Collective strength the key to Swiss success

Teamwork rather than individual displays has fuelled Switzerland's eye-catching run to the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-finals, Philippe Koch told

Philippe Koch has been at the heart of an unbreached Switzerland defence
Philippe Koch has been at the heart of an unbreached Switzerland defence ©

Philippe Koch told an unselfish Switzerland squad has proved to be greater than the sum of its parts as they prepare for their semi-final encounter with the Czech Republic in Herning on Wednesday.

Though individuals like Xherdan Shaqiri and Innocent Emeghara have shone brightly, it has been the collective qualities of Pierluigi Tami's men that have impressed most. Koch said the squad's selfless spirit had underpinned their flawless progress through the group stage and into the last four.

"Each player thinks about the team. It's important for everyone that the team is successful. We're so tightly knit. Everyone isn't just looking out for themselves," said the FC Zürich defender. "At the start of the tournament, no one would have counted on us qualifying with such style. We're not surprised. We knew before the tournament that we had quality. So far, we've been able to show that quality in our matches."

While Shaqiri's skill and Emeghara's pace helped Switzerland finish as joint-top scorers in the group stage alongside Spain, at the other end, Koch and Co have left opposing strikers frustrated. The Swiss are yet to concede in the tournament and – true to form – Koch is quick to pay tribute to his fellow defenders, and goalkeeper Yann Sommer in particular, for their peerless record.

"As a defender, you know that you can count on [Sommer] as your last line of defence, because he even wins his one-on-ones. That gives us self-confidence, and means we don't have to worry. He can stop everything," said Koch of the FC Basel 1893 keeper. "All of us are accepted as leaders, but Sommer, he's the captain. He'll say what's going right, and when it isn't, he's not afraid to voice his opinion."

While Sommer's sure-handed displays in the tournament have seen his stock rise, Koch's reputation is also growing at both club and international level. Having made his debut at Zürich in 2008, the 20-year-old has progressed from a fledgling talent to an established first-team member thanks in large part to the club's coach, Urs Fischer.

"You need people to be patient as I had to find my feet in the first division. The coach gave me a lot of confidence to do that and that meant I could play," said Koch of Fischer, who moved up from the club's U21 side to take the reins after Bernard Challandes' departure in April 2010.

"I've made a lot of progress under him, and learned a lot. I think this tournament is a reward for all the hard work I've put in at Zürich. I have to thank the coach for everything he's done to help me do that. I think we can still achieve a lot together, and he can help me develop still further."