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Switzerland Eliminated but Can Look Towards a Brighter, More Attacking Future

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland challenges Lionel Messi of Argentina during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 1, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Matt CheethamCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2014

Switzerland's 2014 FIFA World Cup is over.

Having smothered the life out of Lionel Messi and Co. for almost 118 minutes, Angel di Maria's late strike sealed Argentina's passage through.

If they weren't flashy or entertaining for long periods, the Swiss brought admirable energy and tactical discipline to this game.

They condensed the central areas and left Argentina resorting to crosses, often completely bypassing Messi.

Only Stephan Lichtsteiner's late lapse prevented the match being decided on penalties.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 01: Lionel Messi of Argentina controls the ball against Josip Drmic (L), Fabian Schar (2nd L), Stephan Lichtsteiner (2nd R) and Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argen
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

So what can Switzerland take forward from Brazil?

If the team is broken down, individually, the Swiss carry some of the brightest young talent in Europe.

While the likes of Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami anchor the team and were imperious against Argentina, elsewhere there is youth and a surprising amount of attacking ability.

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JULY 01:  Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland is challenged by Angel di Maria (L) and Jose Maria Basanta of Argentina  during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Round of 16 match between Argentina and Switzerland at Arena de Sao Paulo on July 1
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Six of Switzerland's 11 starters against Argentina were 23 or under and most of those six offer their best work in the final third.

Ricardo Rodriguez has enhanced his reputation as one of Europe's leading young left-backs. Xherdan Shaqiri was another to shine, while Granit Xhaka, Josip Drmic, Fabian Schar and Admir Mehmedi have each shown flashes of their potential in Brazil.

Haris Seferovic is yet another of the nation's young talents who emerged from the bench against Argentina.

What is now a priority is finding a style and mentality to suit these players.

This means the Swiss must undergo a transition, moving away from a defensive ethos towards a more adventurous, attacking philosophy—something that has already burned them once in this tournament, in their 5-2 defeat to France.

MANAUS, BRAZIL - JUNE 25:  Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland (L) celebrates  scoring  his team's third goal and completes his hat trick during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between Honduras and Switzerland at Arena Amazonia on June 25, 2014 in
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In that match, they were perhaps too bold, with both full-backs flying forward and midfielders straying too far from their man. France simply picked up possession and found themselves with regular overloads in the final third.

With Ottmar Hitzfeld on the way out, this conversion is Vladimir Petkovic's primary task over the next two years.

With such attacking potential beginning to ripen, Euro 2016 offers a chance to be the aggressor—not a term often associated with Swiss sides of the past.

Rodriguez must be given a licence to attack, while Shaqiri and Drmic must have more options to combine with further up the pitch. Finding a central role for Xhaka—more or less wasted on the right in Brazilis also key.

If Petkovic succeeds, Switzerland should arrive at Euro 2016 as a genuine dark horse, capable of upsetting any nation on their day.

 

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