Because this is a World Cup year, I have decided to countdown to the tournament by providing a short soccer/fitness related preview of each of the 32 participating nations. In this installment, I will look at Switzerland, the country which is home to FIFA, the world’s soccer governing body, and has drawn a group that includes Ecuador, France, and Honduras. Switzerland opens their World Cup campaign on June 15 against Ecuador.
The Swiss National Team has been to several World Cups before but has never gone farther than the quarter-finals, which they reached in 1934, 1938, and as hosts in 1954. More recently, in 2006 Switzerland had the unique distinction of being the only team in World Cup history to be eliminated from the competition even though they did not concede a single goal (they were eventually eliminated by the Ukraine on a penalty shoot-out in the round of 16). This defensive tradition continued into the 2010 World Cup, when they did not concede a goal until the 74th minute of their 2nd game against Chile (their 1st game being a 1-0 victory over eventual champions Spain), thus earning them the World Cup record for consecutive minutes without conceding a goal (559).
Qualification for the 2014 World Cup produced similar results for Switzerland, as they topped Group E, scoring 17 goals and conceding only 6 in 10 matches. While this was not the best defensive performance in qualification (Spain, for example, conceded only 3 goals in 10 matches in Group D), it is indicative of the trend in strong defensive performances that should carry over into the group stage of the World Cup. The Swiss team’s toughest challenge could be against France on June 20th, and if they can keep a clean sheet in that game, they could be well on their way to the start of another long streak of minutes without conceding a goal. We will have to wait and see what happens in 1 month’s time.
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