• Switzerland's news in English

Swiss seek fond farewell for 'Gottmar' Hitzfeld

Jonathan Fowler/AFP · 15 May 2014, 11:23

Published: 15 May 2014 11:23 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

In their third consecutive World Cup, the "Nati" are out to prove that their seventh place in FIFA's global rankings is not a statistical fluke.
The 65-year-old German Hitzfeld has set his sights on at least clearing Group E, where Switzerland face France, Ecuador and Honduras.
Reaching the last 16 would erase Switzerland's bad memories of 2010 in South Africa.
They were the only team to beat eventual champions Spain, winning 1-0 in their opening game, but then lost 1-0 to Chile and drew 0-0 with Honduras and so failed to reach the knockout stage.
That was a blow after their showing in Germany in 2006 under Hitzfeld's predecessor, Swiss icon Köbi Kuhn.
There, they finished top of their group, ahead of France, South Korea and Togo, but were knocked out on penalties by Ukraine in the next round.
Former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich boss Hitzfeld has said the looming tournament will bring down the curtain on his three-decade coaching career.
Though his star fell after his failure to reach the 2012 European Championships, Hitzfeld rebounded and is now nicknamed "Gottmar" -- a play on the German for God.
Football is rivalled only by ice hockey and skiing as the Alpine country's top spectator sport.
Average crowds of 11,000 per match are small compared to many European leagues, but multiple Swiss champions and 2013 Europa League semi-finalists FC Basel pull in 28,000.
The country of 8.1 million also punches above its weight for players fed into the leagues of Germany, Italy, England and Spain.
Like Kuhn, Hitzfeld has tapped Switzerland's admired youth system, drawing the highly-rated squad that won the 2009 Under-17 World Cup -- Switzerland's only international trophy.
Among them are 22-year-old Haris Seferovic, at Real Sociedad, plus 21-year-olds Granit Xhaka of Borussia Monchengladbach and Pajtim Kasami of Fulham.
Like 22-year-old Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri, the players are the Swiss version of the "rainbow" teams in Europe that have been reinvigorated by migrants
They are part of a Balkan migrant community which emerged when seasonal workers came from the former Yugoslavia in the 1970s and which expanded when Switzerland admitted refugees from the region's wars of the 1990s.
Fittingly, Hitzfeld's chosen successor, Lazio manager Vladimir Petkovic, is Yugoslav-born but spent much of his career in Italian-speaking Switzerland.
On the footballing front, the omens for Brazil are mixed, however.
A 16-match unbeaten streak -- including surprise defeats of Germany and Brazil in friendlies -- ended in November when they lost 2-1 in South Korea.
Nor was their World Cup qualifying run the toughest, with opponents in the shape of Albania, Cyprus, Iceland, Norway and Slovenia.
The Swiss came top despite being held to draws by Cyprus and Iceland -- who provided a stern lesson by clawing back from 4-1 down to level at 4-4.
To fine-tune their skills for Brazil, they set up home friendlies against Croatia, with whom they drew 2-2 in March, Jamaica in May and Peru two weeks before their opening World Cup match against Ecuador on June 15th.

Jonathan Fowler/AFP (news@thelocal.ch )

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Inside Switzerland’s largest nuclear bunker – 40 years on
Designed to house 20,000 people, the bunker was built in and over two motorway tunnels. Photo: Unterirdisch Ueberleben

The Local takes a tour of the Sonnenberg bunker in Lucerne, opened 40 years ago at the height of the Cold War.

Ten Swiss ski resorts named most expensive in Europe
File photo: Renato Bagattini/Swiss Tourism

Skiers in Switzerland pay the highest prices for their ski passes of anywhere in Europe, according to research.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

Wind turbines are “gigantic and destructive” machines, says Paysage Libre Suisse.

Vegan wins battle to be accepted by Swiss army
Antoni Da Campo will now carry out his military service. Photo: Antoni Da Campo

A Swiss man who was told he would not be accepted for military service because of his strict veganism has finally succeeded in making the army change its mind.

Geneva terror suspects to receive compensation
File photo: Emran Kassim

The Swiss public prosecutor has dropped the case against them.

Ticino firefighters rescue cow from swimming pool
File photo: The Local

The cow was at risk of drowning after falling into the private pool.

Uefa Champions League
Basel 'ready for battle' in Champions League clash
Basel training in Paris. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Swiss champions Basel fancy their chances of springing a surprise when they face Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Burst pipe causes major flood in Lausanne
The water flooded Place de la Riponne in Lausanne. File photo: Swiss Tourism/Christof Schuerpf

Water rushed down the streets after a pipe burst in the city centre.

Outcry after ‘neo-Nazi’ music festival held on Swiss soil
The village of Unterwasser was the tranquil location for the festival. Photo: Swiss Tourism

Should police have intervened?

Seven things you’ll miss about Switzerland if you leave
Switzerland: what's not to miss? Photo: Christian Perret/Swiss Tourim

Former expats in Switzerland tell The Local what they miss about living here.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: Richard Juilliard/AFP
Man makes Geneva airport bomb threat ‘for a joke’
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Solar Impulse team reveals plans for unmanned plane
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Swiss to vote on passport rules for 3rd gen foreigners
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Photo: AFP
Swiss wingsuit hotspot Lauterbrunnen won’t impose ban
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Six reasons Switzerland isn’t as boring as you might think
Photo: Swiss Tourism
Report: Switzerland one of world’s best places for girls
Photo: The Local
Thief returns Swiss cow bells worth thousands
File photo: Wikimedia Commons
One in three rapists isn’t locked up: statistics
Photo: activistin.ch
Tampon-tax protest turns Zurich fountains red
Photo: AFP
Geneva police to lift ban on bearded officers
Photo: Marcel Gillieron/AFP
Suicide chef’s restaurant keeps Michelin stars
Photo: Lara de Salis
11 things the Swiss get tired of hearing abroad
Photo:  Ivo Scholz/Swiss-image.ch
Survey: expats in Switzerland have money but few friends
Photo: AFP
Swiss press criticize Bern’s 'capitulation' on immigration
Photo: Jura Trois Lacs tourism
German ex-policeman is Swiss city’s new hermit
Photo: Dmitry A. Mottl
Ticino votes to favour local workers over foreigners
Photo: file
Some deodorants could cause breast cancer: Swiss study
Photo: Royal Savoy
In pictures: Inside the latest Swiss luxury hotel
Photo: AFP
Geneva airport bomb hoaxer faces 90,000-franc bill
Photo: Schaffhausen police
Mother leaves toddler son alone in car to go clubbing
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Swiss populist attacked by knife-wielding pensioner
Photo: File
Bern argues over passports for 3rd generation foreigners
Photo: Broad Bean Media
Muslim pupils must shake hands – ‘no ifs and buts’
jobs available