Switzerland

Schweiz / Suisse / Svizzera / Helvetia / Switzerland

  • Capital: Bern / Berne / Berna
  • Official Languages: German, French, Italian
  • Recognised Languages: Romansh
  • Nicknames: A-Team; Nati (National Team); Rossocrociati (Red Crosses)
  • Association: Schweizerischer Fussballverband / Association Suisse de Football / Associazione Svizzera di Football/Calcio / Associaziun Svizra da Ballape (ASF-SFV)
  • FIFA Code: SUI

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Quarter Finals (1934, 1938, 1954)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Round of 16 (2015)
  • Best Euros Result (Men): Round of 16 (2016)
  • Best Euros Result (Women): Group Stage (2017)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 3rd (August 1993)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 15th (June 2016)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 83rd (December 1998)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 31st (March 2007)
  • Most Capped Player: Martina Moser – 129 caps [as of Jan 2021]
  • Top Scorer: Ana-Maria Crnogorčević – 60 goals [as of Jan 2021]

The Confoederatio Helvetica, officially known as the Swiss Confederation or more commonly referred to as Switzerland have a very long and important role in world football. The Lausanne Football & Cricket Club were the first football club to be founded outside of the United Kingdom, founded by English students in 1860. The Swiss were also some of the early pioneers of promoting football in Europe, as well as to other continents, with such clubs like Barcelona, Internazionale Milano, and many other clubs having Swiss founders. They were also founding members of both FIFA and UEFA, with both football organisations having their headquarters within the country (at Zürich and Nyon respectively), making Switzerland the centre of the modern game.

The Swiss teams were regular qualifiers for the early editions of the World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals on three occasions and even hosting the 1954 World Cup. However after the 1966 World Cup (their sixth appearance), the country would have to wait until USA ’94 before reappearing at international football’s greatest tournament once again. Today the men’s team are regular qualifiers in both European Championships and World Cup, with the fortunes of the women’s team also improving and appearing in their first major tournaments also. Despite not having any bone fide “world class players” currently, the Swiss teams continuously produced excellent and talented players, resulting in their teams being continuously highly positioned in the FIFA rankings.

To talk about one of the most historic and important nations in international football, we interviewed the knowledgeable and excellent Craig King. As well as being an assistant researcher for the Football Manager series, he created and runs the first (and only) English-language account that is completely dedicated to everything involving Swiss football, called FootballSwissEN. Whether it be news about the national teams, Swiss players playing around Europe, or the excellent Swiss Super League, everything involving Swiss football is covered by Craig. To find his social media accounts, follow the links below:

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Managers

It is difficult to place one manager ahead of the rest and say they are the best of all-time just because Switzerland’s story is complicated and a handful of managers have contributed so much in their respective spells at the helm to really help shape Switzerland into the team it is now. We had the trio of Teddy Duckworth and Jimmy Hogan (two Brits) alongside the Hungarian, Izidor Kurschner. They were the first “proper” managers of the national team and led the side to a silver medal at the 1924 Olympics.

Henrich Muller, as part of the Technical Commission (who often led the national side), led the team to the 1934 World Cup after a fluke qualification with Romania fielding an ineligible player. He then guided the side, as the sole manager at the tournament, to the quarter-final stage. It was a feat replicated by Karl Rappan. He was a man that was in charge for four different spells and reached the QF in 1938 and 1954, and participation in 1950 and 1962.

Roy Hodgson

That being said, I don’t think anyone did more for the national side than Roy Hodgson. He had managed in Switzerland with Neuchatel Xamax and turned around a stagnating side that hadn’t really done anything for twenty-eight years. He revolutionised the way everything was done on and off the pitch and brought knowledge into the Swiss game that simply hadn’t existed. The surprise qualification for the 1994 World Cup opened doors for Swiss players in Europe and he led the team to two successive tournaments (USA ’94 and Euro ’96).

Jacob “Kubi” Kuhn improved the team again after a few years of poor performances. He was a legendary figure in Swiss football and led the side to three tournaments in a single tenure, a feat matched only by current boss Vladimir Petković. His impact can’t be ignored, he ensured the side kept their upward trajectory that Hodgson had put them on and since qualification for EURO 2004, Switzerland have missed out on only one tournament.

Then we come to Ottmar Hitzfeld. He is fondly remembered as Swiss manager although the 1-0 victory over Spain at the 2010 World Cup is a huge reason for that. He also led the side to the 2014 World Cup with an unbeaten group stage and there was the sense at the time that the national team could beat anyone. They reached the Last 16 of the tournament and were very unlucky to be eliminated by Argentina 0-1 after extra time.

Vladimir Petković

And the current boss, Vladimir Petković, he has the second-most points-per-game of any national team manager after Duckworth, Hogan and Kurschner. There is no question he has guided the side to an extremely successful period. They have qualified for every tournament they could have so far, reached the Last 16 of the 2018 World Cup and 2016 European Championships, and are participants again in 2021. There are mixed opinions on him at times but he has undoubtedly brought success.

I’ve changed my answer several times but I’d go with Hodgson. I think he was simply the most important and his groundwork laid the foundation for what has come since. As a fan, Hitzfeld’s run was probably the most enjoyable. Petković deserves much credit too though.

On the women’s side, it is a lot more simple. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg has changed women’s football in Switzerland dramatically. It is constantly growing and while women’s football in the country has been late at developing, it is stronger than it ever has been and only getting stronger. She led the side to their first ever major tournaments in 2015 and 2017 and were unlucky not to reach the 2019 World Cup too. There are more people that ever interested in Swiss women’s football across the board, and I have no doubt that there will be several names competing for the honour of best-ever manager in the future as there is so much potential in the side and women’s football in the country now.

Players

Several options. Ciriaco Sforza and of course, Hakan Yakin, were two of the most talented players to ever play for the national team. Stephane Chapuisat is regarded highly too.

I’d also mention Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka. Both are incredibly crucial to the national team and are making their mark in Europe too. I also believe in time that Yann Sommer could be regarded as one of the best to have played. Heinz Hermann deserves a mention too simply for his longevity as the most-capped player.

Alexander Frei

I’d have to go with Alexander Frei though. He is the player I remember growing up and when he was just such a great goalscorer in Europe and for FC Basel. He remains the top scorer for the men’s national team too with 42 goals.

I’m going to go with Lara Dickenmann on the women’s side. She is perhaps the most successful women’s player in our history. A multiple-time French champion and two-time European champion. She was at the top for appearances in the national team although her retirement meant her record was overtaken. Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic can be held highly in regard too. Ramona Bachmann is in the discussion also.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Gelson Fernandes is one for me. Not everyone will agree but his goal versus Spain in 2010 will be forever remembered.

I asked Mama Sykora, the Swiss Journalist of the Year for 2020 and editor of ZWÖLF magazine on this question and he presented me with some interesting options. Here is what he said:

The most important year for Swiss football was 1994. Switzerland qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1966. Before this World Cup football has not played an important part in Swiss culture. Therefore a «cult hero» has to be a member of this team.

Alain Sutter

Stéphane Chapuisat was the biggest star back then, plus he was the first to play a major role in the much admired Bundesliga. He was extremely popular at that time, although he was terribly boring. More «cult» was Alain Sutter. His football was a joy to watch, he had long hair and was something between a rebel and a spiritual guy. Everybody in the country knew who he was, even the ones who didn’t care about football. Sutter always stated his opinion openly even if he got into trouble because of this (i.e. when Bayern boss Uli Hoeneß wanted him to eat sausages although he was vegetarian or when he started the protest of the national team against France’s nuclear tests in 1995). So for me: the Swiss cult hero must be Alain Sutter.

Köbi Kuhn would also be an option, but Switzerland was so bad during his career that he can not be an option. And Fritz Künzli was more of a pop star (he was married to a famous Swiss singer and Playboy model) than a cult hero, and he the national team was even worse during his time.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Swiss national side currently?

Granit Xhaka

I’m going to go with Granit Xhaka. I think everyone would expect Xherdan Shaqiri to be the answer but I think Xhaka is more crucial to the team. I distinctly remember the 3-3 game with Denmark in World Cup 2018 qualification. Xhaka went off and the game was drawn 3-3. He gets criticised often at Arsenal but he is usually always excellent for the national team.

While far from ideal, the team has coped without Shaqiri in the past. Yann Sommer is in my top three. I think he is mostly underappreciated and is in the top 10 goalkeepers in the world.

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

Frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, it is good… very good but also frustrating. The progress of the team is exceptional and to qualify for three major tournaments in a row is outstanding but there is the small feeling of “what could’ve been” in some scenarios.

Some examples of this are: Poland at the 2016 European Championships. Switzerland qualified from their group, were paired with Poland, came back with a simply stunning equaliser from Shaqiri and were then beaten on penalties. Unfortunate, but for me a missed opportunity. The 2018 World Cup is another one. Switzerland were paired with Sweden and lost 1-0 after a pretty lacklustre performance. These were similar sides that presented Switzerland a real chance of progressing further than ever before and they didn’t take advantage. We have no divine right to beat anyone but these were huge opportunities, especially at the World Cup when the route to the final was avoiding the big guns, England aside.

But, it is highly encouraging also. We have a good number of players coming through that are very exciting and it bodes well for the future of the team. I think the team is one consistent goal-scoring striker away from being a force or a dark horse at any tournament. I genuinely believe on our day, we can beat anyone.

Q. Are there any Swiss players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Andi Zeqiri

Several. Which is exciting. Andi Zeqiri recently signed for Brighton & Hove Albion after a goal-laden campaign with Lausanne that helped get them promoted, and has been scoring plenty of goals in the U21 qualifying section for Switzerland. There was a tug-of-war with Kosovo it seemed but he is set to play for the main team and will be a huge asset. Cedric Itten is at Rangers now after a stellar season in St. Gallen. He has already scored a couple for the national team and will be important going forward if he can continue his development.

