Switzerland

Population: 7,500,000
Area: 41,290 km²
Capital: Berne
Language: German, French, Italian

 
THE ROAD TO GERMANY
Switzerland just edged out Israel for the second place behind France in UEFA group 4 and knocked out Turkey in the play-offs to qualify for Germany.
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MATCHES IN 2006
Mar 01 Scotland v Switzerland 1-3
May 27 Swi'land v Cote d'Ivoire 1-1
May 31 Switzerland v Italy 1-1
Jun 03 Switzerland v China 4-1

 
WORLD CUP HISTORY
Participations: (7) 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966 and 1994
Best placing: Quarterfinal 1934, 1938 and 1954
Topscorer: Josef Hügi, 6 goals
More detailed history information

 
FIRST ROUND MATCHES
Jun 13 - SWI v FRA  in Stuttgart
Jun 19 - SWI v TOG  in Dortmund
Jun 23 - SWI v KOR  in Hannover

 
PWC STAFF VERDICT
- Switzerland in Group G -
Jan Alsos: 3rd place
Pierre Boisrond: 2nd place
Ruud Doevendans: 3rd place
Mike Gibbons: 3rd place
Peter Goldstein: 1st place
Paul Marcuccitti: 2nd place
Felipe Santos: 3rd place
PREDICTION: To KO-stage



"FOUGHT" WELL TO QUALIFY


by Mike Gibbons


    The Swiss have fought their way through to the 2006 World Cup – quite literally. In their play-off game against Turkey in Istanbul in November, which they won on away goals, their players were assaulted by the Turkish fans, players and, incredibly, the Turkish police as they made their way off the pitch. The injuries to Stephane Grichting were so bad that he was rushed to hospital to have a catheter inserted in him, and Benjamin Huggel was hit with a whopping six-game ban for retaliating and may miss the group games in Germany. Turkey were hit with fines, suspensions and sanctions after FIFA’s biggest ever disciplinary investigation. The fine for the Turkish FA was 200,000 Swiss Francs – who says FIFA have no sense of humour?

    This hellish experience aside, Switzerland were not that convincing in the qualifying rounds. Only managing to record victories over Cyprus and the Faeroe Islands, and one of those required an 88th minute winner, the Swiss drew all of their games against group rivals Israel, France and the Republic of Ireland. However some credit must go the way of coach Jakob ‘Kobi’ Kuhn as it isn’t often that Switzerland qualify for two tournaments in a row. As co-hosts of Euro 2008 with neighbours Austria that will make it three, and they will be looking to this World Cup as a development stage towards facing the cream of the continent in two years time.

    Their most recent result was a 3-1 friendly victory over Scotland at Hampden Park, but it is hard to ascertain anything from that result such has been the fall from grace of the Scots in the last ten years and the general drop-off in competitiveness of international friendly matches. The Swiss were a solid outfit in their last World Cup in the USA in 1994, going out to Spain in the knockout stages but not before thumping the talented Romanian side of Hagi, Dumitrescu et al 4-1 in Detroit. It will be a tall order for this generation of players to achieve results of that magnitude this summer.

    At centre-forward Switzerland possess the quietly prolific Alexander Frei of Rennes in France, scorer of 23 international goals in just 42 appearances. With seven in qualifying he was the team’s most important player, and will be in the shop window in Germany as it is heavily rumoured that he will be on his way to the Bundesliga after the World Cup. Partnering him up front will be Marco Streller, currently playing in the Bundesliga with Cologne and scorer of the goal that sealed Switzerland’s place at the finals, or Johann Volanthen, the young star who was the youngster player ever to score at the European Championships in Portugal two years ago. Also looking for a place in the forward line is Daniel Gygax of Lille, who can also play in midfield.

    The captain and highest profile Swiss player, Johann Vogel of AC Milan, will pull the strings in midfield and should certainly be well rested after playing in just 12 of Milan’s league matches so far this year. Anchoring the midfield next to him should be Raphael Wicky, a holding midfielder with Hamburg who also had a stint in La Liga. Hakan Yakin, who has been struggling with injury, may not be able to force his way back in but there is a bright prospect for the future in 20 year old Valon Behrami, currently playing and playing well for Lazio in Serie A.

    In the wide positions normally start Ricardo Cabanas, also playing in the Bundesliga with Cologne, and yet another German based player, Tranquillo Barnetta of Bayer Leverkusen, that will complete their midfield quartet.

    At centre-half Switzerland can draw on two players with clubs who advanced to the latter stages of the Champions League. Phillipe Senderos has developed quicker than most expected to establish himself at the heart of the Arsenal defence, whilst his partner in the national team Patrick Muller plays, somewhat less frequently it must be said, for Lyon, the dominant force in French football.

    The regular left-back is Ludovic Magnin who plays at Hamburg with Raphael Wicky and scored a crucial goal for the Swiss against France in Berne that salvaged a vital late point. The right-back should be young Philipp Degan, who is a regular starter for the fading giants of the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund.

    In goal Pascal Zuberbuhler of FC Basel will start after winning the spot from the fantastically entertaining if somewhat erratic Jorg Stiel, who lit up Euro 2004 with some lighter moments using his head in Portugal. Backing up Zuberbuhler will be Fabio Coltorti of Grasshoppers Zurich.

    First up for the Swiss will be a familiar face – France, whom they held to two draws in qualifying, in Stuttgart on June 13th. In those qualifying matches Frei in particular missed a hatful of chances that could have sent his team to Germany without a beating in Istanbul first, and such sloppy finishing is not so easily remedied in the three-game first round format of a World Cup. Avoiding defeat will probably be the priority there, six days later they move on to Dortmund to face Togo, an unknown quantity to most European based pundits, before what could be a crunch game with South Korea in Hanover on the 23rd. Here might be the key for Switzerland – which South Korea will show up? The heroes that finished fourth in 2002 or every other South Korean team that has been to a World Cup and never won a match?

    Getting out of the group would be considered success, and anything on top of that a bonus as they look to build a team capable of a strong showing in 2008. One X factor they will have in their favour is their proximity to the host nation. They will certainly not lack support in Germany with thousands of fans capable of making the short trip over the border to cheer them on. Whether they will have anything to sing about is another matter.


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