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Are Switzerland the World Cup's dark horse?

Ricardo Rodriguez

Can Switzerland be the team that takes everyone by surprise in this year's tournament in Brazil?

In almost every World Cup, there is one team that comes out of nowhere and goes further in the tournament than anyone predicted. It was Bulgaria in 1994, Croatia in 1998, Turkey and South Korea in 2002 and Uruguay in 2010, so could Switzerland be the surprise package of 2014?

Many are surprised by their lofty world ranking of eighth, but they have had a strong couple of years after missing out on Euro 2012. A win against World Cup hosts Brazil in 2013 and a qualifying campaign in which they conceded just six times have given them a solid base to build upon.

And build they have, using players brought through the youth system to add attacking flair to their solid base. Xherdan Shaqiri, while being a bit of a bystander at Bayern Munich, is key to this side as an attacking winger, as is his former Basel teammate Valentin Stocker. The growth of the young Wolfsburg left-back Ricardo Rodriguez has also been a huge plus – he is as good in defence as he is in attack, and is a set-piece specialist.

Added to that are two strikers who are in form and hoping to fill the void left by Swiss legend Alexander Frei. The main man will be Bayer Leverkusen-bound Josip Drmic, who scored 17 times for relegated Nurnberg this past season and has shown a real striker’s instinct. The other option will be Admir Mehmedi, who managed to score 12 goals for Freiburg in 2013-14.

With these players, added to the experience of Gokhan Inler and Diego Benaglio, Switzerland could easily get out of an easy group that also has a potentially beatable France. After that, they could have to face Argentina, but if they can avoid that fate, then the Swiss could cause quite the disturbance in Brazil this summer.

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