Switzerland Camp Focus – Hitzfeld names World Cup squad

Switzerland Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has included 18-year-old, Xherdan Shaqiri in his final 23-man squad for this year’s World Cup, in South Africa. Hitzfeld did have until June 1 to decide on his final 23 but instead opted to name his squad two weeks early. Shaqiri, who plays his football for FC Basle has only played 45 minutes of international football and is the only shock inclusion in what was a straightforward selection process by the Switzerland Coach.

Arsenal defender Phillippe Senderos, who spent the second part of the season on loan at Everton, has made the cut despite making just five appearances for both clubs. Lucky for him, his poor form at club level has not carried over to the international form of the game and has played a key role in Switzerland’s qualification – where they topped Group Two. However, teammate Johann Djourou has not made the squad after just returning from a nine-month knee injury.

Many of this Switzerland squad bring something different to the table. West Ham midfielder Valon Behrami will be at this year’s World Cup and can operate in both wide and central roles but will most likely feature on the right side of midfield. On the left flank is the ever-present Tranquillo Barnetta who the Swiss will rely on heavily to create chances for the front-men, by using his trickery and impressive pace. While Switzerland will hope the creativity of their wide-men will help the side create chances, they will depend on the middle of their midfield and this is where Udinese midfielder, Gokhan Inler, will take centre stage. He generally plays in front of the Swiss defence, breaking up opposition attacks and bringing the ball forward. He will be partnered by former Manchester City man, Gelson Fernandes, who is similar in a way to Inler but possesses extra quality in the final third of the pitch. The midfield is the strongest part of their team, and will play a huge part in any possible success at the World Cup.

In the goals department, Switzerland will look to captain and record goal-scorer, Alexander Frei, to score the goals needed to progress through the group stage. The FC Basle striker endured an emotional campaign at Euro 2008, where he had to come off injured in the opening game of the tournament. Frei will see this as his last chance to show the world his ability in front of goal, which has seen him score forty goals in 73 appearances for his country. Many pundits didn’t think Switzerland would make it out of the group stages in 2006 but they proved many wrong by reaching the last 16. At Euro 2008, they were the first team to ever be knocked out at the group stage without conceding a single goal. If they can replicate their efforts in defence with some goals in attack, the team could improve on their last outing at the World Cup and cause a few shocks along the way. Nine members of this current squad have valuable World Cup experience having played under former manager Koebi Kuhn at the aforementioned 2006 World Cup, and this can only benefit the team.

Goalkeepers
Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg)
Johnny Leoni (Zurich),
Marco Woelfli (Young Boys).

Defenders
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Lazio)
Stephane Grichting (Auxerre)
Steve Von Bergen (Hertha Berlin)
Philippe Senderos (Arsenal)
Mario Eggimann (Hannover)
Christoph Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Reto Ziegler (Sampdoria)

Midfielders
Valon Behrami (West Ham)
Gokhan Inler (Udinese)
Benjamin Huggel (Basle)
Gelson Fernandes (St. Etienne)
Xherdan Shaqiri (Basel)
Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen)
Marco Padalino (Sampdoria)

Forwards
Alex Frei (Basle)
Blaise Nkufo (Twente)
Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen)
Hakan Yakin (Lucerne)
Marco Streller (Basle)

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