THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

{mosimage} 21 June ~ After several days of doing a passable impression of Naples after a Scudetto win following the triumph against Spain, Switzerland has calmed down and is now turning its attention to the game against Chile. In the run-up to the tournament this had been billed as the pivotal encounter in the group, but some are portraying it as less crucial now that three unexpected points are already in the bag. Fortunately the squad themselves do not seem to have fallen for this. In their public comments they have given every impression of being calmly focused on Chile and on guard against euphoria-induced complacency.

As has been pointed out by NZZ am Sonntag, among others, there are several plausible scenarios which could see three teams from Group H ending up on the same points and needing goal difference or their head-to-head results to separate them. One example would leave Switzerland, if they lost today against Chile, needing to boost their goal difference against Honduras. This is not a situation the Swiss would like to leave themselves in. For one thing, they are self-aware enough to know that they are by no means certain to beat the Hondurans, whose pace and power might cause them as many problems as the more delicate skills of the Spaniards and Chileans. Secondly, as the Spain game illustrated magnificently, their strengths lie in hard-work, defensive organisation and tactical nous, not free-flowing goal chasing.

But what the Spain result has earned the Nati, of course, is significantly more room for manoeuvre. A draw against Chile would now be a much better result than would have been the case without the three points against Spain and would almost certainly leave the Swiss requiring only a further draw against Honduras to progress to the second round. With this, and Chile's attacking prowess, in mind, Switzerland's approach for this game is likely to be unchanged, although they will expect a greater share of possession and therefore more counter-attacking and set-piece opportunities.

Philippe Senderos is unlikely to play any further part in the tournament following his ankle injury against Spain and Steve von Bergen will continue in his place. The main selection dilemma for Ottmar Hitzfeld remains what to do with his influential captain, Alex Frei, and best player in the warm-up games, Valon Behrami, both of whom missed the Spain match due to minor injuries. Most people here think it would be a travesty to replace any of the team that excelled against Spain but, after that game and his overall body of work with the Nati, they would also completely trust Hitzfeld if he decided to play centre-forward himself. Behrami has, perhaps, slightly more chance of edging out Tranquillo Barnetta than Frei has of displacing Eren Derdiyok. But Hitzfeld is offering few clues and the odds are that Frei and Behrami will only be used from the bench in the later stages of the game. Paul Knott

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