THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

wsc328 previewWhat are the expectations for the team?
Switzerland are proud to have been seeded and keen to justify their ranking. They are also being talked about as potentially the country's best-ever team. Both propositions will be deemed fulfilled if they get as far as the quarter-finals. The less specific expectation is to avoid boring the pants off everybody this time around. The team have more attacking weapons than recent predecessors, including an emerging goalscorer in Josip Drmic, and should be able to satisfy this demand.

Is the coach popular?
There was some mild muttering after the group-stage exit, despite beating Spain, in South Africa about Ottmar Hitzfeld's conservatism and over-reliance on old stagers. The 65-year-old subsequently took decisive action to freshen up the team and is heading into his final fling before retirement with a much more vibrant bunch of players.

Are there any players who have appeared in TV commercials or other advertising?
Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio has moved on from an incongruous turn in peasant clobber for the Swiss Farmers Union and the 30-year-old is now the face of the VW Golf in Switzerland – as well as captaining Volkswagen's factory team, VfL Wolfsburg. It is an appropriate marketing match too, Benaglio being not quite top of the range but comfortably above average and very reliable. Xherdan Shaqiri is becoming a one man brand – "XS" – and riding Bayern Munich's wave of success by advertising pretty much everything from sugary drinks to ski resorts.

Which players are good interviewees and who are 
the worst?
The Swiss squad are a refreshing bunch – friendly, well grounded and invariably articulate in several languages. Centre-half Steve von Bergen clearly loves his football and is a proper chatterbox on the subject. Old head Stephan Lichtsteiner can be interestingly forthright while midfielder Granit Xhaka strays closest to young buck cockiness but not in a particularly offensive way.

Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
It barely counts but Shaqiri claims to be a demon table tennis player, which is at least more wholesome than filling his downtime with Grand Theft Auto or playing as himself on FIFA 14.

Is there an official song?
The squad will not be releasing a World Cup record – the Swiss FA press officer says he was in favour of one but lost the argument.

What will the media coverage be like?
The TV coverage across the various language channels provides a nice balance of fun and sound analysis from a broad range of pundits. The 1990s national team star Alain Sutter brings his own blend of idiosyncratic facial hair and opinions. Ageing French coach Gilbert Gress has long occupied the role of national treasure or irritant, according to taste. Think Jimmy Hill in an Andy Warhol wig.

Will there be many fans travelling to the finals and will they have any chants?
The Swiss, surprisingly, might have more fans per head of population in Brazil than anyone apart from the hosts, with over 8,000 tickets being snapped up in Switzerland so far. Following a country with four national languages works against witty wordsmithery and the lyrics rarely get beyond "Hopp Suisse/Schweiz". Instead, the Swiss fans specialise in instrumentals. The cowbells are an argument for stricter stadium security searches but the brass band that sometimes appears is superb. This is not just three blokes with trumpets and half a tune but a complete band with an extensive repertoire and full Alpine regalia. Paul Knott

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