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.
CHICAGO (AP) — Shannon Boxx, Lauren Holiday and Lori Chalupny will make their final appearances for the Women’s World Cup champion U.S. soccer team in exhibition games against Brazil.
Boxx will play her final game Oct. 21 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, and Holiday and Chalupny will close their international careers Oct. 25 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
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The 38-year-old Boxx has 27 goals in 194 games and represented the United States in four World Cups and three Olympics. She returned from the birth of a daughter to help the Americans win the World Cup this summer in Canada.
“I feel like it’s the right time and I’m feeling really comfortable about the end of my career,” Boxx said. “After winning the World Cup, I don’t feel like there is anything left to accomplish and I’m proud I was able to make a final comeback and help the team. I’m just really excited to be on the field one more time with my teammates and play in front of my family.”
The 28-year-old Holiday scored the winning goal in the United States’ 5-2 victory over Japan in the World Cup final. She has 24 goals in 132 games for the national team. She also recently helped FC Kansas City win its second consecutive NWSL title.
[ RELATED: Questions remain on Jurgen Klinsmann’s future with USMNT ]
“It’s been an amazing year and I feel blessed to have had these wonderful experiences at the end of my career,” Holiday said. “The Victory Tour has been fun, but now feels like a good time to say goodbye and it’s great to have the last game be against a quality team like Brazil.”
The 31-year-old Chalupny has 10 goals in 105 games for the United States. She has yet to make a final decision on continuing to play for Chicago in the NWSL.
“There is of course some sadness to see this chapter of my life come to an end, but it’s also a happy time to look back at all the fantastic experiences I’ve had through soccer,” Chalupny said. “It’s great to get the opportunity to play one last game with your friends and to be able to go out on your own terms is a cool thing and certainly something to be appreciated.”
The United States takes on Costa Rica in a friendly tonight at Red Bull Arena, as the USMNT must put the Mexico match behind them and focus on the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
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The biggest inclusion in tonight’s starting XI is that of Tim Howard in goal, marking his return to the national side after taking a self-imposed sabbatical. It will be Howard’s first appearance for the USMNT since his legendary performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup.
Klinsmann has chosen to go with a 4-4-2 tonight, and Geoff Cameron remains the only starter in the back-line from the Mexico match. He’ll partner with Michael Orozco in the center of defense, with Brad Evans and Tim Ream on the outsides.
[ MORE: Fabian Johnson sent home from USMNT after fall-out with Klinsmann ]
In the midfield, Klinsmann has put some speed on the wings through the likes of DeAndre Yedlin and recent call-up Brek Shea. Danny Williams joins Jermaine Jones as the central midfielders.
Up top, Jozy Altidore will play alongside Gyasi Zardes, who returns to his more comfortable position as forward.