Switzerland's World Cup predictions
After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here, and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have each predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's Outlook gives a general view of its situation ahead of the tournament, while Pitfalls takes a look at any potential problems. Each blogger will also predict the top scorer and breakout star and suggest how far that nation can go.
On paper, it could not look better. Switzerland have lost only one game in the past two years, a friendly against South Korea last November, and they finished top of their qualifying group by some distance. They have leapt up to sixth place in the FIFA world rankings, a record high. They won their only two warm-up games without conceding a goal, beating Jamaica 1-0 and Peru 2-0. Although they had several injury scares in the past few months, their players have all recovered in time and they will not be missing any players through injury.
All 32 team previews and predictions
Brazil | Cameroon | Croatia | Mexico
Australia | Netherlands | Chile | Spain
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Costa Rica | England | Italy | Uruguay
Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland
Argentina | Bosnia | Iran | Nigeria
Germany | Ghana | Portugal | USA
Algeria | Belgium | Russia | South Korea
Switzerland have real difficulty breaking down packed defences, something which was evident against both Jamaica and Peru, where they struggled to create chances. They depend heavily on Xherdan Shaqiri for creativity and, when he does not click or is not playing, they tend to hit a brick wall. The four out-and-out strikers in the squad are all relatively inexperienced and will be playing at their first senior international tournament. Some players such as Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami and Stephan Lichtsteiner can get too easily provoked and there are question marks as to how the team can adapt their style, which features aggressive pressing, to hot and humid conditions.
Forward Josip Drmic has a good ratio of three goals in seven games, however it is not certain that he will be the first-choice striker. Goals are more likely to come from attacking midfielder Shaqiri. The Bayern Munich forward has the speed to score on the counterattack, the ability to cut inside his marker and shoot at goal and the power to score from long range, including free kicks. With nine goals in 33 internationals, he is the second-highest scorer in the squad after Tranquillo Barnetta, who has one more goal but has played more than twice as many internationals.
Ricardo Rodriguez, who was born in Zurich to a Spanish father and Chilean mother, which gave him a choice of three national teams to play for, can provide some useful attacking options at left back. He has adapted well to the Bundesliga since joining VfL Wolfsburg two years ago, giving him plenty of experience against top-level opposition. Strong in the air, he has a powerful long-range shot with his left foot and crosses accurately.
PREDICTION: Last 16
Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has set the last 16 as the first target, which seems realistic. The outcome could well be decided in Switzerland's opening match against Ecuador, who, on paper, appear to be their direct rivals for second place in Group E assuming that France finish top as expected. It is worrying that the warm-up games against ultracautious Peru and Jamaica may not have adequately prepared the Swiss for Ecuador, who are more aggressive and attack strongly down the flanks. Switzerland drew 0-0 with Honduras in South Africa four years ago and another dour meeting seems to be in prospect, especially given the heat and humidity, which will clearly favour the Central Americans. But while victory against Ecuador and Honduras is anything but a foregone conclusion, it is by no means certain Switzerland will be beaten by France. A second-place finish looks likely, but that could well mean a second-round meeting with Argentina that they would be unlikely to survive.