by Joseph Mattern
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Switzerland will be making its eighth World Cup appearance this summer. Its most recent World Cup appearance was in 1994, having missed the past two tournaments. Ranked No. 37 in the world by FIFA, it qualified second behind France in UEFA Group 4 with a record of 4-0-6, and then beat Turkey on away goals after their qualifying playoff ended 4-4. After the excitement of that match, mayhem ensued and Benjamin Huggel recieved a six-game suspension. Will the Swiss team exceed expectations in Germany this summer? Or will they disappoint and have an early exit from the world's most prestigious soccer tournament?
Alexander Frei is the man to watch for the Swiss. He is the biggest reason that Switzerland qualified for the World Cup. The star striker will need to be consistent in order for Switzerland to advance. He is their most important offensive threat. Unfortunately, he recently underwent groin surgery and may or may not make it back in time for the World Cup. Even if he does play, will he be limited by the rehab and the time off? Will he be in good shape? These are very important questions the Swiss face going into Germany this summer.
Manager Jakob Kuhn, in his sixth year, told Credit Suisse emagazine "Our aim is to make our mark at the World Cup." He expects a lot from his squad, going on to say, "I aim for nothing less than perfect football, well aware of the fact that this is impossible. But there are moments, for instance in the home match against France, when the team comes very close. That's why the credit must go to the team. And of course we're all looking forward to the finals tournament in 2006 lasting from June to July - for us too, I hope…"
The team will indeed need to work well together if Switzerland is to advance out of Group G, but this is an intriguing team in that it's hard to know exactly what to expect. This squad has the tools to beat both Togo and South Korea, and may sneak up on a tough but beatable French side. That's the best-case scenario. However, on the other hand, South Korea is no pushover, and that match will be very significant for both teams in the opening round. The Swiss midfield is solid, and the side has a number of good young players to go along with the vets, including defender Philippe Senderos of Arsenal and Daniel Gygax.
Outstanding midfielders are:
Raphael Wicky -- Veteran in the midfield, Hamburg's Wicky is a good passer and can set up the forwards well.
Johann Vogel -- Vogel is the captain and is a good leader and can control and distribute the ball well. Has shown superior skills for AC Milan.
Outstanding strikers are:
Alexander Frei -- He led the Swiss with seven goals in qualifying and was last year's scoring leader in the French League. Good poacher who is often underestimated by opposing defenders, but his effectiveness could be in question coming off of surgery for a groin strain.
Outstanding defenders are:
Philippe Senderos -- Arsenal defender Senderos is a big, young defender who can contain opponents with the best of them.
Patrick Muller -- Lyon defender has a lot of experience in shutting down strong offensive sides.
Switzerland World Cup 2006 World Cup Odds: Switzerland is about 100/1 to win the World Cup, but could be an interesting dark horse.
Strengths: Good team chemistry and a nice mix of veterans and youngsters. Additionally, Switzerland's midfield is top-notch.
Weaknesses: Limited offensive options after Frei.
Switzerland World Cup 2006 Outlook: Look for Switzerland to surprise some teams. It should be able to handle Togo without too much trouble, but runs into tougher competition with a nice match-up against South Korea and very talented but disjointed France. Hard to say with certainty how it'll finish, but it should make for an interesting first round. The Swiss team is improved from years past, and if it is able to come together at the right time this summer, may cause a good deal of trouble for a lot of tough teams.
Switzerland World Cup 2006 First Round Match Schedule (all times local):
Tuesday, June 13, Group G1 France v Group G2 Switzerland, in Stuttgart, 6 p.m.
Monday, June 19, Group G4 Togo v Group G2 Switzerland, in Dortmund, 3 p.m.
Friday, June 23, Group G2 Switzerland v Group G3 Korea Rep., in Hanover, 9 p.m.
Updated Switzerland World Cup 2006 News: