Germany always qualifies for World Cups … so Die Mannschaft’s march into Brazil is every bit as shocking as sunset.
Belgium has some World Cup history and, more importantly, some of the top young talent in Europe at the moment. So the “other” lowlands footballing country (the Netherlands hogs up most of the region’s World Cup history) booking the profitable passage can’t be much of a surprise either.
But Switzerland! Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team had talent, especially in emerging star Xherdan Shaqiri of Bayern Munich. But the Swiss were hardly shoe-ins to join next year’s field.
Switzerland needed just a draw Friday against Albania to clinch top spot in Group E out of Europe, but goals from Granit Xhaka and Michael Lang secured a comfortable and somewhat historic 2-1 win.
Thus, Switzerland joins Germany and Belgium as the latest official qualifiers. Thirteen spots have now been filled for next year’s 32-team field.
Swiss soccer has been something of a mixed bag for the last two decades. They had a decent team at World Cup USA in 1994 but failed to qualify for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups. Switzerland did claim a place at Germany 2006, but fell out in penalties in the first elimination round.
The 2010 tournament in South Africa presented some opportunity as Switzerland qualified once again and were grouped with Chile and Honduras (well, and Spain – which meant three teams were essentially battling for one spot.) The Swiss couldn’t get out of the group.