World Cup 2018 Preview - Switzerland

Mon, Jun 11 2018

Swiss fans before a game in Dublin. Credit: Peter Fitzpatrick

Team: Switzerland.

Manager: Vladimir Petkovic.

Group: Group E.

Other teams in group: Brazil, Serbia and Costa Rica.

THE SQUAD

Switzerland’s backroom team, under the guise and know-how of Vladimir Petkovic, have assembled an interesting mix of youth and experience in their 2018 World Cup Squad.

There is plenty of Bundesliga representation throughout the park while there are currently two players representing the Swiss who plied their trade in the Premier League last season. Granit Xhaka, who played for Arsenal, and Xherdan Shaqiri, who was part of Stoke City’s relegation to the Sky Bet Championship this year.

Up front will be the main worry for the hordes of Swiss fans making the trip over to Russia as their attacking threat, Haris Seferovic has barely featured for Benfica in 2018. 

On the other hand, they will be encouraged by Bundesliga duo, Breel Embolo of Schalke and Josip Drmic of Borussia Moenchengladbach who have shown that they can cut the mustard at this elite level of competition before.

The Squad in full

Goalkeepers: Roman Buerki (Borussia Dortmund), Yvon Mvogo (Leipzig), Yann Sommer (Borussia Moenchengladbach).

Defenders: Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), Johan Djourou (Antalyaspor), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Michael Lang (Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Jacques-Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodriguez (AC Milan), Fabian Schaer (Deportivo La Coruna).

Midfielders: Valon Behrami (Udinese), Blerim Dzemaili (Bologna), Gelson Fernandes (Eintracht Frankfurt), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Denis Zakaria (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Steven Zuber (Hoffenheim).

Forwards: Josip Drmic (Borussia Moenchengladbach), Breel Embolo (Schalke), Mario Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Haris Seferovic (Benfica).

 

HOW THEY GOT THERE

After being pipped to top spot in the group by Portugal via a cruel final day defeat in Lisbon, Switzerland had to lick their painful wounds quickly as Northern Ireland came calling soon after in the World Cup Playoffs.

In a tight, tense encounter up in Windsor Park, Switzerland took a fortunate lead back to Basle in controversial circumstances as Corry Evans was adjudged to have used his arms to block a Xherdan Shaqiri volley. Ricardo Rodriguez scored the resulting spot-kick as the Swiss took a crucial lead back to St. Jakob Park.

Despite Northern Ireland shading proceedings in the return leg, Petkovic’s side ground out a rather mundane nil-nil draw at home to Michael O’Neill’s men in a tense finale at the home of Basel in Switzerland.

KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Yann Sommer

Borussia Moenchengladbach net minder Yann Sommer is expected to play a key role in each of Switzerland’s group games this summer in the last line of Vladimir Petkovic’s defence. A mainstay in the Swiss side under current boss Petkovic with 35 international caps under his belt, this may very well be Sommer’s last opportunity to represent his nation at a World Cup so expect Monchengladbach’s agile shot-stopper to pull out all the stops for his fellow countrymen during the coming weeks.  

Xherdan Shaqiri

Possessing an incredible ability to score audacious goals, as seen in EURO 2016 with his sensational strike against Poland, Shaqiri will surely be the man that Switzerland will be pinning their hopes and dreams on throughout the World Cup this summer. Despite his most recent relegation with Stoke City in the Premier League, the former Bayern Munich man will be hoping that he can re-discover his scintillating best against the likes of Costa Rica, Serbia and Brazil. If the Swiss are to get beyond the group stages, Shaqiri’s efforts will be key in realising their ambition.

Breel Embolo

A Football Manager icon adored not just in his home country but worldwide, Schalke 04’s Breel Embolo will be hoping that he can help catapult Switzerland into the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup with some dazzling displays of maturity and skill throughout. Despite suffering a horrific leg injury, which kept him out of football for a year, Embolo has returned to the game with an added drive and hunger which is commendable given the circumstances of his injury back in October 2016. Still only 21, Embolo has the drive and hunger to succeed, which will be a key asset of Vladimir Petkovic’s squad in Russia this summer. 

 

WHERE ARE THEY PLAYING AND STAYING (Kick-Offs are at Irish Time)

June 17th - Brazil vs Switzerland (7pm, Rostov Arena).

June 22nd – Serbia vs Switzerland (7pm, Kaliningrad Stadium).

June 27th – Switzerland vs Costa Rica (7pm, Nizhny Novgorod Stadium).

Base Camp: Togliatti.

 

THREE INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THEM

In a quite remarkable statistic, Switzerland went out of the 2006 World Cup in Germany having not conceded a single goal throughout the tournament. The Swiss, under the stewardship of Kobi Kuhn went out of the competition via a penalty shootout defat against Ukraine, where they failed to score any of their spot-kicks. 

This will be Switzerland’s 12th time playing in the World Cup, with their inaugural bow coming all the way back in 1934. The Swiss are yet to have lifted the trophy in their 12 attempts.

Switzerland were the highest placed 2nd placed side to enter the 2018 World Cup Playoffs back in November as their tally of 27 points was well above the chasing pack. Italy were the closest to Petkovic’s side on 17 points.

THEIR RECENT FORM

Vladimir Petkovic’s hardworking and industrious Swiss side have put together quite the impressive recent run of form with three wins in their last four friendly appearances. After beating Greece 1-0 and Panama 6-0 respectively, Switzerland held Spain to a one-all draw before they rounded off their World Cup preparations with a two-nil win over Japan.

First game: vs Brazil (17th of June), Rostov Arena.