Switzerland – @NCHammer1980
It will shock many people reading this to discover that Switzerland are currently ranked #8 in the World according to FIFAs World Rankings. During the early 90s though, Switzerland were managed by current England boss Roy Hodgson and he lead them to a highest ever position of #3 in the rankings.
Switzerland have been managed for the past 6 years by reknowned German manager, Ottmar Hitzfeld. Hitzfeld will resign after the World Cup, and the position will be filled by former Lazio manager, Vladimir Petkovic. With that in mind, Switzerland will be looking for a strong showing at this Summer’s tournament. A group also containing Ecuador, France and Hondurus gives them a great opportunity to reach the knockout stages.
Since the early 1990s, Switzerland have been very consistent with their choice of goalkeeper. During the 90s, Marco Pascolo played 55 times for the National team as well as over 100 times for both Servette and FC Zurich. After Pascolo came Pascal Zuberbuhler. Zuberbuhler also played over 50 times for Switzerland (51 to be exact) as well as having a strong club career with both Grashoppers of Zurich and FC Basel.
Within the current set-up, Switzerland rely heavily on their first choice goalkeeper with a fairly consistent back up. Their 3rd choice for the World Cup is much less clear than the first 2 spots. Here though, is a small review of the possible choices:
Name: Diego Benaglio
Club: VfL Wolfsburg (Germany)
Former Clubs: Grasshopper Zurich, VfB Sttutgart
Benaglio has been a consistent performer for Switzerland and is without doubt, their first choice goalkeeper. Benaglio is one of the better goalkeepers in the Bundesliga and was a member of the Wolfsburg side that won the title in 2008-09. The following year, when Benaglio spent much more of the season on the sidelines injured, Wolfsburg dropped down to 7th in the table despite having the League’s top scorer in Edin Dzeko. Much of this was down to a backline weakened by Benaglio’s absence. He is a fine shot stopper and when dealing with crosses, has a tendency to punch more than catch although that isn’t uncommon with European goalkeepers. He has been Wolfsburg’s keeper since 2008 and has played over 200 games for the club.
Name: Yann Sommer
Club: FC Basel (Transfer to Borussia Monchengladbach – July 2014)
Former Clubs: None
Sommer has been the main goalkeeper for FC Basel in the past 4 years as they have won titles and appeared in the Champions League. The fact that he has only played 5 times for Switzerland despite that shows how good Benaglio has been. Sommer is still young though at 25 and looks to have many quality years ahead of him. He has played for Switzerland at U16, U17, U19 and U21 levels. He was a member of the Switzerland U21 team in 2011 that made the U21 European Championship final where they lost 2-0 to Spain. These were actually the only goals that Sommer conceded in the whole tournament. He was voted in as the goalkeeper for that Team of the Tournament.
Name: Marco Wolfli
Club: BSC Young Boys
Former Clubs: FC Thun
Wolfli has played almost 300 games for Young Boys where he has been the club captain for more than 5 years. Wolfli is likely to be the countries 3rd choice keeper and given that in recent friendlies, he hasn’t made it off the bench, it is unlikely that he will challenge either Benaglio or Sommer for the top spot.
As I stated before, the job appears to be Benaglio’s to lose. He is the current #1 and probably will be for the duration of the World Cup unless injury strikes. Given that he has previous World Cup experience – he was the goalkeeper for the 2010 World Cup when Switzerland beat European Champions and WC Favourites, Spain but were eliminated at the group stage – it seems like a sensible choice!