Switzerland will be appearing at the FIFA World Cup™ finals for the ninth time when next summer's tournament gets underway in South Africa, where coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and his men are aiming for more than just a supporting role.
The former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich boss took the national helm after Switzerland's disappointing showing at UEFA EURO 2008, and has now led them to their second FIFA World Cup finals in a row. The Swiss made it to the Round of 16 at the 2006 event in Germany, where they were unluckily eliminated on penalties by Ukraine.
The Swiss boast a healthy blend of youth and experience, combining talented younger players such as Eren Derdiyok, Tranquillo Barnetta and keeper Diego Benaglio with seasoned campaigners like Alexander Frei and Blaise N'Kufo. The current team is hoping at least to emulate the achievements of their forebears who made the last eight in 1934, 1938 and 1954.
The road to South Africa
Hitzfeld and his team made a distinctly inauspicious start on the road to the 2010 finals. After conceding in the final minute to draw away to Israel, a disastrous 2-1 defeat to minnows Luxembourg in Zurich brought shame and embarrassment on the team.
However, the cringeworthy defeat ultimately acted as a wake-up call, and the Swiss duly reeled off five wins on the spin, against Latvia (2-1), Greece (2-1 and 2-0) and Moldova (2-0 and 2-0). They only dropped points again in a 2-2 draw away to the Latvians.
A comfortable 3-0 revenge victory in ...