Switzerland v Ecuador: Ottmar Hitzfeld says his young Swiss team can reach last 16 this time

 

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The Independent Online

Switzerland have improved since the previous World Cup in 2010 and are confident of reaching the last 16 as one of two qualifiers from Group E, their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, said yesterday.

Speaking ahead of today’s 5pm opening game against Ecuador, the experienced Hitzfeld said youth and creativity allied with traditional Swiss defensive solidity would help his team avoid the early exit of four years ago. Switzerland began their campaign in South Africa with a stunning 1-0 win over eventual winners Spain before defeat by Chile and a draw with Honduras.

“We began the revolution in 2011 when we brought in younger players,” Hitzfeld said at the national stadium in the Brazilian capital. “We have a very strong younger generation and we also have young, yet experienced, players,” added the 65-year-old German, who took over in 2008 after coaching at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

“In that sense we have a better mix and in human terms the team is better suited to each other. We are a bit more creative going forward and in defence we are still well organised.

“I am convinced we will perform better this time and that we will reach the last 16. Dreams are there to be realised. It is already a dream to be here in Brazil at the World Cup. My dream is of course that we reach the last 16, and then we can dream bigger.”

Hitzfeld said there was a lot more to Ecuador than well-known players such as Antonio Valencia and Felipe Caicedo and Switzerland will have to be careful not to be caught out by their swift counterattacks.

“Ecuador’s strength is their counter and they can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye,” he said. “They also have two excellent centre-backs and the full-backs are very quick.

“We know Ecuador’s strengths and we know that we will have to be at our best to win the game.”

Midfield pair Gokhan Inler, the captain, and Valon Behrami were also at the news conference and Behrami said it was to show a spat between the two, who play for Italian club Napoli, was healed.

Inler-Swiss.jpg
Gokhan Inler

 

“It could be one of the reasons we are here together is to show that everything is OK between us,” Behrami said. “I have a lot of respect for him and he has a lot of respect for me so we are going to be fighting for the team and the team needs us together.

“We are ready, we are very calm, we know the importance of the first game and we can’t wait just to begin this World Cup.  We will do everything we need to win.”

 

Switzerland v Ecuador is live on ITV on Sunday, kick-off 5pm

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