Few surprises in Swiss 2014 FIFA World Cup squad
Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld on Tuesday unveiled his squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil, with his 23-man list tallying with pundits' forecasts
Zurich: Switzerland manager Ottmar Hitzfeld on Tuesday unveiled his squad for the World Cup finals in Brazil, with his 23-man list tallying with pundits' forecasts.
The German veteran, due to wind up his management career after the tournament, stuck to the strategy of mixing experience and youth that helped put the Swiss among the top seeds for the World Cup.
"Our target is to reach the last 16 so that we're in position to pull off a surprise," the former Bayern Munich boss told reporters.
Hitzfeld's squad, unbeaten during their World Cup qualifiers, hails mainly from the German, Italian and Swiss top flights.
Among his biggest names from the Bundesliga are stalwart goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, of Wolfsburg, and young star marksman Xherdan Shaqiri, of Bayern Munich.
From Serie A, meanwhile, Hitzfeld tapped a trio of Napoli midfielders, Valon Behrami, Blerim Dzemaili and Goekhan Inler.
There were two notable absences on his list, however.
Bayer Leverkusen striker Eren Derdiyok had been widely expected to pay the price for his lack of Bundesliga action.
But the failure to call up midfielder Pajtim Kasami, of freshly relegated English club Fulham, was a surprise given his solid performance during the World Cup qualifiers, his Switzerland debut.
Both Derdiyok and Kasami fell foul of Hitzfeld's decision to pick two players for each position.
They nonetheless remain on his seven-man reserve list ready to jump in if any of the main picks are injured before the June 2 deadline to provide FIFA with the definitive World Cup squad.
Hitzfeld's decision to have two options per position reopened the door to the squad for defender Reto Ziegler, of Italian club Sassuolo, set to be the alternative option for Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez on the left wing.
Switzerland are top seeds in Group E, which also includes France, Honduras and Ecuador.
They open their World Cup campaign against Ecuador on June 15 in Brasilia's Estadio Nacional, before facing France on June 20 and Honduras on June 25.
Before travelling to Brazil, they have inked in two friendlies at home, taking on Jamaica on May 30 and Peru on June 3.
Reaching the last 16 would erase Switzerland's bad memories of 2010 in South Africa, under the previous generation of players of whom striker Alex Frei was the talisman.
They were the only team to claim the scalp of eventual champions Spain, beating them 1-0 in their opening game, but exited in the group stage after losing 1-0 to Chile and drawing 0-0 with Honduras.
"If I tell you that the team's better than four years ago, everyone's going to expect us to make it to the last 16. I'm an optimistic sort, and I reckon we are better," said Hitzfeld.
"We have more creative players, more cohesion, a better team spirit. The team is united on and off the pitch. We have all the pieces needed for success," he added.
In Germany in 2006 under his predecessor, Swiss icon Koebi Kuhn, Switzerland finished top of their group, ahead of eventual semi-finalists France, plus South Korea and Togo, but were knocked out on penalties by Ukraine in the next round.
Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg/GER), Roman Buerki (Grasshopper), Yann Sommer (Basel)
Defenders: Johan Djourou (Hamburg/GER), Michael Lang (Grasshopper), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus/ITA), Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Fabian Schaer (Basel), Philippe Senderos (Valencia/ESP), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), Reto Ziegler (Sassuolo/ITA)
Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli), Gelson Fernandes (Freiburg/GER), Goekhan Inler (Napoli), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich/GER), Valentin Stocker (Basel)
Forwards: Josip Drmic (Nuremberg/GER), Mario Gavranovic (Zurich), Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg), Haris Seferovic (Real Sociedad/ESP), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER)
Goalkeeper: Marwin Hitz (Augsburg/GER)
Defenders: Timm Klose (Wolfsburg), Silvan Widmer (Udinese/ITA)
Midfielders and forwards: Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen/GER), Fabian Frei (Basel), Pajtim Kasami (Fulham/ENG), Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt)