April 29, 2014 / 2:21 AM / 5 years ago

Penpix of likely Switzerland squad for World Cup finals

BERNE (Reuters) - Switzerland’s squad for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is likely to comprise the following 23 players:

Ottmar Hitzfeld (C), coach of the Swiss national soccer team, attends a training session in Ullevaal stadium in Oslo, September 9, 2013. Switzerland will play their upcoming World Cup 2014 qualifying football match against Norway. REUTERS/Berit Roald/Scanpix NTB


Diego Benaglio (VfL Wolfsburg) Age 30; 55 caps. The regular goalkeeper since just before Euro 2008, Benaglio has spent most of his career in the Bundesliga, firstly at VfB Stuttgart and, since 2008, at VfL Wolfsburg where he has won one league title. In between, he spent three years in Portugal with Madeira-based Nacional. A safe pair of hands, excellent reflexes and commands his penalty despite being a quiet character off the field.

Yann Sommer (FC Basel) Age 25; 5 caps. Raised at FC Basel, he has not looked back since becoming their first-choice goalkeeper in 2011 and has won three successive league titles. He went through four games at the European under-21 championship in 2011 without conceding a goal before the Swiss were beaten 2-0 by Spain in the final. He will move to Borussia Moenchengladbach after the World Cup.

Marco Woelfli (Young Boys Berne) Age 31; 11 caps. Captain and the longest-serving player at his club, Woelfli made his international debut in 2008 at the age of 26 although he has always been in Benaglio’s shadow. He was in the squad in South Africa but did not play.


Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus) Age 30; 61 caps. Nicknamed “Forrest Gump” thanks to his storming runs down the right flank, the feisty right-back completed an apprenticeship in banking when he was a young player at Grasshoppers Zurich. Has won successive Serie A titles with Juventus since his move to Turin in 2011. Plays on the flank of a five-man midfield for his club and at right back of a four-man defence for his country.

Michael Lang. (Grasshoppers) Age 23; 5 caps. Understudy to Lichtsteiner at right back, Lang has played for Switzerland at various youth levels. Raised at St Gallen before joining Grasshoppers in 2011.

Johan Djourou (SV Hamburg) Age 27; 43 caps.

Ivorian-born central defender who joined Arsenal as a teenager, although he has struggled to get into the team and is now on loan at Hamburg. A knee injury in 2009 cost him an entire year of his career and a place at the 2010 World Cup.

Fabian Schaer (Basel) Age 22; 5 caps 5. Central defender who has burst onto the scene since joining Basel from second tier FC Wil in 2012. A free-kick and penalty specialist, he scored both goals in the crucial 2-0 win in Norway in September which effectively sealed Switzerland’s place in Brazil.

Steve von Bergen (Young Boys) Age 30; 40 caps. Well-travelled central defender who has been part of the Swiss squad since 2006. He missed Euro 2008 through injury but played at the last World Cup. Returned to Switzerland to play for Young Boys after suffering Serie A relegation with Palermo last season. Has also played for Hamburg, Cesena and Genoa.

Philippe Senderos (Valencia) Age 29; 52 Caps. Senderos is heading for his third World Cup despite an often frustrating club career punctuated by injuries and fluctuations in form. Part of the last Arsenal team to win a trophy, the 2005 FA Cup, he has since played for Everton, Fulham and AC Milan without ever repeating that success. Born in Switzerland to a Spanish father and Serb mother, he speaks six languages. Arsenal fans baptised him “Swiss Toni” after the car salesman in the Fast Show comedy sketch program.

Ricardo Rodriguez (VfL Wolfsburg) Age 21; 19 caps.

Born in Zurich to a Spanish father and Chilean mother, left back Rodriguez had a choice of three national teams but plumped for the country of his birth in 2011. Good in the air with a fierce left foot shot which makes him a dangerous asset at free kicks. Has settled in well at Wolfsburg since his move in 2012.


Tranquillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt) Age 29; Caps: 73. An attacking midfielder who has scored 10 times for Switzerland, he is set for his third World Cup having recovered from a knee injury which sidelined him for six months in the 2011-12 season. He missed during the penalty shootout defeat to Ukraine in the second round of the 2006 World Cup, spoiling an otherwise excellent tournament. Raised at St Gallen, he has been in the Bundesliga since 2004 playing for Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04, Hanover 96 and Eintracht.

Gelson Fernandes (Freiburg) Age 27; 46 caps. Cape Verde-born midfielder who moved to Switzerland when he was five and was inspired to take up football when his father got a job as a groundsman at Sion. Made his first-team debut at 16 and became one of Switzerland’s most expensive players when he moved to Manchester City in 2007 after catching the eye of Sven-Goran Eriksson. Since then, he has played for St Etienne, Leicester City, Chievo, Udinese and Sporting. Became the first Cape Verde-born player to score at a World Cup when he grabbed the winner against Spain in 2010.

