Ottmar Hitzfeld is hoping his players avoid any more injuries after losing talisman Marco Streller just a week after Christoph Spycher withdrew from the
Streller sustained an injury whilst training with the national side but later found out the extent of it after undergoing a scan later that day. It revealed the 28-year-old had aggravated a previous thigh muscle injury and will be sidelined for several weeks. This year’s World Cup in South Africa will be another major tournament that Streller is set to miss out on after missing Euro 2008 through injury and Euro 2004 where he suffered a fractured leg in qualifying.
Switzerland Coach, Hitzfeld, has drafted in FC Nuremberg forward, Albert Bunjaku, who scored 12 goals in the Bundesliga last season. He was preferred to young striker Nassim Ben Khalifa, who was also on the standby list. Streller’s injury is a huge blow for the Swiss side, as he would have certainly contributed in the final third of the pitch alongside fellow strikers Alexander Frei and Blaise Nkufo.
The news of this setback will further worry Hitzfeld after he lost experienced left-back, Christoph Spycher, who also retired from international football because of the injury. Spycher, 32, is one of Switzerland’s highest capped, with 47 international appearances. He played at Euro 2004 and 2008 and also the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Ludovic Magnin of FC Zurich will replace the defender. He was a shock exclusion from the original 23-man squad.
The fact that both injuries were not picked up through international friendlies will frustrate Hitzfeld, as his squad are yet to play a fixture before the tournament in South Africa. Their first friendly is on June 1 against Costa Rica and he hopes for no more setbacks. Spycher and Streller would have been in Switzerland’s starting XI, which is what makes the exclusion of the duo harder to bare for the Swiss. Hitzfeld will hope the collective spirit, which the team has shown throughout qualification and under his leadership, will prevail and show the world Switzerland are no pushovers.
Hitzfeld has helped change the way the Swiss play and has raised expectation in the country. The defensive mentality has shifted and the team now balance both attack and defence. In Hitzfeld, they have a natural winner. One of only three Coaches to have won the Champions League with two different clubs, Switzerland will hope his club success can be reflected in the national side.
With Spycher and Streller out of the tournament, other players will have to step up and play their part. Philippe Senderos will be hoping for a solid World Cup as he looks to move away from Arsenal and without doubt, scouts will be ever-present at the tournament. In addition, Valon Behrami of West Ham has been in the newspapers recently with a suspected move to Italian side Palermo. The World Cup is a transfer window in itself and the Swiss players will be aiming to impress any potential scouts and earn a move to the so-called bigger leagues.
The Swiss still have a squad capable of competing at the World Cup, and in Group H, they have a chance. They will struggle to pick up points against favourites Spain but stand a good chance of victory against Chile and Honduras. June 16 is when it all kicks off for Switzerland and Hitzfeld will be praying for no further injuries.