1-0 in the playoff which eventually delivered a fourth straight World Cup qualification, it’s group qualifying record was the most impressive of all the teams in the European playoffs, with nine wins out of 10 games.
The team’s performances at recent World Cups are not to be scoffed at either; the Swiss have posted some of the best defensive records at the most recent tournaments, which in part explains the Schweizer Nati’s two Round of 16 appearances in the last three tournaments. A much sterner test awaits this year however, as a Group E featuring Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia means the Swiss has two more playoffs lined up against the group’s lesser lights to determine which team joins Brazil in the last 16.

How they play
Switzerland plays a possession game, but possession for the Swiss many times looks much more like extreme caution. Even then, Switzerland is slightly more interesting going forward under Petkovic than it was under Ottmar Hitzfeld. The Swiss rely on Granit Xhaka’s ability to pick out teammates with a long pass to spring quick counters.

Switzerland is defensively one of the best organised teams in world football. They will be hard to break down in Russia as they have been at previous World Cups.

Quality forwards are in short supply for the Swiss national team.

Star man
Granit Xhaka controls the tempo for Switzerland, provides an important link between defence and attack, and scores the odd goal too.

One to watch
Manuel Akanji is a promising defender who at 22 plays with a maturity that belies his few years.

Switzerland has made a habit of qualifying for the last 16 at the World Cups it has been a part of, but repeating that feat is going to be particularly tricky in Russia.

World Cup Low
Finished bottom of the group in 1966 and didn’t qualify again for 28 years.

World Cup Legend
Josef Hügi scored six goals at the 1954 finals in Switzerland.

Fifa ranking
Switzerland are ranked No.6 by Fifa.

Vladmir Petkovic

Fact file

How they qualified:
Beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in a playoff
WC Appearances: 10
World Cup Record: 1934 – Quarter-finals;
1938 – Quarter-finals; 1950 – First round;
1954 – Quarter-finals; 1962 – First round;
1966 – First round; 1994 – Second round;
2006 – Second round; 2010 – First round;
2014 – Second rounds
Overall Record: P29, W9, D6, L14
Best performance:
Quarter-finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954
WC High: Reaching the quarter-finals as
host nation in 1954

Probable line up

1. Yann Sommer
2. Stephan Lichtsteiner (captain)
3. Fabian Schar
4. Manuel Akanji
5. Ricardo Rodriguez
6. Granit Xhaka
7. Remo Freuler
8. Xherdan Shaqiri
9. Blerim Dzemaili
10. Admir Mehmedi
11. Haris Seferovic


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