Despite England’s World Cup flop and pressure mounting on coach Fabio Capello, Switzerland expects a high-class test when the teams meet in a European Championship qualifier next week.
The sides play in Basel next Tuesday, four days after Switzerland has a home friendly against Australia, and England starts its Euro 2012 program at home to Bulgaria.
"England is going to be back, I’m sure of it. Their quality is there," Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
"(England) just need to start well and then they’re going to do it," said Fernandes, who knows his likely opponents well from two seasons playing for Manchester City. "But it’s tough because we’re in the same group."
Swiss midfield linchpin Gokhan Inler said he had heard reports some fans and media in England are unhappy with Capello, and understood if people might think it is a good time to play them.
"That’s true, but Capello is a good coach and they have good players. I know England is a tough team. They want to win against us," Inler said.
Reports in England suggest that, after poor form in South Africa led to a second-round exit at the World Cup, Capello’s job could be at risk if the qualifying campaign begins badly. Group G also includes Wales and Montenegro, with only the winner assured of going to the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
The veteran Italian began his England tenure with a 2-1 victory over the Swiss in a February 2008 friendly at Wembley.
"We had a good game there, and now the result counts and we’re happy to play against them," Inler said. "For us, it’s important not to lose. We want to make it difficult for them."
The 26-year-old Inler declined comment about his rumored deadline-day transfer from Udinese, with the Italian club reportedly insisting on a ?20 million ($25.4 million) fee. European champion Inter Milan, Liverpool and Wolfsburg have been linked with him.
Meanwhile, Fernandes completed his transfer to Italy on Monday, joining Chievo Verona on an initial one-year loan from French side St. Etienne.
"It’s good for me. The Italian league is very tactical, very defensive and I think I can learn a lot there," he said.
Though better known for his defense, the 23-year-old Fernandes was the only Swiss player to score in South Africa. Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side finished behind Spain and Chile in its group.
That goal in a shock 1-0 win over Spain is one of only four scored by Switzerland in its past nine games. Inler has two of them.
"I’m sure the goals will come. Don’t put pressure on the players and things are going to be all right," Fernandes said. "When you don’t concede a lot of goals, that means we’re not bad."
Fernandes expects the Swiss, like England, to carry no World Cup baggage into qualifying.
"For us, it’s a new start and we want to achieve something in this qualification," Fernandes said. "We’ve got a very good young team and that’s our strength. We’re excited."