Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Switzerland

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: Ninth overall, second consecutive
Last time there: 2006, lost in second round
Best performance: Quarterfinals (1934, 1938, 1954)

Neutrality jokes aside, Switzerland is an underdog for many reasons. They simply don't have the firepower to consistently compete with top-level opponents. They proved that in Euro 2008, and they won a weak qualifying group to get to South Africa.

In that group, they managed a draw with Israel and a home loss to Luxemburg before they started to put things together.

Because they don't often qualify for the World Cup (this will be their third trip since 1966), Switzerland is a relative unknown internationally.

If you're looking for someone to lead the charge in a surprise run, look no further than goalkeeper Diego Benaglio. He's a regular for the Swiss, and he gives them a good chance to stay in their matches.

Unfortunately, they're not as strong on defense as many others. Philippe Senderos and Stephane Grichting are not as good in central defense as Benaglio needs them to be.

It's too bad, really, because strikers Alex Frei and Blaise Nkufo are an intriguing duo, and midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta can dazzle in the open field.

While they can score, it doesn't seem likely that Switzerland will get the defensive help needed to avoid being dominated in possession. It promises to be a tough road for the Swiss.

June 16 vs. Spain (Durban)
June 21 vs. Chile (Port Elizabeth)
June 25 vs. Honduras (Bloemfontein)

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