Reinvented Switzerland look to Frei as they target last 16
Switzerland have the dubious honour of being the only team to have been knocked out of a World Cup without conceding a goal, after exiting on penalties in 2006.
At the heart of the defence looking to replicate the meanness they displayed in Germany four years ago will be new Fulham signing Philippe Senderos.
Senderos has moved to Craven Cottage on a free transfer after seven years with Arsenal, and he will be an important figure at centre-back.
In attack, much will depend on their record goalscorer, Alexander Frei, who has 40 goals from 73 international appearances.
Frei led the Swiss scoring charts with two goals at the 2006 World Cup, and the captain is a convincing 11/4 to be Switzerland’s top scorer in South Africa as well.
West Ham’s Valon Behrami, who commentators have a habit of calling the ‘Swiss David Beckham’, will be in charge of providing service to Frei from the right wing.
Manager Ottmar Hitzfeld has considerably improved the team’s image by dispelling the notion that Switzerland are a side bereft of goals, as they managed to find the net 18 times in qualifying.
Hitzfeld is also one of only three managers to win the Champions League with two different clubs, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
If Frei, Behrami and Bayer Leverkusen winger Tranquillo Barnetta perform to their full potential, Switzerland could surprise their Group H rivals, Spain, Chile and Honduras.
Spain are clear favourites to win the group but, with the second place up for grabs, the Swiss will be confident of reaching the last 16.
Should they qualify for the second round, Switzerland are likely to face Brazil, which would make very attractive their 2/1 odds of being eliminated in the round of 16.