Bastien Toma will come through the U21 ranks. Ruben Vargas and Noah Okafor (the first player born in 2000 to play for the national team) are two of the more exciting talents in Europe and now play for Augsburg and Red Bull Salzburg respectively. Jordan Lotomba is at OGC Nice after a move from Young Boys last season. Kastriot Imeri, Dan Ndoye and Kevin Ruegg are names to watch out with the latter two at Nice and Hellas Verona for this season. There is plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Q. Looking at Switzerland’s long international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

Two stick out to me and you can probably guess what they are. The 1-0 versus Spain wasn’t really significant when everything is assessed overall. Switzerland failed to get out of the group and Spain won the thing anyway but it was such a memorable moment for the national team. Everyone expected us to get beat by a Spain side that was the dominant force on the international scene. After that defeat, they’d go on unbeaten in their next twenty-nine competitive fixtures before defeat to Brazil. In 2010, to go and beat such a side, was incredible.

The other is the 5-2 win versus Belgium in Luzern in 2018. We had already competed and lost narrowly to Belgium in Brussels but we could only go level on points with them if we won on this night. We had to win 1-0, 2-1 or by two clear goals. Belgium led 2-0 after just seventeen minutes. It is what makes what transpired next so extraordinary. An amazing comeback with three goals before half-time. Nico Elvedi scored the crucial fourth (he was at fault for the second goal) and then Haris Seferović rounded off the most unlikely hat-trick in the second half. The spirit of the team was huge to mount such a comeback and achieving qualification against the odds really surprised everyone in Europe, I think. Belgium were ranked as the best in the world and are one of the best, of course.

Also, to be one of only four nations at a major tournament in the summer with all eyes on them was another massive progression.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

Without doubt, the 2-1 home defeat in qualifying to Luxembourg in 2008. They are an improving nation but back then, they were 121st in the FIFA World Rankings and to really put the result into context: Luxembourg had won only two of their previous ninety-nine matches before they travelled to play Switzerland that day. They had beaten Belarus in qualifying away from home in 2007 and also in that year they were 2-1 winners at home verus The Gambia in a friendly match.

Luxembourg led after a Jeff Strasser free-kick. Brice Nkufo levelled just before the break to ease the nerves but an improved performance didn’t come and the Swiss defence were caught out by another Strasser free-kick. This time, he played it low past the defence to Alphonse Leweck for the biggest victory in their history. The defending was poor but the overall performance was worse. It was a really awful result. We still qualified and that was our only defeat but, yes, it was a really embarrassing one.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Swiss national team?

The best thing in the last seven or so years I have been following the team is the improvement they have made. The players that have come through and the achievements that they have managed. It is a team that brings everyone together too. They aren’t one of the elite sides, but when you have your moments like beating Belgium or Spain, it is truly a great feeling that you can compete and still beat the very best.

The worst part is the missed opportunities. I still think the team is so full of potential and it is really disappointing in instances like the defeat to Poland or Sweden. Even the latest UEFA Nations League campaign. Switzerland played very well against Spain and especially Germany. They should’ve won at least one of those games but they just lacked the ‘killer instinct’ and that is consistent and can often hold us back. I hope this is something that is found as it remains the only thing stopping Switzerland being a force, in my opinion.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

The only one I can think of was the Breel Embolo song to the tune of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight‘ at EURO 2016.

There are probably so many different ones due to the different languages spoken across the country though.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

There are more than a few that I really like but this one is my favourite. The early 90’s kits were classic too.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Swiss national team?

To really capitalise on the work that has been done over the last ten years and beyond. I think so much good has been done and progress has been made. To have made it into the last four consecutive World Cup tournaments and reached the Last 16 in three of those four tournaments, and also to achieve a Last 16 place at the EUROS for the first time is amazing, but I would really like to see us go that one step further and continue to progress. As I said, I think there has been missed opportunities and I think this current crop of players would be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t manage to take that next step soon given how much they’ve accomplished.

I’d like us to find that ‘killer instinct’ that would make us a genuine threat to anyone at the major tournaments too. We lack ruthlessness at times and a potent striker would help that. We have options coming through which is encouraging. But most importantly, I’d like us to maintain what we are doing too. It isn’t an option for the national team to start failing again and while there is no signs of that, we can’t be complacent. We have established ourselves as a top 10 team in the world, we are someone that no one would like to draw and have proven we can hang with the best nations around. We need to keep that up too.

A major trophy is out of reach, it would be mind-blowing to do that, but I don’t there is any reason why the team can’t be involved in quarter-finals or semi-finals if the draw is fortunate, and they find some of those attributes that I mentioned were lacking.

A massive engraziel fetg to Craig of FootballSwissEN for answering our questions on the die Nati. Remember you can find his excellent accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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