World Cup 2014: Switzerland ready to show why they are big cheeses against Ecuador

The Swiss are currently ranked sixth in the Fifa world rankings

Casual football fans scrolling down the Fifa rankings will no doubt pause when they reach No 6. Switzerland. Really?

Yet, the Swiss – with just one defeat in 18 matches over two years – are there on merit and will attempt to justify their top-seed status when they open their World Cup campaign against Ecuador in Brasilia tomorrow.

Coached by the wily and experienced German Ottmar Hitzfeld, Switzerland have been transformed into a bold European power driven on by blossoming players who have shone at youth tournaments since 2009.

Hitzfeld’s side are favoured – along with France – to advance from Group E at the expense of Honduras and Ecuador. “We do have the potential to qualify for the round of 16,” Hitzfeld said. “That is our goal. Then there are no limits.”

Ecuador, ranked 26th in the world, have deficiencies in defence – long-serving centre-halves Ivan Hurtado and Giovanny Espinoza are no longer around – and they have a big hole up front after the sudden death of striker Christian Benitez last year.

The 27-year-old Benitez died of heart failure in Qatar in July, only three weeks after joining local team El Jaish. He was Ecuador’s star forward with 24 goals in 58 appearances.

The desire to honour Benitez – previously described as “practically irreplaceable” by Ecuador’s coach, Reinaldo Rueda – will drive the national team, but that may not be enough to help them progress beyond the group stage.

Another of Rueda’s top players will be missing in Brazil, too, after the experienced defensive midfielder Segundo Castillo was ruled out of the tournament on Monday with a knee injury sustained in a warm-up match against Mexico. Osvaldo Minda was called up as his replacement.

The star of the team is the Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, the country’s most illustrious export, who showed he is fired up to be very competitive at the World Cup by getting sent off for grappling with England winger Raheem Sterling in a friendly last week. He will not be suspended for World Cup games, though, and should figure prominently on the right flank.


Ecuador should benefit from the tournament being held in South America, making them more suited to the playing conditions and potentially leaving the group wide open. But the Swiss, buoyed by wins over Brazil and Germany in friendlies in the past two years, boast a higher- quality squad.

Xherdan Shaqiri, a bit-part player at Bayern Munich but a key performer for his country, has the ability to produce moments of brilliance and feed Josep Drmic, who is likely to be the team’s lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Expect the tireless running and high-tempo game of  central-midfield pairing Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami to be a feature, too.

Switzerland scored 17 goals in 10 qualifiers and Ecuador just 20 in 16 matches – so the first match in the Brazilian capital’s Estadio Nacional seems unlikely to be a high-scoring encounter.

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'