For a country that has a proud tradition of neutrality, it comes as no surprise that their football team is often shy of attacking.
World Cup history suggests Switzerland like to shut up shop before they cash in. They did not concede at the 2006 World Cup, and let in just the one goal four years later. All they had to show for it was respective round-of-16 and group stage exits, scoring just five goals in that seven game span.
Perhaps inspired by Brazilian flair, Switzerland danced to the tune of a samba beat in South America in 2014 and shook off those ‘solid, if not spectacular’ shackles.
A last-ditch winner against Ecuador, a 5-2 thumping at the hands of France and then a Xherdan Shaqiri hat-trick against Honduras – the Swiss were on a roll.
All the nervousness that comes with a knockout game appeared as they were knocked out by finalists Argentina after extra-time in the next round, but even still, there was potential to work with.
Now worry has resurfaced. Having been pipped to the automatic spot by Portugal during the qualifiers, the Swiss squeaked past plucky Northern Ireland thanks to a big dose of drama.
In the first leg of the play-off, Vladimir Petkovic’s side were awarded a penalty after the ball was smashed, at close range, into Corry Evans and it ricocheted off his arm.
The decision did not go down well in Belfast. Back at St Jakob Park, where Switzerland had only lost once in 16 years, it was Northern Ireland who looked the superior side even though the hosts bumbled through.
In Shaqiri, the Swiss have a winger of genuine world-class ability who has not truly kicked on since starring in Brazil. With all respect to Stoke, Shaqiri would be playing his football 40 miles north in Manchester if he had.
Those two are the least of Petkovic’s problems, though – Haris Seferovic is the latest striker to fall foul of the boo-boys after falling flat in the play-offs.
There is hope. The injury stricken Schalke striker Breel Embolo may yet provide the solution and that Swiss solidity is a platform to be built upon, not sniffed at.
The one player who can be relied upon to inject Switzerland with some unpredictability. An expert set-piece taker, as seen in the Premier League with Stoke, and though his nickname ‘Alpine Messi’ may be a misnomer he does have a penchant for the spectacular.
Sarajevo-born Petkovic has been based in Switzerland for the majority of his managerial career, but in his one season with Lazio lifted the Coppa Italia. Under pressure to boost his side’s anemic attack – has enough tools at his disposal to at least make a good fist of it.
The wing-back has been in the professional game since 2001, but at the age of 34, he is no longer first-choice for Juventus and will leave this summer. He will be an extremely experienced voice in the dressing room – but can he still lead by example on the pitch?
A man featured on many ‘youngsters to watch’ shortlists as a teenager, the now 21-year-old has had his progress stunted by injuries. At his best, powerful, pacy and composed in front of goal – could well start up front given the lack of options.
KEY FACTS AND STATS
– Josef Hugl scored a national record six goals when leading Switzerland to the quarterfinals of the 1954 World Cup
– This is Switzerland’s 11th World Cup. They have a history in the competition dating back to 1934
– Switzerland went the entirety of their 2006 World Cup campaign without conceding – 559 minutes – but lost on penalties to Ukraine in the last-16
78 DEF 77 MID 76 ATT
World Cups competed at
11 (First in 1934)
World Cup record
P33, W11, D6, L16
Quarter-finals (1934, 1938 & 1954)
P12, W10, D1, L1
Goalkeepers: Y. Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach), R. Burki (Borussia Dortmund), Y. Mvogo (Leipzig).
Defenders: S. Lichtsteiner (Juventus), J. Djourou (Antalyaspor), R. Rodriguez (Milan), F. Schar (Deportivo La Coruna), F. Moubandje (Toulouse), M. Lang (Basel), M. Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), N. Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Midfielders: V. Behrami (Udinese), X. Shaqiri (Stoke), G. Fernandes (Eintracht Frankfurt), B. Zemaili (Bologna), G. Xhaka (Arsenal), S. Zuber (Hoffenheim), R. Freuler (Atalanta), D. Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach).
Strikers: H, Seferovic (Benfica), J. Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach), B. Embolo (Schalke), M. Gavranovic (Dinamo Zagreb).
Switzerland are favourites for Group E’s runners-up spot. A well-oiled machine needs to use its gears in attack to progress much further.
Manuel Lanzini has suffered a serious knee injury in training which appears likely to rule the playmaker out of the World Cup.
Argentina said on Twitter on Friday: “Manuel Lanzini suffered, in today’s morning training, the rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee.”
[PARTE MÉDICO] Manuel Lanzini sufrió, en el entrenamiento matutino de hoy, la rotura del ligamento cruzado anterior de su rodilla derecha. pic.twitter.com/lmYEVr5YaV
— Selección Argentina (@Argentina) June 8, 2018
Such an injury usually leads to an absence of months, rather than weeks.Lanzini, who scored five goals in 29 appearances for the Hammers in 2017/18, has made three appearances for Argentina, scoring his first goal in March’s 2-0 victory over Italy.
According to Brazil’s chief medical officer Rodrigo Lasmar, Fred faces an anxious wait to find out whether he will be fit in time for the World Cup.
Manchester United‘s new signing picked up an ankle injury while training with the national team and the extent of the damage is yet to be determined.
“Fred suffered a trauma to his right ankle. This trauma made him unable to continue at training, he couldn’t go on at practice,” Lasmar said.
Watch the team doctor’s full explanation in the video below.