At the World Cup, Switzerland earned the distinction of being the only side able to score a goal against tournament winners Spain – although perhaps Gelson Fernandes’ shot should have been ruled out due to a foul. Maybe Swiss supporters allowed their expectations to soar too high after that win, as missing qualification for the last 16 was widely viewed as a failure in the Alpine country. And the result which placed the most criticism on the team was, understandably, Switzerland’s 0-0 draw with the weakest side in the group, Honduras.
However, now is the time for the Nati to forget about South Africa and stop regretting a missed opportunity. The country’s Super League is set to begin at the end of the week, and then on the 11th August the national team will return to action, taking part in a friendly against Austria in Klagenfurt. On 3rd September, Switzerland will line up against Australia at St. Gallen’s AFG Arena, before beginning their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign just four days later, against England. Hosting the English in Basel, who also have something to prove after the World Cup, will be tough. The Swiss also have Bulgaria, Wales and Montenegro in Group G.
Switzerland have though, been handed a boost. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was widely linked with taking over the German national team, but Joachim Loew extended his contract, leaving the former Bayern Munich boss with more energy than ever to lead the Swiss to Euro 2012 – that’s the plan at least.
Having become a real power in youth football, winning the 2002 Under-17 European Championship and the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, the Alpine country must now introduce a breath of fresh air into the senior side. Hitzfeld could well be the right man to bring this talent-growing process to fruition, trying hard to find the perfect balance between old heads and up and coming youngsters.
While none of the 23-man party which travelled to South Africa have announced their intention to quit the national team it is, nevertheless, difficult to see a future in the red jersey for so many players over 30. Particularly at risk must be Blaise Nkufo, Hakan Yakin, Ludovic Magnin, Stephane Grichting and Benjamin Huggel.
Hitzfeld will no doubt be encouraged by the youngsters queuing up to stake a claim for a spot in his starting eleven. 18-year-old defender/midfielder Xherdan Shaquiri – amongst the five youngest players at the 2010 World Cup; midfielders Xavier Hochstrasser, Blerim Dzemaili, Fabian Lustenberger and Valentin Stocker; number 10 Moreno Costanzo; and striker Nassim Ben Khalifa, winner of the Silver Ball awarded to the second best player at the FIFA 2009 Youth Championship.
It would be wrong though to believe that Hitzfeld will throw the baby out with the bathwater however, and the 61-year-old will count on a number of existing stars to help him build a new Swiss team. Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio enhanced his reputation in South Africa with some excellent showings, while defender Philippe Senderos – if he can stay injury-free – has another chance, this time with Fulham, to prove Arsene Wenger wasn’t wrong to pay Servette £3M for his services in 2002. Hard-worker Gokhan Inler is another in good shape, adding to the midfield, and striker Eren Derdiyok, despite being just 22, is a raw diamond who has shown he has the quality to shine on the international stage.
"One thing is certain", said Peter Knäbel, Switzerland’s technical director, "we must improve, but there will not be any revolution. According to the international press and pundits, we have one of the best youth systems in the world, but some people here in Switzerland criticise it. The reason? A goalless and – I admit – disappointing draw against Honduras. It’s unbelievable. I know we can do better, especially addressing the lack of creativity in our play. however, we should never forget that for a small country like ours, strong organisation is vital. Radical changes are unecessary and even dangerous."
Indeed, for Switzerland the next 18 months will be about finding the correct balance between new and old, between change and more of the same. If they can succeed then the future will continue to be bright.
Fonte: Inside Futbol