Fri, 30 May 2014 8:30 p.m.—Lucerne, Switzerland—Swissporarena
Switzerland’s World Cup preparation begins in earnest with a friendly against Jamaica. The match will offer Josip Drmic the chance to cap an extraordinary rise by securing a starting place in the Swiss XI for the World Cup.
Ottmar Hitzfeld’s squad are currently holed up in a specially arranged training camp in Weggis. Speaking to Swiss newspaper Blick (in German), defender Philippe Senderos confirmed:
It is a very nice hotel. For us, peace is the most important thing in preparation. Here, we can prepare perfectly.
It is not a long trip to the Swissporarena, where the team will play their first major friendly of the summer against the Reggae Boyz. The Jamaican national football team are going through something of a rebuilding process, having dropped to 81st in the FIFA rankings. Head coach Winfried Schafer has named a predominantly inexperienced squad for a set of summer matches. Schafer is building towards the upcoming Caribbean Cup, Gold Cup and Copa America. His strategic plan seems to be based around a compact midfield and pace on the flanks.
Switzerland, ranked in the World’s top 10, should be far too much for Schafer’s boys. Nevertheless, the match should be a useful part of the preparation process. Ottmar Hitzfeld has suggested in the build-up that this game will provide a flavour of the task Switzerland will face against Ecuador and Honduras in Group E.
Hitzfeld will hope to use the game to find an attacking alchemy that can make Switzerland a threat to their rivals. They already have a very sturdy defence, having conceded just six goals in their 10 qualification games for Brazil 2014. If there is a weakness in their game, it’s their goalscoring prowess. Since the retirement of national hero Alexander Frei, Switzerland have lacked a clinical finisher.
That could be about to change. Twenty-one-year-old Josip Drmic has just five international caps to his name. However, after an outstanding season in the Bundesliga, he could be about to be one of the breakout stars of the World Cup.
Drmic, whose sagacity in front of goal is matched by his speed when running in behind, bagged 17 goals for relegated Nurnberg in 2013/14. His sparkling form earned him a five-year deal with Bayer Leverkusen. Now, it seems set to earn him a place in Ottmar Hitzeld’s starting XI.
In training this week, Hitzfeld has employed another Bundesliga-based player, Granit Xhaka, as a No. 10 behind Drmic. That means there is likely to be no place in the side for Admir Mehmedi, who himself grabbed 12 goals for SC Freiburg.
Mehmedi will be frustrated, but Drmic’s rise seems hard to stop. Not since the emergence of Xherdan Shaqiri has a Swiss attacking player generated quite so much excitement in his homeland.
The speedy striker is racing to the front of the queue to start upfront in the World Cup. Drmic is a train that seems to be constantly gathering momentum. Next stop? Brazil.