Fifa World Cup 2014

Golden generation look to shine under Hitzfeld

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 11:13pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 11:13pm

Switzerland will look to justify their top seed tag in their group when they take on Ecuador in Brasilia on Sunday in their opening group E clash.

While outside Switzerland there may have been snorts of derision at their seeding, there is a lot of expectation within the country that a team with a core of players from the side that won the under-17 world title in 2009 in Nigeria can become the first Swiss team to reach the quarter-finals since 1954.

Ecuador will be treated with the respect that comes from having finished ahead of Copa America champions and 2010 World Cup semi-finalists Uruguay in South American qualifying.

Their players will be extra motivated to emulate their predecessors in 2006 and reach the last 16 as a tribute to their leading scorer Christian Benitez, who collapsed and died last year playing for his Qatari club.

However, Switzerland's highly-respected German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who is in his last tournament before retiring from the sport that has seen him lift the Champions League twice - once with Borussia Dortmund and then with Bayern Munich - believes his side are capable of a big showing and that he has a better squad than the one he took to the 2010 finals.

There they started well with a shock 1-0 win over eventual champions Spain but a loss to Chile and then a draw with Honduras, who are in the same group again, saw them depart after the group stage.

It's a very strong group, All three teams are not easy to beat, otherwise they would not be qualified for the World Cup
Ottmar Hitzfeld

"It's a very strong group," said Hitzfeld. "All three teams are not easy to beat, otherwise they would not be qualified for the World Cup.

"But we have had a very good preparation so far. We do have the potential to qualify for the round of the last 16. That is our goal. Then there are no limits.

Hitzfeld will look to the wizardry of 22-year-old Xerdan Shaqiri for creativity and 21-year-old striker Josip Drmic. There is the experience of Napoli's defensive midfielder Valon Behrami to add steel to the team and counter Ecuador's muscular style.

Ecuador will principally look to Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia, whom coach Reinaldo Rueda appointed captain in the wake of his close friend Benitez dying. But his experience pales into insignificance compared to that of midfielder Edison Mendez who at 35, and with 111 caps, is appearing at his and his country's third World Cup finals.