Were expectations met?
With the quality Ottmar Hitzfeld had available, a group stage exit would have been a disappointment. Switzerland finished second in Group E behind France without ever fully impressing, but showed their united qualities against two-time world champions Argentina in the last 16. That was not enough to cause an upset, however, and once again the Swiss failed to exploit the weaknesses of a global heavyweight. On the whole, Switzerland will reflect on a tournament in which they neither positively nor negatively surprised.
What the media say
TagesWoche: This was an epic battle of attrition against Argentina. It was not always pretty to watch, but there was a lot of passion there. The end was brutal for Switzerland as both teams already seemed to have expended all their energy. When extra time drew to a close, with only minutes left until a penalty shoot-out, Argentina pounced.
Tagesanzeiger: Once, just once, they were powerless. Lionel Messi escaped them and provided the assist which handed Argentina the quarter-final [berth]. In the end, after some bad, bad luck and those dramatic last minutes which gave Switzerland the chance to equalise, there was only this: huge disappointment, tears, players falling to the ground and Ottmar Hitzfeld walking the Sao Paulo pitch. During his last steps as a coach he had to console his players even though he needed comfort himself. It was a bitter blow for him too.
What they say
Stephan Lichtsteiner: "It's so tough, but I have to compliment my team on an outstanding match. We made one mistake too many and Argentina made use of it. I can't stop thinking about losing the ball on the halfway line. This shouldn't happen in the 118th minute. We are disappointed but proud at the same time. We managed to keep up with one of the best teams in the world."
Gelson Fernandes: "We are massively disappointed, for the team and for the whole nation. We wanted to deliver a good performance and it's really sad to go out like this. But the team are still young, we have enormous potential. The lads have to use this experience and come back stronger than ever."
Unlike in 2010, Switzerland managed to up their game after two mediocre opening performances. In the decisive group match against Honduras, four years to the day after a goalless draw versus the same opponents, they delivered a 3-0 victory. Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored all three goals with his left foot, and Josip Drmić, who supplied two assists, were inspirational.
It was a consequence of Hitzfeld's decision to move Shaqiri from the wing into a central position, offering Switzerland greater attacking thrust.
Room for improvement
Hitzfeld's successor Vladimir Petković will have work to do in defence, usually the Nati's strongest suit. The problems were particularly evident against France, when even the otherwise reliable Diego Benaglio made costly mistakes between the posts.
The good news for Petković is that those likely to make up the defence of the future were present in Brazil. One can assume that Grasshopper Club's Michael Lang will replace Lichtsteiner on the right while Fabian Schär, who featured against Argentina, should become a mainstay in the centre. Ricardo Rodriguez looks poised to be first choice at left-back for many years and Yann Sommer can certainly challenge Benaglio.
The biggest talent in Swiss football has been a regular for the Nati for a while now. VfL Wolfsburg's Rodriguez, along with Shaqiri, seems certain to be a key player for the challenges ahead. The 21-year-old did not miss a minute of Bundesliga action last season and constantly creates chances for his team-mates, such as when he set up Admir Mehmedi to equalise from a corner against Ecuador and later furnished a pinpoint cross for Haris Seferović's winner.
Qualification for UEFA EURO 2016 starts on 8 September with a home match against England. While a second-place finish in Group E behind the Three Lions looks most probable on paper, Switzerland will give Roy Hodgson's men a run for their money. The section also includes tricky opponents in Slovenia and Lithuania, but anything other than a ticket to the finals in France would be a major setback.
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