What are the expectations for the team?
Those Swiss fans who only wake up for big tournaments will probably bemoan not reaching the final but as long as we avoid humiliation at the hands of Spain, and likewise in the second round, all will be well. We are gracious losers.
Is the coach popular?
Not popular but respected by fans and players despite our worst-ever defeat (2-1 loss at home to Luxembourg) under him. A foreign coach is almost a must in Switzerland due to the delicate harmony between linguistic regions.
Who are the best and worst interviewees?
Alexander Frei is the best by a mile. Arrogant, massive chip on the shoulder, utter disdain for journalists asking foolish questions. It’s best to send children to bed when Benjamin “Grumpy” Huggel is being interviewed.
Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio fronts a poster campaign for the Swiss farmers lobby (the farmers are heavily protected and would like to keep it that way). It involves wearing a traditional farmers’ shirt that Benaglio would have thought twice about.
Are there any personal rivalries in the squad?
Frei does not like anybody and nobody likes Frei but he is the captain. Blaise Nkufo seems popular, except with Frei obviously. Otherwise, a harmonious dressing room, due the players’ quaint habit of not seducing their team-mates’ partners.
Are any players involved in politics?
The magic word in Switzerland is “compromise” so political debate can be staid with the odd foray into brutal polarisation. But one can imagine Frei leading a campaign for the Swiss People’s Party (the one behind the minarets ban) as his political views would please the Daily Mail.
What will the media coverage be like?
All games will be on free-to-air, as usual. Italian commentary will be analytical and informed, German loud and patriotic, and the French will be a catastrophe. Swiss-French fans wish we had someone of the quality of Mark Lawrenson or Clive Tyldesley.
Will there be many fans travelling to South Africa?
Swiss fans have been near the top in term of numbers for the last few major international tournaments but the cost of this one is dampening the ardour. There will be thousands there though and people will carry on wondering why they sing Schwizer Nazi or Auschwitz during the game. In fact what is sung is Schweizer Nati and Hopp Schweiz but the mix of accents make it sound quite different. Yuri Goffinet