Saturday, May 31, 2014

Meet the Team: Switzerland

Nickname: With four languages squeezed into about 16,000 square miles, there's a lot of different ways to say "National Team", but we prefer Rossocratiati (The Red Crosses).

Xherdan practices his Tiger Beat face
Star: There's plenty of people talking about this world cup as a coming out party for Neymar, or the entire Belgian/Colombian teams. But Switzerland has as much young potential as anyone else, particularly starring Bayern Munich's midfield man: Xherdan Shaqiri, whose speed is vital to keep an aging defense protected.

Hip-Star: While Switzerland's youthful midfield is promising, their youthful striking corps is a little more worrying. Though he is the youngest and least capped striker on the squad, Josip Drmić is in the best form--with the third most goals in this year's Bundesliga and a spiffy new contract with Bayer Leverkusen. Plus, like his name shows, he's so over vowels.

X-Factor: The swiss were really stupid, they beat Brazil in a friendly last August. That boosted them to the top 8 of Fifa's rankings, which made them a top seed in the cup. Without that win they might have landed a more manageable group with Colombia, or Belgium and played their familiar role of spoiler. Instead they're "the team to beat" saddled with France and Ecuador in a group that's not impossible, but certainly not their ideal situation.

Omar tells me what I can do
with my questions
Coach: Omar Hitzfield is leading the Swiss Miss-ters to a second consecutive world cup, but has vowed to step down on July 1st--of course, if Switzerland makes the quarter finals, they would play after July 1st...not sure what will happen then.

History: It's been feast or famine for the army knife gang (can you tell I like making up nicknames for them?) Strong showings in the 30s and 50's presaged two decades of inadequacy and no qualification. The current group will play in their third World Cup in a row with a second round in Germany and stunning victory against Spain in South Africa to show for their troubles.

Food: Fondu is totally overkill, and while they're popular world wide, the Swiss are such an international people that I feel entitled to claim quiche and call it good.

Thanks British Press!
Fool: Did you know that Switzerland uses a council of learned elders to rule the single executive but a community. It obviously works for the wealthy and stable nation (though friendly overseas banking laws help). Which means it's back to my old stand by, mock Sepp Blatter. The president of FIFA who rules with an iron grip inside a velvet glove runs the organization like his own personal fiefdom, going so far as to say last month that he would run for a fifth term despite pledging to step down after a sketchy reelection in 2011.

Best Case: The Swiss defense stands pat, the young talents prove their worth and all the criticism and complaint about their seeding is proved ill-founded as they top Group E, best the underwhelming runner-up of Group F, and push Germany all the way to penalty kicks in the Quarterfinals.

Worst Case: The defense's age is exposed and the attacker's youth is exploited, and even the steady hand of Hitzfield can't stymie faster, focused squads from France and Ecuador, with just a draw against Honduras holding them up in third place.

My prediction: While the Swiss stand out as the top-seeded team everyone loves to mock, they've been a top ten team in the world for a reason. While they may be overrated, they can definitely handle Honduras, so a strong showing against Ecuador is crucial. I think they get it and, by proxy, a spot in the Second round.

Added Bonus: Arguably the most influential song in Swiss hip-hop is "Murder By Dialect" by P-27 (f. Black Tiger), shifting from Swiss-German to English and back again is yet another sign of the Swiss cosmopolitan style.

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