Blerim Dzemaili (Napoli) Age 28; 32 caps. A central midfielder, Dzemaili has settled in Serie A, playing for Torino, Parma and Napoli, after an unhappy spell at Bolton Wanderers where a knee injury wrecked his progress. Born in Macedonia, his parents moved to Switzerland when he was four.

Valon Behrami (Napoli) Age 29; 46 caps. Kosovo-born player who moved to Switzerland at the age of four, Behrami has raised a few eyebrows among the reserved Swiss squad with his tattoos and ever-changing haircuts. Happy at right back or in midfield, Behrami, who suffered a nasty knee injury during a three-season spell at West Ham United, has revived his career since joining Napoli in 2012. Harshly sent off against Chile at the 2010 World Cup.

Gokhan Inler (Napoli) Age 29; 71 caps. A fiercely-competitive, hard-tackling midfielder, Inler summed up his philosophy by turning up at his official Napoli presentation wearing a lion mask. The current captain, an excellent long-range shooter, also played at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. He has been in Serie A since 2007, spending four seasons with Udinese before moving to Napoli in 2011. He played for Turkey’s under-21 team before choosing to represent Switzerland, where he was born.

Pajtim Kasami (Fulham) Age 22; 2 caps. Born in Macedonia, he played for the Swiss side which won the under-17 World Cup in 2009 and was given his senior international debut last year. He has been at Fulham since 2011, except for a six-month spell on loan at FC Lucerne last season. He had been close to moving to Italy’s Pescara instead but the move broke down because of faulty wi-fi in a Milan hotel on transfer deadline day. Scorer of one of the best Premier League goals of this season, a stunning volley against Crystal Palace which was compared to Marco van Basten’s goal against Russia in the Euro 1988 final.

Granit Xhaka (Borussia Moenchengladbach) Age 21; 24 caps.

Intelligent, composed midfielder, Xhaka is already a regular and played in nine out of 10 qualifiers. Born in Kosovo into a family of ethnic Albanians, he considered representing Albania at international level but complained he was shunned by the country’s federation. Known as “Little Einstein” because of an interest in science, he has publicly supported Kosovo’s campaign to be allowed to play international matches.


Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen) Age 26; 46 caps. A powerful centre-forward and strong in the air, Derdiyok is trying to put his career back on track after an unhappy season with Hoffenheim in 2012-13 where he scored only one goal all season before returning to Bayer Leverkusen on loan. Scored a hat-trick against Germany in a friendly in 2012. Once suffered a bizarre injury when he knocked over a glass he used to keep his toothbrush and suffered a deep cut.

Xherdan Shaqiri (Basel) Age 22; 31 caps. One of the most exciting players ever to have come out of Switzerland, Kosovo-born Shaquiri can play on either flank and is always a threat with his powerful shooting and good crosses. He moved to Switzerland as a child because of the war in his homeland and joined Basel’s youth academy at 10. Joined Bayern in 2012 and was part of their treble-winning team last season.

Valentin Stocker. (Basel) Age 25; 22 caps. Left-sided midfielder who scored the first goal of Ottmar Hitzfeld’s reign in a friendly against Cyprus. Has won a plethora of domestic titles for Basel and played for Switzerland at almost every age level.

Haris Seferovic (Real Sociedad) Age 22; 9 caps. Played in the team which won the Under-17 world championship in Nigeria in 2009 where he was the tournament’s top scorer. Born in Switzerland to Bosnian parents, he was bitterly criticized by Bosnia striker Edin Dzeko for choosing to play for the Swiss. Scored his first senior international goal in the World Cup qualifier against Cyprus.

Josip Drmic (Nuremberg) Age 21; 5 caps. Enjoying an excellent first season in the Bundesliga following his move from FC Zurich and has been scoring at a prolific rate for Nuremberg despite his club’s relegation worries. Two-footed, clever in and around the box, although somewhat weak in the air. Born in Switzerland but has Croatian roots. Scored his first two goals for the Swiss against Croatia in a friendly in March.

Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg) Age 23; 19 caps. Has come to life at Freiburg after moving on loan from Dinamo Kiev, where he was used as a substitute and struggled to get going. Another member of a very promising generation, Mehmedi helped Switzerland reach the European Under-21 championship final in 2011 and played at the 2012 Olympic Games. An ethnic Albanian, he was born in Macedonia.

Reporting by Brian Homewood

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