Switzerland Preview – Swiss Roll Out In Second?
World Cup 2014
Ottmar Hitzfield’s precocious young Switzerland side travel to the World Cup with high hopes of progression. In this preview, I take a look at just how far they can go.
Switzerland have only lost one of their last ten in all competitions, but still, their form has the inconsistent look you would expect from a young and improving team.
There have been narrow wins over minnows Albania and Cyprus, a crazy goal-fest against Iceland, a disappointing 2-1 defeat against South Korea, and amidst all that, a surprise 1-0 victory over Brazil last August.
It is also worth noting that although they’ve been racking up the wins, they haven’t yet taken any team to their cleaners, and five of their last six victories have been by just a single goal.
Switzerland dominated their qualifying group. They took maximum points from their first two games against Slovenia and Albania and were never overhauled.
They did drop points along the way, including a 1-1 draw against Norway in Berne, a frustrating goalless affair in Cyprus and an extraordinary 4-4 draw with Iceland, in which they were 4-1 up after 54 minutes.
But their group rivals were unable to capitalise on these opportunities, and although Iceland showed flashes of promise and Slovenia finished like a train, winning their last six games in a row, Switzerland could not be caught.
Oscar Hitzfeld has built on a solid defence to produce a young and industrious counter-attacking side with plenty of promise.
The back four is resolute, as demonstrated by their nine clean sheets in fifteen matches, and is protected by the midfield duo of Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami.
But they also have flair going forward, with Granit Xhaka, Valentin Stocker and Xerdan Shaqiri combining quick movement with neat, incisive passing.
What they lack is a proven goal-scorer. Centre-half Fabian Schaer was their top scorer during qualifying and a lot rests on the shoulders of lone striker Haris Seferovic, who scored the winning goal in the final of the Under-17 World Cup four years ago.
The runners-up in Group E are likely to face Argentina in the Second Round, so if they are to avoid that fate, Switzerland need to win the group. Their weakness up front means they can’t be sure of beating lesser opponents in Ecuador and Honduras, so it is vital that they get something out of their second Group E game, against France.
A solid defence and a dash of midfield creativity make Switzerland one of the tournament’s dark horses, but I think their lack of goals will be their undoing.
They can grind out a result against an underwhelming French side and the draw is worth backing at 11/5 in the Switzerland v France Match Betting market, but their profligacy in front of goal could see them drop points against Ecuador or Honduras, fail to top Group E, and come up against Argentina in the last sixteen. Back ‘Second Round’ in the Switzerland Stage Of Elimination Market at 13/8.