Switzerland v Ecuador match preview: Swiss must prove they were worth top billing

Ottmar Hitzfeld's side one of eight countries seeded for the tournament

Tim Rich
Sunday 15 June 2014 13:02
Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland face Ecuador in their World Cup opener
Ottmar Hitzfeld's Switzerland face Ecuador in their World Cup opener

When the draw was made for the World Cup there was one seeded team that everyone wanted to play - and that was Switzerland.

The fact that Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side was considered one of the best eight sides on the planet was based on an impressive qualification campaign and victories in some carefully-selected friendlies that appeared designed to push them up the Fifa rankings.

Now, in Brasilia against Ecuador, Hitzfeld’s side will have to justify that assessment. The South Americans, featuring Antonio Valencia and Filipe Caicedo, are renowned for their counter-attacking and, Uruguay apart, the South Americans have enjoyed an impressive set of opening results in Brazil. Given that the Swiss face France in their next match, Hitzfeld cannot afford the pattern to be repeated.

Ecuador have additional motivation to perform. The death of the former Birmingham City striker, Chucho Benitez, from heart failure last year led to them retiring his number 11 shirt, although this is not allowed under Fifa regulations.

Caicedo, Ecuador’s finest player, was given Benitez’s number. Valencia will have an altogether more personal reminder of Benitez - his face is tattooed on the Manchester United player’s arm.

The last World Cup saw the Swiss begin with a 1-0 win over Spain before falling away and failing to qualify from their group. This is a younger side than the one that played in South Africa with Hitzfeld adding that he thought it had “a better mix”.

In an attempt to show that there was harmony in that mix following spats between the Napoli pairing of Gokhan Inler and Valon Behrami, Hitzfeld paraded them both at the pre-match press conference. How the pair perform when the whistle blows will, however, be more of a sign of Swiss prospects than any platitudes delivered to a room of journalists.

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