Switzerland will be keeping their ears open and listening to all the calls for finishing second in Group-E and pip their other group rivals to advance to the next round.
Switzerland have reached the World Cup in Russia, their fourth in a row and 11th tournament, having missed the 1998 and 2002 editions in between. Switzerland have been in deep form right from the time when the qualifications for Russia began, to which they qualified via the playoffs.
The Swiss will be looking to make history by trying to go beyond the quarterfinal stages, which has incidentally been their best finish. They have tasted defeat in the last eight thrice in their history, but the last time it happened was back in 1954. A generation has passed since, and this Swiss team want to prove they can perform at the highest level.
However, to reach the quarter-finals in Russia, they have to first get out of Group-E in one way or another, but this group comes with its challenges in Costa Rica, Serbia and favourites Brazil. On paper, the Swiss have a team capable of surpassing their opponents, but games are not won on paper, they are done so on the pitch, through hard work. Now, are the Swiss capable of that?
They indeed showed that in their qualification campaign. The Swiss won nine games in a row and finished the group level on points with eventual winners Portugal who only topped it on goal difference. Switzerland and Portugal both lost only once during their campaign, and unfortunately for the Swiss, Cristiano Ronaldo was the difference with his 15-goals.
Group & Fixtures
Switzerland begin their World Cup campaign with a mouth-watering and Group defining fixture against Brazil. If there is the belief in this Swiss team, they know a result against the Brazilians will instil the confidence to getting into the knockout phases, as well as a win for either Serbia or Costa Rica would split Group-E wide open.
Next up, they take on Serbia, and they know what kind of atmosphere that game could develop. Serbians have a strong enough team on their hands, but so do the Swiss, and any result could mean the Group goes to the wire on their final match day. Switzerland play their last game against Costa Rica and possibly this game could decide which direction the Swiss might go.
Vladimir Petkovic has not had tough calls to make when selecting his final-23 list of players to feature at the World Cup. Most of these players have featured heavily for the Swiss during their long, successful qualifying campaign, and they will be taking on the mantle to perform in Russia.
Goalkeepers: Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund), Yvon Mvogo (RB Leipzig), Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Defenders: Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), Johan Djourou (Antalyaspor), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Michael Lang (FC Basel), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Jacques-Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), Ricardo Rodriguez (AC Milan), Fabian Schar (Deportivo La Coruna)
Midfielders: Valon Behrami (Udinese), Blerim Dzemaili (Bologna), Gelson Fernandes (Eintracht Frankfurt), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Steven Zuber (Hoffenheim), Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Forwards: Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach), Breel Embolo (Schalke), Mario Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb), Haris Seferovic (Benfica)
Switzerland will be captained by new Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner as the veteran defender looks to take the team to another level in possibly his last World Cup. There are familiar names in this Swiss squad, and one could predict looking at them as to who would be expected to start games in Russia.
There are other household names such as Valon Behrami, who has been one of the Swiss’ long-standing players. Well, known Premier League duo of Xherdan Shaqiri of Stoke City and Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka are sure starters, despite the latter suffering a knee scare right before their last warm-up game.
The Swiss team will be lead from the front by Breel Embolo, who has been impressive enough for his country to take on the striker’s responsibilities. Other players such as Fabian Schar and Ricardo Rodriguez are players with guile, and tremendous amounts of experience at club and international level and all these combined will try to inspire Switzerland to make the impossible, possible.
Vladimir Petkovic took over as manager of Switzerland from Otmar Hitzfield after the team crashed out of the 2014 World Cup in the round-of-16 phase. Since then, he has seemingly tried to build a squad where the youth has blended in well with the many old stars.
Unlike some other teams, Switzerland does have a middle ground between youth and the most experienced players. The group, from the way it has played the qualifiers, looked hungry, and Petkovic will ensure this hunger stays on in this team, and only then will they be able to progress further.
Potential Starting-XI (4-2-3-1) Burki; Lichtsteiner, Akanji, Elvedi, Rodriguez; Xhaka, Zakaria; Shaqiri, Dzemaili, Zuber; Embolo
The Swiss have it in them to progress from the tight group that is Group-E. They have to, however, be wary of their opponents and keep the focus on getting results. They have shown some resilience in form, especially against some of the big teams since their exit from the 2014 World Cup.
This Swiss team has grown in stature, and we predict that it will be Brazil and Switzerland who would go through from the group. But then considering they finish second or for that matter, anyone who does from this group faces the prospect of likely facing World Champions Germany, and if the Swiss do, then there might be another potential round-of-16 exit for the team.