To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.Now, the most unpredictably predictable nation/team in the world.
SwitzerlandGroup H THE BASICS
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Schweizer Nati (National team)
Red and White
•How They Got Here:
Finished on top of a fairly easy European qualifying group ahead of Greece
•World Cup Pedigree:
8 World Cups ('34, '38, '50, '54, '62, '66, '94, '06), advanced to the quarterfinals three times, knockout stage twiceTHE PLOT
Can the youngest team in the tournament figure out what it takes to qualify for the knockout stages? And, where will they find goals?THE DIRECTOR
The German-born Hitzfeld (who considers himself Swiss because he was born speaking Swiss German on the border between the two countries) is a fan of order and structure. He often chooses solid players over creative players. He is a very well-decorated coach, having led Bayern Munich to Champions League glory.LEADING MAN
The striker, who plays for FC Basel in Switzerland, is the all-time leading scorer in the nation's history (40 goals in 73 games). He's always dangerous and is recovering from an arm injury which might mean he needs a game or two to get back in stride. He needs to score for this team to move on. In typical Frei fashion, he's now taken a knock to his ankle and might miss the World Cup.SUPPORTING CAST
(forward, Seattle Sounders) was born in Zaire (and is 35), but he was in great form for FC Twente in Holland this season and will move to the MLS after the Cup;Gokhan Inler
(midfielder, Udinese - Italy) is an aggressive ball-winner who is dutiful but lacks creativity. ;Benjamin Huggel
(midfielder, FC Basel) will pull the strings in the midfield;Philippe Senderos
(defender, Fulham) recently left Arsenal for Fulham, is a large and agile defender who has shown great potential but has been fraught with injury;Diego Benaglio
(goalkeeper, Wolfsburg) is the world's best unknown keeper, having turned in two very fantastic years for Wolfsburg.LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR
Quite simply, a fantastic name. The 25-year-old Bayer Leverkusen winger is got great touch, excellent vision and is extraordinarily flexible (he can play all across the front line anywhere in the attacking third). A great Cup will push him toward a much bigger club in the near future.THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Senderos PRODUCTION NOTES
This is a stay-at-home team that will stay rigidly affixed to a 4-4-2. They will not lose their shape in defense, but this might be a huge hindrance in going forward and actually scoring. (In 2006, they became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated despite not conceding a goal (they went 2-1 in group play and lost on penalty kicks to the Ukraine in the second round).WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...
Both the movie and team are ridiculously predictable, which somehow doesn't distract from the entertainment value. (A deeper comparison? Frei = Nic Cage. He's a solid player that should never have become a leading man.)TRAILER
DO WHAT YOU WILL WITH THIS...
Switzerland leads the world in plastic surgery procedures per capita.CRITICAL BLURBS
They were the recipients of a rather easy qualifying group and they made it to the Cup with little difficulty. This doesn't mean they are going to be pushovers. They are young, organized and skilled. ... While anything more than a second-round berth is probably out of their reach, this is a team building toward the future. Specifically, Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup. ... Several unheralded Swiss players could be in line for a big name move with a great cup. Notably, Barnetta and Benaglio. ... You have to think they love the draw with creative-but-error-prone Honduras and punching-above-their-weight Chile. ...Best-case scenario?
Shocking the world and topping Spain in the group stages and lining up a completely winnable second-round game with Portugal. ...Realistic prediction?
Finishing behind Spain and fall to Brazil in the second round.POSSIBLE HOLLYWOOD MOMENT
This won't be a great moment in Swiss history, but not every Hollywood movie is filled with happy moments. It's gonna happen early in their first game on June 16. It might happen often. But Switzerland will allow a World Cup goal for the first time they've allowed a goal since the 1994 World Cup. As a true testament of their quality, and the fact that their first game is against Spain, the Swiss will recover to advance in their group. Thus proving that it's OK to allow goals.
Group A: South Africa
Group B: South Korea
Group C: Algeria
Group D: Serbia
Group E: Japan
Group F: New Zealand
Group G: North Korea
Group H: Honduras
, Chile, Switzerland, Spain
Sources: World Cup 2010 (by Steven D. Stark and Harrison Stark); ESPN and Soccernet.com; FIFA; CIA Factbook