2018 World Cup team preview: Switzerland

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Getting to know Switzerland: Switzerland took the controversial route to the World Cup as a phantom penalty kick decision, finished by Ricardo Rodriguez, gave Switzerland a 1-0 edge over Northern Ireland over two legs. But prior to the playoff round, Switzerland picked up 27 of 30 points, only missing out on automatic qualification to Portugal on goal difference.

Newly-minted Arsenal signing Stephan Lichtsteiner is the team’s captain, and he provides a veteran prescence from out wide, picking his spots when best to attack and defend. His opposite at left back, Rodriguez, can whip in a terrific free kick, and attacking-wise, Switzerland relies heavily on the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Blerim Džemaili and Valon Behrami. Dennis Zakaria and Breel Embolo are two up-and-coming 21-year-olds that can have a big impact in Russia.

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Didier Deschamps led this young side to the quarterfinals in 2014 and the European Championship final in 2016, but he will be expected to take them to at least the World Cup semifinals this time around. The captain of the French national team for their only World Cup win in 1998 has his work cut out. Find out more about France’s history, here.

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What group are they in? Group E with Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia. Switzerland’s hopes will bank on how they do in the opener against Brazil. If the Swiss can get a point, they’ll feel better about facing Costa Rica, who got out of the group at the last World Cup and a Serbia team with a talented midfield and defense. .

Game schedule – Group E – Full 2018 World Cup schedule, here

Sunday, June 17: Brazil v Switzerland, Rostov 2pm, ET
Friday, June 22: Serbia v Switzerland, Kaliningrad 2pm, ET
Wednesday, June 27: Switzerland v Costa Rica, Nizhny Novgorod 2pm, ET

Projected lineup (4-2-3-1) – Check out the 23-man squad list in full

—– Sommer —–

— Lichtsteiner — Schar — Akanji— Rodriguez —-

—- Behrami —- Xhaka —- 

—- Shaqiri —- Dzemaili —- Zuber —

                                                                                  — Seferovic —

Star player: Xherdan Shaqiri – The Stoke City playmaker is looking to shake off what’s been a difficult 12 months to show he’s still a star player with the national team. Despite being still only 26-years old, this is Shaqiri’s third World Cup, and he’s ready to take another step, leading Switzerland out of the group. The diminutive attacker combines expert technique with a quick burst of pace, which gets him a yard of space to play the perfect pass or launch a shot from outside the box.

Manager: Vladimir Petković  – The Bosnian manager has been busy over the last two years trying to find a group that can play well together. Like Belgium, Switzerland has a very multi-cultural team, with players coming from Kosovan descent, African descent, as well as some who grew up speaking German, French or Italian.

Secret weapon: Dennis Zakaria – The 21-year-old midfield dynamo should see playing time with Behrami and Xhaka both getting up in age, and after a standout season in the Bundesliga for Borussia Monchengladbach, he is prepared to play at the highest level.

Prediction: Switzerland is a solid, if unspectacular side, who could on-paper make it into the World Cup quarterfinals. A lot of pressure is on Seferovic’s shoulders though, and with his struggles this season, Switzerland will need to find someone who can put the ball across the line for a goal. Switzerland should make it out of this group, but they could also draw three matches and head home earlier than expected.