Making their 9th appearance at the World Cup, Switzerland arrive at the tournament after finishing comfortable winners of a very poor qualification group. Despite a shock loss to Luxembourg early on, the Swiss recovered to finish top, a point ahead of second-placed Greece. They will face a far trickier time getting out of Group H than they did emerging from their qualifying group.
The Switzerland national side play their game based on a philosophy of hard work and a solid midfield. Led by one of the most successful coaches Europe, Otmar Hitzfeld, nobody will be discounting this particular Switzerland team at South Africa 2010. Alexander Frei is their record goal and a constant threat for the team in international competition. After a solid season in his home country with Basel, where he scored 15 goals in 19 games, the left-footed striker will be the target man that Hitzfeld depends on to finish off any chances that Switzerland can create. Frei will be looking for the dangerous crosses of Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen) from the right-wing where he offers the creativity that is desperately lacking amongst his fellow Swiss midfielders. Barnetta is also dangerous when shooting from range, so the Swiss team will be looking to get the ball to his right foot as often as possible around the opposition penalty area.
In terms of future stars for the Swiss, look out for Eren Derdiyok, the skilful striker who has been sensational this year in the German Bundesliga for Bayer Leverkusen and will cause many teams problems if Hitzfeld decides to take a risk on him ahead of the more established players.
Certainly one of Switzerland’s key problems in recent international tournaments has been goal-scoring. Despite the talents of Frei and Barnetta, the team have been dismal at putting the ball in the back of the net when faced with tough international opponents. Helping them to overcome this problem this time around will be FC Twente giant Blaise Nkufo. Playing in his first major tournament at the age of 35, Nkufo’s strength and hold up play will offer Hitzfeld’s men a much-needed foil for the directly running style of star striker, Frei.
While Coach Otmar Hitzfeld has achieved so much in his glittering career, getting this Swiss team beyond the group stage in South Africa would surely rank as one of his greatest achievements. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look very likely, as Switzerland have been placed in a very strong group H. With a slow defensive unit, Switzerland will likely struggle against fellow group rivals who thrive on playing their game with a fast, direct style. Anything is possible with Hitzfeld at the helm, but don’t expect too much from Switzerland this time around.
Switzerland World Cup Prediction: 4th Place in Group H
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