FIFA World Cup 2018 team profile: Switzerland aim to exceed expectations
Head coach: Vladimir Petkovic
FIFA World Cup history: Qualified 10 times; Best: Quarterfinals (1934, 1938, 1954)
Qualifying route: Beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in double-headed play-off tie
Squad: (Goalkeepers): Roman Burki, Gregor Kobel, Yvon Mvogo, Yann Sommer; (Defenders):Manuel Akanji, Johan Djourou, Nico Elvedi, Michael Lang, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Jacques-Francois Moubandje, Ricardo Rodriguez, Fabian Schaer, Silvan Widmer; (Midfielders): Valon Behrami, Blerim Dzemaili, Edimilson Fernandes, Gelson Fernandes, Remo Freuler, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Steven Zuber, Denis Zakaria; (Forwards): Josip Drmic, Breel Embolo, Mario Gavranovic, Haris Seferovic.
Switzerland fans have waited a long time to see their national football team exceed expectations at a major tournament, whether a FIFA World Cup or the UEFA Euros.
The current team could just be good enough to progress to the knockout stages in Russia but a tough draw makes that a trickier prospect than it might have been.
That being said though their group contains the likes of favourites Brazil, rising stars Serbia, and 2014 quarter-finalists Costa Rica.
Things are unlikely to get easier for Switzerland if they do manage to negotiate their way out of the group stage, with defending champions Germany potentially lying in wait in the next stage of the competition.
Now into his fourth year at the helm, coach Vladimir Petkovic can call upon several talented players in the peak of their careers.
Despite only ending up in Russia via the play-offs, Switzerland’s qualifying campaign was fairly convincing, winning eight games and only losing out to Portugal for the automatic qualifying spot by virtue of an inferior goal difference.
Over the last two decades Switzerland have relied on compact and disciplined performances to qualify for major tournaments.
However, Petkovic has strived to instill a more attacking, possession-based style of play and the progress made in this regard has been clearly evident.
“We’ve grown a lot as a team,” noted the coach. “We can act but we can also react during a game,” Former Switzerland captain Ciriaco Sforza agreed, noting that the 2018 squad had the makings of “a great team.”
In the 1990s Switzerland were content simply to qualify for tournaments. But expectations have been raised thanks to a fourth successive finals appearance.
(With IANS inputs)