The Swiss national team will make its debut at the World Cup in Qatar on Thursday 24 November by meeting Cameroon. The team believes they are fit and confident, just like coach Murat Yakin. Bluesport interviewed him.
Would the round of 16 be enough of an achievement, given the difficult group stage with favorites Brazil and Serbia?
“We’re in a difficult group, it’s true, but our opponents are also worried about our team. We have built up such a position that even a team like Brazil watches us carefully. I don’t want to put too much pressure on the team, I try to help them but I’m also convinced that these guys are good enough to beat Brazil.”
Seen from the outside, the national team has reached peak form at just the right time and presents itself as a united group. What was the plan behind all this?
“Already after Europe and before my inauguration there was euphoria. My task was above all to further accelerate the moving train with small tricks without upsetting everything”.
How did you do it?
“I took care to further strengthen the team mentally, especially for very balanced matches, where details make the difference. In these moments you need to feel confident in your means. If you know that you have won these matches in the past and that you can rely 100% on your teammates, everything becomes easier.”
Well, the past helps…
“No doubt. Wins against Spain and Portugal in the Nations League and against France in the European Championship are all pieces of the puzzle. Just like the experience of the penalties against Spain in the quarter-finals of the European Championship. At the same time, I am aware that the World Cup is something else. You have to deal with completely different circumstances.”
In the last match of the group, Switzerland will face Serbia, as in 2018 – a very emotional event for Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri, who have Kosovar-Albanian roots and whose families have been marked by the war between Serbia and Kosovo. Four years ago, in Russia, the meeting culminated in the so-called “double eagle affair”, due to the celebration of the Swiss goal. How do you deal with this delicate issue?
“We will prepare it very well, with an accentuated individual preparation. However, I would like this match to remain exclusively something sporting and not political And I would like everyone involved to see it this way.
It’s easy to say…
“It’s true, especially in a match where emotions will be even more charged than they already are on the pitch: in those cases fears and feelings are difficult to stop. Anyone who doesn’t experience it firsthand has difficulty understanding it.”
Is there any “trick” to best prepare for these matches?
“The most important thing is that we all focus on our sporting task, with the aim of winning this match. I expect everyone to give their all, like in every other match. I can’t put too much emphasis on this match, otherwise I risk hurting my team instead of helping them.”
Let’s talk about some players: Switzerland’s squad is made up of important players who are now playing at high levels
“A Manuel Akanji who moves to Manchester City and plays a lot there can give even more to our team. An in-form Granit Xhaka at Arsenal, as well as an in-form Breel Embolo at Monaco, a in-form Yann Sommer or, which often goes a bit unnoticed, a Europa League winner Djibril Sow. Then there are Silvan Widmer and Ricardo Rodriguez as captains at Mainz and Torino and Fabian Schär with a great season at Newcastle. All this gives us confidence and raises expectations within the team. I see this constellation as a lucky coincidence.”
In the past, there was the split between the Rösti in the national team, then the split between the secondos and the so-called “real Swiss”, which the media called the “Balkan split”. And now?
“It used to be like this, I experienced it myself. Today I no longer see anything like it. National players now all respect each other and do not blame each other for success. I believe that the current generation no longer knows anything like this. That is why the question should not be raised again.
What do you think about the World Cup being held in a country like Qatar, where basic Western values are not applied, migrant workers are exploited and homosexuality is prohibited?
“For those involved, who should be one hundred percent focused on the sport, it is extremely difficult to make a political statement. Firstly, we did not choose the venue, and secondly, the more we talk about this issue, the more it distracts us. The Swiss Football Association has taken a clear position on the matter. He has been working on improvements in the field for over two years and has written a statement that we fully support. Players and yours truly are free to get involved directly or focus solely on the sport. Now I’m opting for the latter because of my role.”