The FourFourTwo Preview: Switzerland vs Ecuador
The great letter shortage opener – a must win game between La Tri and La Nati.
Switzerland under Ottmar Hitzfeld will be as tightly drilled as your cliche-fuelled imagination expects a Swiss team coached by a German to be. The fact they have only conceded a single goal in their last seven World Cup games augers tediously. The fact they arrive in Brazil programmed to attack and not defend more than compensates – and in Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Haris Seferovic, Josip Drmic and Gokhan Inler, they pose far more threat than any Swiss national team you care to remember.
Going against type, and despite that proud defensive record, Switzerland's big problem may be at the back end, where Johan Djourou and Phillipe Senderos look likely to be left on the bench and replaced at the heart of defence by younger, tighter but still not impenetrable pairing of Steve von Bergen and Fabian Schar.
The statistics suggest those two – plus goalkeeper Diego Benaglio – will need to be wide awake, as Ecuador had more shots than any other nation in South American qualifying (201). Of those 201, mind you, they scored just 20 times, suggesting they subscribe to the old Projectile Excrement theory. A lack of a cutting edge and an inability to win games not played at ridiculous altitude may prove to be their undoing. But we shall see.
What the local media say
Anything less than a place in the knockout stages will be viewed as failure, claim Swiss newspaper Blick. But: "the first game against Ecuador is crucial" and anything less than victory and the Swiss "will certainly struggle".
Most Ecuadorians also view this as a game they must win. If they do, Ecuadorian website Ecuagol claims they can "dream of making history in this World Cup". Not by winning the thing, but by equalling their previous best of last 16 in 2006 (where they lost to England and David Beckham's free-kick).
Key battle: Josip Drmic vs Felipe Caicedo
Not in direct opposition, for both are strikers, but in a game between two teams better when advancing than retreating, the men firing the bullets will be crucial. Caicedo flatters to deceive but still top-scored with seven in qualifying, while the Swiss forward Drmic is likely to play at the sharp end of a 4-2-3-1 system that should see him served well by the ever dangerous Shaqiri.
Facts and figures
- This will be the first ever international meeting between Switzerland (La Nati) and Ecuador (La Tri).
- La Tri have never drawn a game at a World Cup, winning 3 and losing 4 so far.
- La Nati have lost their last 4 World Cup meetings with South American sides, failing to score in their last 3.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Both teams desperate to start the campaign with a win, so let's call it a draw: 1-1.