While the Belgians may be labeled as a “dark horse”, the real dark horse of this tournament is Switzerland. They easily topped their European qualifying group, without losing a single match and have a sneaky array of talent. Manager Ottmar Hitzfeld will lead them into Group E with high hopes, as the draw was very kind to the Swiss. Although they are paired with France (A Samir Nasri-less France), Ecuador and Honduras do not inspire fear in Swiss hearts. Look for the Swiss to make a surprising run as their squad is filled with an exciting array of talent and is able to hold its own with the top squads in Europe.
Switzerland World Cup Preview
Veteran Wolfsburg keeper Diego Benaglio will be the first name on teh team sheet for Hitzfeld’s side. The veteran keeper has over 50 caps to his name and was instrumental in qualifying. He should be called on to provide some good saves as, while still good, the Swiss defense is the biggest weakness of this squad. If Benaglio were to go down young Yann Sommer would be called into action.
The defense will look to its fullbacks for its anchors, as Benaglio’s Wolfsburg teammate Ricardo Rodriguez and Juventus’ excellent right back Stephen Lichtsteiner, will bookend the back line. Lichtsteiner is invaluable as a right back and will give the Swiss midfield the freedom to focus on the attack and Rodriguez is no slouch himself. Centrally the Swiss will look to two players who ply their trade in Switzerland, Basel’s Fabian Schaer and Young Boys’ Steve von Bergen. Schaer’s Champions League experience for Basel should be huge for this central pairing when dealing with the like of Franck Ribery and Antoine Griezmann’s darting runs.
A trio of Napoli players will make up the core of the midfield. Goekhan INler, Blerim Dzemaili and Valon Behrami will be key for the Swiss to control the middle of the park and allow the potent Swiss attackers to not worry themselves with defense. The attacking point of the midfield will most likely be occupied by playmaker Granit Xhaka, Borussia Monchengladbach’s bright young talent will be charged with facilitating the attacking players and loosing Xherdan Shaqiri on goal with his precise passing. While Shaqiri may be this team’s star, Xhaka is instrumental to how far the Swiss progress
Shaqiri and Basel star Valentin Stocker will most likely be deployed as forward wingers in the Swiss formation. Shaqiri, although used sparingly, looks to make his mark on Brazil in an effort for more playing time at Bayern Munich or a possible transfer to Liverpool. Stocker will look to carom down the wing and provide service to the striker, most likely Josip Drmic. Drmic, the newly minted Bayer Leverkusen striker, will look to take full advantage of the attention that defenses will pay to Shaqiri and Xhaka. Despite relegation with former club Nurnberg, the 21-year-old has had a breakout season and is one of the most exciting prospects in the world. Look for this young speedy