Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg), Roman Buerki (Grasshopper), Yann Sommer (Basel);
Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg), Michael Lang (Grasshopper), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Fabian Schaer (Basel), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), Reto Ziegler (Sassuolo);
Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli), Gelson Fernandes (Freiburg), Gokhan Inler (Napoli), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Valentin Stocker (Basel);
Forwards: Josip Drmic (Nuremberg), Mario Gavranovic (Zurich), Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg), Haris Seferovic (Real Sociedad), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach).
To paraphrase a vague, yet ubiquitous football cliché, Switzerland are a team that ‘go about their business’. So, what does that mean exactly? Well, despite beating Spain 1-0 in the group stages in the 2010 World Cup, not many neutrals were shouting for Switzerland to be their tournament upsetters. Switzerland didn’t play particularly good football at the last tournament, but were highly organised and professional. This time around, however, the Swiss squad has a bit more guile, afforded them by the emergence of genuine technical talent in the form of players such as Xherdan Shaqiri, Valentine Stocker, and Granit Xhaka.
Based on technical ability, Shaqiri and Xhaka offer Switzerland more incision in their play. However, both failed to make impacts at club level in the Bundesliga, and go into the tournament in mediocre form. Elsewhere, Stephan Lichtsteiner will bolster the Swiss attacking options. While Lichtsteiner has been operating as a makeshift winger/attacking wing back for Juventus, Swiss manager Ottmar Hitzfeld is likely to deploy him as a right fullback. Lichtsteiner’s strongest attribute is his pace and endless stamina, and as an overlapping defender, he will cause problems for most oppositions and open up space for other wide players such as Stocker and Shaqiri.
Perhaps the biggest burden in the squad is on new European prospect Josip Drmic. Having carved out an impressive 17 goals at relegated Nurnberg in the Bundesliga, 21 year old Drmic earned himself a move up to Bayer Leverkusen. Despite this impressive emergence, Drmic has played just short of 90 minutes for Switzerland in their whole qualifying campaign. While Drmic’s form will be key for the Swiss in Brazil, the side comfortably walked through qualification, putting together a ten match unbeaten run.
What’s clear is that since that 2010 tournament, Hitzfeld has made big strides to add some firepower to a well organised but workmanlike side; a side that could defeat Spain with a defensive display but were unable to score against Honduras. If Switzerland are to do well and surprise people in the tournament, they’ll need in-form players, such as Drmic, continuing to find the net, and better players who haven’t figured as much in their teams, such as Xhaka and Shaqiri, to realise their potential.
As previously stated, it is crucial for Switzerland that Xherdan Shaqiri discover some form. Shaqiri has been in the unfortunate position of having to fight for a place at Bayern Munich against Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. While only 22 years old, Shaqiri still has a lot to prove. Brazil 2014 could be his chance to show the world and Pep Guardiola that he is more than a flash in the pan, or sometime ‘next Robben’.
I think Switzerland’s squad is good enough for them to make it out of the group stage. I have them finishing second in their group, behind France. I then have them facing Argentina in the last 16, a match they’ll lose. - Second round.