World Cup 2018 Switzerland team profile: How they qualified, star man, World Cup record, fixtures
Well-organised and difficult to break down, Switzerland will be looking to reach the knock-out stages once more. Here's everything you need to know about their side.
- Honours: Silver at the Olympic Games (1924, Paris)
- FIFA Ranking: 6th
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Switzerland were pushed to the limits against Northern Ireland in the UEFA play-offs to book their passage to Russia after second in Group B behind Portugal. The two legs with Northern Ireland were very tight. The Swiss won 1-0 in Belfast thanks to a controversial penalty converted by the left-back AC Milan Ricardo Rodriguez before a 0-0 draw in Basel three days later was secured by a key goal-line clearance from the same player.
STAR MAN - Granit Xhaka
Granit Xhaka, the former Borussia Moenchengladbach midfielder, was signed by Arsenal in the summer of 2016 for the sum of £40m. He is the pivot of Vladimir Petkovic's midfield, even if at Arsenal he is yet to live up to his billing. He may show more of his promise this summer.
Granit XhakaGetty Images
NEXT BIG THING - Manuel Akanji
Manuel Akanji, the 22-year-old Dortmund central defender fielded by Petkovic in the play-offs against Northern Ireland. The former Basel player has been ready in the most pressurised moments and together with team-mate Nico Elvedi (21 year old from Gladbach) represents a credible alternative to Fabian Schar and Johan Djorou at the back. .
THE COACH - Vladimir Petkovic
Vladimir Petkovic is the 53-year-old former Lazio coach who won an Italian Cup in 2013. After the experience in biancoceleste, the Bosnian national coach of Switzerland took the lead of the national team by succeeding Ottmar Hitzfeld. He reached the last 16 of Euro 2016 before defeat to Poland on penalties and qualified for Russia through the playoffs.
WORLD CUP HISTORY
The Swiss are enjoying an 11th participation at World Cup finals and the fourth in a row. Four years ago, Hitzfeld's Switzerland finished in second place in their group behind France before being dumped by Argentina in the first knock-out stage thanks to Angel Di Maria's 118th goal after some sublime Lionel Messi skills. The quarter-finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954 remain their very best achievement.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Being compact and well-organised remain the prerogatives of Switzerland of Petkovic. Although without undisputed stars Switzerland is a difficult team to face for anyone, expert in the art of being obdurate opponents. Anything can happen behind Brazil and the Swiss have the experience and crucially cynicism to reach their set goals of reaching the knockout stage.
- Switzerland v Brazil: 17 June, 7pm
- Switzerland v Serbia 22 June, 7pm
- Switzerland v Costa Rica, 27 June, 7pm