Connect to share and comment

Switzerland World Cup team brings a multicultural face to South Africa

Although Switzerland is struggling with xenophobia it will bring a diverse, if not outstanding, team to the Cup.

Switzerland fans cheer before a World Cup 2006 match against Ukraine in Cologne, Germany, on June 26. (Pascal Lauener/Reuters)

Switzerland World Cup Team Statistics: Group H

World Ranking: 24

World Cup 2010 results: 1-1-0

Total goals scored: 1

Total goals scored against: 1

Switzerland World Cup Schedule: June 16 - Spain (1-0 win); June 21 - Chile (0-1 loss); June 25 - Honduras.

Switzerland World Cup Soccer 2010

Like many European countries, Switzerland is engaged in a culture clash with Islam — and culture certainly seems to be the loser. A national referendum resulted in a ban on the construction of minarets, unveiling a strong current of xenophobia in a country better known for its civil discourse.

The soccer team has provided a successful counterpoint to the perils of diversity and, some say, to the stigma of bigotry that has unsettled the country. Swiss laws are rather generous when it comes to dual citizenships and the soccer team has capitalized by integrating players from the Balkans, Turkey and Africa into its lineup. Nobody can quarrel with the result as the team won its qualification group, losing only one of ten games.

Read all of GlobalPost's World Cup 2010 coverage

While the Swiss may find comfort in that more generous view of their tolerance, many will surely wonder how they can so readily embrace Muslim players on foreign passports while voting for nationalist, conservative parties that sometimes appear anxious to boot those kind of folks out of Switzerland.

Switzerland World Cup History: South Africa will be the eighth Cup appearance for the Swiss, but they haven’t contended since they reached the quarterfinals on home turf in 1954. The team did reach the second round four years ago.

Take GlobalPost's World Cup quiz.

Switzerland World Cup Conventional Wisdom: The Swiss have a very clear, even precise, sense of how they will fare in South Africa. They will be disappointed if they don’t reach the second round and surprised if they go any further. Certainly Switzerland will be hard-pressed to contain Spain, but should handle less formidable Chile and Honduras. Then again, don’t put that in the bank; in qualifying Switzerland somehow managed to lose at home to Luxembourg.

Switzerland World Cup Team Coach: Omar Hitzfield

Never known as a master tactician or praised for his psychological acuity, the German-born Hitzfeld has only one distinction: he wins. He was World Coach of the Year twice and his 18 titles, with Swiss and German teams, make him the most accomplished German coach in history. The Swiss have fully embraced Hitzfeld — that he grew up near the border and has a handle on the Swiss-German dialect helped — and have even made him an honorary citizen.

Switzerland World Cup Team Strength: The Swiss midfield is well stocked on both the offensive and defensive sides, replete with players who command leading roles in the German, Italian and French leagues.

Switzerland World Cup Team Weakness: The defense has a reputation for playing soft and a problem connecting — in a creative and constructive fashion — with the front-line attack.

Switzerland World Cup Key Player: Alexander Frei

The crowd in Basel, Switzerland, watched in stunned silence as — in the first half of their opening game of Euro 2008 — Frei, their team captain, went down with knee injury. Frei unabashedly wept as he was helped off the field and Swiss fans should have wept too. Without their offensive sparkplug, the team’s all-time scoring leader, the Swiss crumpled en route to a first-round exit. At 30, Frei is still the emotional heart of the team. And he remains an opportunistic scorer, capable of poaching a timely goal.

 


 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/switzerland-world-cup