1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1994, 2006 and 2010.
Getty ImagesHarold Cunningham
Key player: Gokhan Inler (Napoli)
The son of foreign-born immigrant parents, like many other players on this Swiss team are – in his case Turkish – Inler was a late bloomer who has flourished in Serie A in his late 20s. The central midfielder is strong on the ball, helpful defensively and has an uncanny precision on his long shots, from which he scores much. He is Switzerland’s captain and their engine.
Getty ImagesHarold Cunningham
There was a time when the Swiss had a good track record at the World Cup. Unfortunately for them, all of that pretty much went away after 1954. In 1934, 1938 and 1954 they reached the quarterfinals, but they haven’t been competitive on the world stage since. In five appearances starting in 1962, they’ve survived the group stage only twice, going home after the next game each other time.
Getty ImagesDavid Cannon
In an attempt to maximize whatever potential their small population of 8 million people held, Switzerland deployed a plan a few years ago in hopes of ensuring that no young talent would suffer from poor coaching or lag in development. So the federation created a scheme whereby every soccer coach in the country – every last one of them – had to attend a rigorous course that would teach them proper training methods and best practices. So if you were a father looking to coach your 8-year-old son and his pals, you would be subjected to professional-level instruction. A close eye was kept on all players showing any potential at all, to make sure that none would fall through the many cracks that snake through the road to the national team. Dividends were yielded quickly, as Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Haris Sefirovic and Josip Drmic – all of them 21 or 22 – have made promising starts to their professional and Swiss national team careers.
Action Images / ReutersVALENTIN FLAURAUD
How they got here
Courtesy of a highly advantageous draw for their qualifying group, the Swiss faced no greater foe than Iceland on their road to Brazil. They took full advantage and went undefeated. They racked up so many wins, in fact, that they catapulted into the top-8 of the FIFA World Rankings. That gives them a seed for the World Cup, helping them avoid most all the really dangerous teams.
Action Images / ReutersMICHAEL BUHOLZER
Peachy. More good fortune for the Swiss, who drew a soft Group E with France, Ecuador and Honduras. That should put them in a fight with Ecuador for the second spot in the round of 16, assuming France don’t succumb to a mutiny again, like they did in 2010.
AFP/Getty ImagesNELSON ALMEIDA
Round of 16 prospects
Manageable. Yet again, the Swiss lucked out. Group E will take on Group F, made up of Argentina, Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia & Herzegovina. If they can make it so that they don’t have to play Argentina, any other opponent would make for quite a doable task.
Action Images / ReutersARND WIEGMANN
Switzerland are the owners of a pair of unlikely distinctions. Firstly, they actually lost a competitive game to Luxembourg in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Secondly, they beat Spain in their opening game of that tournament, stealing a 1-0 upset. It didn’t do them any good, going out of the tournament in three quick games anyway. This isn’t a great team by any means, although it has some good talent in young midfielders Shaqiri and Xhaka, but fate continues to shine on them, and with a few lucky bounces, they could make a surprise run to the quarterfinals.