Today we provide the fifth profile of the 32 teams which qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar–Switzerland.
The Rossocrociati hosted the 1954 World Cup, will be participating in their twelfth global competition, and in seven of their previous qualifications, they got to the Round of 16 or Quarterfinals. The Swiss famously defeated France on penalties last summer to reach the quarterfinals of the 2020 Euro where they lost on penalties to Spain. They scored in the first minute of their home stand against Portugal in this past June’s Nations League match and then hung on for the win. The Swiss team fears no one as they boast a tough combination of staunch defense and creative offense.
Placed in Group G with Brazil, Serbia, and Cameroon, the Swiss believe they are well-placed to advance as second to Brazil and they are probably correct. The team, which is ranked 16 in the world by FIFA, is managed by Murat Yakin who has been at the helm since August of 2021. Yakin was a professional player for 14 years and a club manager for 15 before taking over. The Swiss team’s home kit is red shirts, white shorts, and red socks, and their away colors are the exact reverses with white shirts, red shorts, and white socks.
Switzerland is a landlocked nation of 16,000 square miles composed mostly of the Alps and surrounding Jura with a slice of Swiss Plateau. It is in the latter where the majority of its 8.7M population live. Their small size and location in the middle of Europe have long made the Swiss a historical crossroads between Eastern and Western Europe. The Federal Charter of 1291, in which a number of independent Cantons pledged mutual alliance, is the nation’s founding document, and they are governed today by a federal assembly with a semi-directed democracy in which their cantons have a certain independence.
The Swiss speak German, French, Italian, and Romansh, are 75% White, 62.6% Christian, have a GDP of $0.6Trillion, and a Human Development Index score of 0.95 (the 2nd highest in the world). The nation is the birthplace of the Red Cross which is identified by the reverse symbol of the Swiss flag (white cross on a red background), it is the headquarters of many international organizations, including FIFA, and is famous for its long-standing policy of armed neutrality. They only joined the UN in 2002.
Squad (which may change before the cup given injuries, form, and coaching choices—teams mentioned are subject to change given transfers): Goalkeepers—Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach), Yvon Mvogo (PSV), Jonas Omlin (Montpellier), and Gregor Kobel (Borussia Dortmund); Defenders—Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg), Silvan Widmer (Mainz), Nico Elvedi (Borussia Monchengladbach), Manuel Akanji (Borussia Dortmund), Ricardo Rodriguez (Torino), Jordan Lotomba (Nice), Eray Comert (Valencia), and Fabian Schar (Newcastle); Midfielders—Fabian Frei (Basel), Remo Freuler (Atalanta), Granit Xhaka (Arsenal), Renato Steffen (Wolfsburg), Steven Zuber (AEK Athens), Djibril Sow (Eintracht Frankfurt), Michel Aebischer (Bologna), Xherdan Shaqiri (Chicago Fire), and Mattia Bottani (Lugano); Strikers—Breel Embolo (Borussia Monchengladbach), Noah Okafor (Red Bull Salzburg), Ruben Vargas (Augsburg), Mario Gavranovic (Kayserispor), and Haris Seferovic (Benfica).
Path to Qatar
Switzerland qualified directly and unbeaten to Qatar from UEFA Group C. They won their group ahead of Italy, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, and Lithuania. They drew both matches with Italy and forced them into the UEFA playoffs where they were eliminated by North Macedonia.
The Swiss favor a 4-2-3-1 with Yann Sommer, their outstanding goalkeeper, a rock, and four strong defenders marshaled by Manuel Akanji and Ricardo Rodriguez and supported by two defensive midfielders, Granit Xhaka included. Their offensive strength in midfield (the three in their formation) includes the explosive Xherdan Shaqiri and it is this trio that springs their counterattacks. That trio supported by the two defensive midfielders can also maintain possession for a more measured, sustained attack, and that combination coupled with their staunch defense led to scoring 15 goals and conceding only two in their eight World Cup qualifiers.
Aside from their keeper, Sommer, midfielders Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri and striker Haris Seferovic have been the team’s mainstays, but it may well be Cameroonian-born striker Breel Embolo who plays the key offensive role they will count on so as to then fall back on their defensive strengths.
Group and Tourney Prospects
The Swiss should come out second to Brazil in Group G, as Serbia and Cameroon are not as strong. But the Swiss team, which on an average night is a good competitor, has a night and day aspect to it—some days they are unrecognizable.
The Brazilians have not forgotten that it was the Swiss who clobbered Neymar with 22 fouls in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the most of any team against a single player at a single World Cup. The Brazilians may look to run up the score on the Swiss if they can. The Swiss beat the Serbs 2-1 in the last World Cup and given the number of players on the Swiss roster with Albanian or Kosovar heritage this game could have a strong political tone. Embolo will have his own drama facing his countrymen. In short, the Swiss will have a number of emotional aspects to contend with in Qatar aside from the physical and technical sporting ones and if they are on an off day anything could happen to their chances of progressing.
Photo: Switzerland’s Granit Xhaka, Shutterstock 1727465563– Asatur Yesayants