Switzerland

On paper, the Swiss squad looks like it could be one of the strongest at Russia this summer, particularly when you consider that nearly all of their players play for clubs in Europe’s major leagues. However, they often fall short of what is expected of them, and they proved this again when they were found wanting in their main test during the qualifiers, losing 2-0 to a comfortable Portuguese side, which resulted in the Swiss having to play a tense play-off against Northern Ireland in order to qualify. If Switzerland are to stand a chance of progressing deeper into the competition this summer, they will need their star men to gel together and present a strong opposition.

The Swiss will be looking to at least equal their best ever World Cup record by making it to the quarter final stages, although they have not achieved such a feat since 1954, where they were the host nation. Their main issue is a lack of consistent firepower up front. Although Haris Seferovic played as a lone striker in all but one of Switzerland’s qualifiers, and managed to net four goals, his shooting is often erratic and wild, and he failed to show up in either of the games against Northern Ireland in the play-offs, where only a late controversial penalty decision gave Switzerland a victory.

Star players

  • Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City) – Shaqiri is without a doubt the star of this Swiss team, and although his career has not quite lived up to early expectations, he is always a threat to the opposition. With a low centre of gravity, unparalleled agility and a strength you do not see in many players, Shaqiri is able to turn defences inside out. Although it can be argued that he is not the most creative player when it comes to passing and creating team chances, he is still capable of creating something from nothing when the ball lands at his feet and he charges headlong at the opposition defence. Not to mention, if he gets the ball onto his left foot with a sight of goal, I wouldn’t fancy many keepers to stop him.
  • Granit Xhaka (Arsenal) – While Shaqiri has the flair, it is their behemoth of a defensive midfielder Xhaka that is the core of the team, pulling the strings in midfield and controlling the game. When on form, Xhaka is capable of splitting teams with his through passing, anticipating and intercepting dangerous opposition play, and scoring thirty-yard screamers. Unfortunately, he has tended to be inconsistent this season, and is prone to defensive mistakes.

Coach

Vladimir Petkovic – Born in the former Yugoslavia, 54 year old Petkovic was appointed after the 2014 World Cup, and led Switzerland to the last 16 at Euro 2016 in France. Although he admitted that the controversial penalty decision in the play offs which saw his side qualify for the finals was harsh, he stated that his team deserved to win in any case.

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