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Five Aside: Group winners reign

Five Aside Jul 1, 2014
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Matchday 14: Messi, Argentina in round of 16

Five Aside Jun 25, 2014
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Jun 19, 2014

Switzerland's exciting new generation

Xherdan Shaqiri is part of an exciting group of Swiss players Ottmar Hitzfeld will leave behind when he retires.

Switzerland's veteran coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, will retire after the World Cup, ending a career that has seen him win a host of Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund as well as the European Cup. His parting gift to Switzerland will be a young national team with a bright future based on players from different backgrounds. After Switzerland failed to qualify for Euro 2012, Hitzfeld decided it was time to give the young players a try, and they responded by qualifying unbeaten for the World Cup.

Their campaign in Brazil began well with a 2-1 win over Ecuador, and with France up next, here's a look at the young Swiss stars Les Bleus should fear.

Granit Xhaka, age 21

An intelligent, composed midfielder and superb passer of the ball, Xhaka is known as Little Einstein by his teammates because he loves science. He has been compared to Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger, and many see him as the most gifted player of Switzerland's new generation. Xhaka was born in Kosovo into a family of ethnic Albanians, and he considered representing Albania at international level but complained he was shunned by the country's federation. He has publicly supported Kosovo's campaign to be allowed to play international matches.

Haris Seferovic, 22

Born in Switzerland to Bosnian parents, Seferovic adds a physical presence to the Swiss attack. At the moment, Hitzfeld sees him more as an option to throw on in the second half. His two international goals, against Cyprus in a World Cup qualifier and Ecuador in Sunday's World Cup match, have come in similar circumstances; both times he came on late in the second half and scored with almost the last kick of the game to win the match. However, he needs to get his club career on track if he is to fulfill his potential. He failed to settle at Fiorentina and was loaned out to Neuchatel, Lecce and Novara and is now at Real Sociedad, where he has not played much.

Josip Drmic, 21

Drmic was picked as Switzerland's lone striker in the opening match against Ecuador, although he was substituted in the second half. He is two-footed and clever in and around the box but somewhat weak in the air. He had an excellent debut season in the Bundesliga with Nuremberg and scored 17 goals despite featuring in a team that was eventually relegated. He has since signed for Bayer Leverkusen, and it will be interesting to see how he fares at a much bigger club.

Xherdan Shaqiri, 22

Shaqiri is one of the most exciting players ever to come out of Switzerland. Born in Kosovo, he was once described as a "street footballer" by Thorsten Fink, his coach at FC Basel, and he often displays the impish qualities found in diminutive Argentine players. His dribbling is supplemented with powerful shooting, which makes him an asset at free kicks, and his incisive passing can open up defences. He now plays a deeper role for Switzerland and has been used as a false nine by Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. The big question over his future concerns his lack of playing time at Bayern. and there have been rumours that he could move elsewhere by next season.

Ricardo Rodriguez, 21

An attacking presence, Rodriguez has already established himself as Switzerland's first-choice left back. He packs a powerful free kick and provides a reliable supply of crosses and passes into the penalty area, including the one from which Seferovic scored the winning goal against Ecuador on Sunday. He has adapted well at VfL Wolfsburg since moving there two seasons ago and helped them to a fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga this season. Born in Zurich to a Spanish father and Chilean mother, he had three countries to choose from before opting to represent Switzerland. Settled at his club and a regular for his country, he has possibly the brightest future of the quintet.