Focus on our Rivals: Switzerland

Qualification: 1st in European Qualification Group 2 World Ranking: 18 Head Coach: Ottmar Hitzfeld Most Capped Player: Heinz Hermann 177 (1978-1991) Top Goalscorer: Alexander Frei 40 (2001-present).

Star Players: Tranquilo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen, Ger), Alexander Frei (Basel).

The Team: The Swiss National Team is by European standards, a relatively unknown team. They have two generations that have qualified for the World Cup. Between 1932 and 1966 they qualified for 6 World Cups out of 7 possible. Then in 1994 they made a comeback to the big stage and finally in Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010 they participated. Today’s team has its strength in the defense. Giant players like Senderos and Huggel stand as towers in the mid-defense to protect the goalkeeper Benaglio. Much of Switzerland’s play go through the wings where there are players that run up and down and handing crosses to Nkufo who is a strong center. Many of the players are regulars in middle sized European clubs. Switzerland has league winners in Dutch champions Twente’s Nkufo and 3 players from Swiss champions Basel. They are Frei, Huggel and the talent Shaqiri, born in 1991. Other players who are key players in their clubs are: Benaglio, Lichtsteiner, Inler and Behrami, just to name a few.

How They Got Here: Switzerland was very fortunate in the qualification lottery and got the easiest group of the European qualification round. They only lost one game, a surprise lost against Luxemburg. The Swiss ended in first place above Greece, Latvia, Israel, Luxemburg and Moldova. They scored 18 goals for and got 8 goals against. Nkufo and Barnetta played all 10 games and top goal scorers were Frei and Nkufo with 5 each.

Form: The Swiss’ went on a cautious preparatory stage before the World Cup with only 3 International games where they lost against Uruguay and Costa Rica and got a draw against Italy. Those opponents were supposed to match their rivals at Group H. In the first game of the World Cup, Switzerland took an unexpected win against Euro champions Spain with 1-0. This win will give them an incredible amount of self confidence for the rest of the matches, especially Fernandes who scored the goal against Spain. However, their center defender Senderos got injured and will miss the game against Chile. Add Frei and Behrami to the list of players that might miss the next game due to injuries.

Our Chances of Beating You: Both Chile and Switzerland won their first games which puts the teams in an uncomfortable position because of the unexpected Swiss win against Spain. I would like seeing both of these teams advance to the knockout stage, but a draw here for Chile would mean that they could miss the next stage. A win here would put Chile on 6 points a lot closer to the knockout stage but not entirely there. Switzerland showed in their last game that they are a team that can win against giants Spain. However, I believe that it was a once in a lifetime shot because they won only by being effective. Spain owned the whole game but Switzerland scored in one of their 3 shots at goal. I do not think that Chile’s game is like Spain’s and Switzerland will not be forced to defending themselves during 90 minutes. That could open up their tight defense a bit more than it did against Spain. Also we have more players that will have more movement, especially on the wings. On the other hand, a draw here for Switzerland and a win against the spectators of Honduras will most certainly place them in the last 16. Chile and Switzerland have a different playing style, therefore it will be very interesting in seeing which kind of football will win, the Latin attacking with superior technique, or the mix of Italian, French or German that Switzerland could surprise us with. Hopefully they will have a game like they did when they lost against Luxembourg (!) in the qualifying round. However, we must remember that the Swiss team has a better player on every position in comparative to Honduras, which we only beat by one goal.

My Prediction: Chile – Switzerland 3-1

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