Switzerland have appeared at the World Cup ten times over the course of their history but have never progressed past the quarterfinals. They have made it to the final eight on three occasions in 1934, 1938, and 1954, and appeared in the Round of 16 in two of the last three competitions. La Nati often start the tournament as outsiders and have frequently fallen to giants like Spain and Argentina. Vladimir Petkovic’s men will go to Russia as underdogs and can be backed at 100/1 to lift the trophy. With sides like Germany, Brazil, and France looking extremely strong, it’s unlikely that the Swiss will go all the way but can they break their own record in the tournament and get into the semi-finals?
Switzerland at the World Cup
Switzerland have a fairly solid record in the World Cup in recent years and have escaped their group twice in the last three competitions. In Germany 2006, they exited the tournament in the Round of 16 at the hands of Ukraine in extra time after a 0-0 draw and, at Brazil 2014, they fell to Argentina in the same round of fixtures in a 1-0 defeat at the Sao Paulo Stadium. Prior to 2006, the nation hadn’t appeared at the World Cup since 1994, a tournament which marked their first appearance in the competition in nearly thirty years. The fact that Russia will be Switzerland’s fourth consecutive showing in the ultimate footballing competition is an achievement in itself.
In qualifying for this year’s tournament, Switzerland finished in second place in Europe’s Group B and scraped through thanks to a 1-0 aggregate playoff win against Northern Ireland. Despite leaving it late to book a place in Russia, Switzerland actually had a fairly impressive qualifying campaign. They began with a 2-0 win over reigning European champions Portugal and then went on to win the eight games that followed. It was only thanks to a 2-0 loss to Fernando Santos’s charges in the reverse fixture which led to the Swiss finishing in second place due to an inferior goal difference.
Petkovic will be confident that this strong form will be enough to propel his side out of the group stages and push them to challenge in the knockout rounds.
Switzerland have a number of key players at their disposal who have played at the highest level and have the ability to change games. Despite being relegated this season with Stoke City, there is no denying the exceptional talent of the Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri. The player who has been dubbed the “Alpine Messi” will surely be looked to as Switzerland’s main provider due to his creativity down the flanks.
The 26-year-old will be out to impress potential suitors who want to sign him from the struggling Potters. Rumours suggest that Everton may be ready to let Shaqiri swap his red and white Adidas shirt for a blue Umbro one, and could get the player for £12 million. According to Betway, this is the same amount Stoke paid when they signed him from Inter Milan. There is a shared feeling among pundits that, in a team with higher quality players around him, Shaqiri could reach his full potential.
Along with Shaqiri, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka looks to be a crucial player for Switzerlandthis summer. The formidable midfielder was one of the star performers at Euro 2016 in France and played every minute of football while his side were in the tournament. In the opening game against Albania, the 25-year-old was voted man of the match. Up front, there is a lot of hype around the 21-year-old Breel Embolo, who has been compared to Mario Balotelli. Could the powerful finisher use this tournament to announce himself to the world?
Switzerland will have been extremely pleased with the group draw for this year’s World Cup, as they are favoured to be one of the two teams that prevails. They are faced with Brazil, who are 9/2 favourites to win the whole tournament, but, after that, they meet Costa Rica and Serbia. These sides can be backed at 400/1 and 150/1 respectively.
Switzerland come up against Brazil in their first fixture at the Rostov Arena, and can be found at 7/1 to beat the awesome South American side. Brazil are odds-on at 4/11 to take the three points from the tie. The game will be a good opportunity for Switzerland to make sure they are playing at a high standard, so they can take this into the final two group stage fixtures. Brazil will be a testing fixture, and Petkovic may decide to employ defensive tactics to hit Tite’s men on the counter-attack. If Switzerland can claim a point from the tie, it will put them in an extremely strong position to progress.
After Brazil, Switzerland will face Serbia at the Kaliningrad Stadium and, finally, Costa Rica at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. These are two ties in which the Swiss are expected to pick up maximum points, and can be backed at 8/5 and 3/4 to win each tie respectively. Looking at the odds, the likely outcome is that Switzerland will finish in second place in the group. This would mean that they would face the winner of Group F in the Round of 16.
Unfortunately for La Nati, the likely winners of Group F will be the reigning champions Germany, who can be found at 9/2 to retain their crown. If this comes to fruition, it seems fairly unlikely that Switzerland will progress to the quarterfinals. Their best hope would be to pull off a shock win against Brazil and finish top of their group. However, the chances of this happening appear fairly slim.