Switzerland qualified for this year's World Cup in the enviable position of being ranked among the first seeds. This ensures the European nation, ranked eighth on the planet by FIFA, avoid the tournament's most feared sides during the group stage.
Ottmar Hitzfeld has named his 23-man squad, which will attempt to get beyond Ecuador, France and Honduras in the opening exchanges. Switzerland advanced through their UEFA qualifying group unbeaten and via seven wins in 10 matches, with draws against Iceland, Norway and Slovenia halting their chances for a perfect record.
Here's the squad that will attempt to maintain their form throughout Brazil's much-anticipated competition, per the Telegraph:
|Switzerland World Cup Squad|
|DEF||Steve von Bergen||Swiss Young Boys|
|MID||Tranquillo Barnetta||Eintracht Frankfurt|
|MID||Xherdan Shaqiri||Bayern Munich|
|ATT||Mario Gavranovic||FC Zurich|
|ATT||Haris Seferovic||Real Sociedad|
|ATT||Granit Xhaka||Borussia Monchengladbach|
|Projected Starting XI|
|CB||Steve von Bergen|
Any suggestion Switzerland aren't strong enough to be considered first seeds is lost when looking at Hitzfeld's selection. This is an exciting squad, one comprised of youthful exuberance and experienced professionals, that can inflict real damage when playing to their potential.
Remarkably, nine of the final 23 currently reside in the Bundesliga. Xherdan Shaqiri is arguably the most well-known individual, although his lack of opportunities at Bayern Munich hasn't been the most ideal preparation for a major tournament.
The 22-year-old started just 10 matches across the German league and Europe this campaign, per WhoScored.com. Alongside the prolific Josip Drmic and proven talent of Valentin Stocker, he is the symbol of a Swiss side that is more than ready to attack the best.
Eren Derdiyok's poor form for Bayer Leverkusen sees the 25-year-old left out of the squad. His only goal of the season came in February and, despite being a key member of the 2010 World Cup squad, was overlooked for in-form talent.
Switzerland's game is built upon a solid base in central midfield. The platform of Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami allows flair players such as Shaqiri and Stocker to burst forward in support of a lone striker, which is likely to be Drmic if we're judging on form.
Haris Seferovic has been deployed during recent matches and can offer greater hold-up play than Drmic, who is a pure finisher. Hitzfeld will likely platoon the two youngsters, sharing responsibility in boiling weather conditions that will test the European nation's energy levels.
Seferovic also offers a hard-working defensive presence and is a taller target man, suggesting he may be deployed in a specialist role.
Granit Xhaka's distribution behind whichever forward Hitzfeld chooses has the ability to send Switzerland on sweeping counters, as he'll look to set either winger free or play direct to the striker's feet before bombing forward himself. He may be used sparingly by Hitzfeld and brought into matches when things need changing.
Stephan Lichtsteiner's right-back presence will allow Shaqiri something of a free role when necessary, although the Bayern star may remain a disciplined right winger against France, who are likely to possess wingers such as Franck Ribery and Antoine Griezmann.
Switzerland opened their 2010 World Cup account with a win over eventual champions Spain. Hitzfeld's team have only improved since then, and now play with a fearlessness that is brought on by the squad's younger players, suggesting a shock or two could be on the cards.
Although entwined within a challenging group, a confident Swiss side is more than capable of heading into the knockout stages as winners.