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Team spirit taking Switzerland far

Switzerland have already upset the odds by reaching the play-offs but as they prepare to face England, Béatrice von Siebenthal hopes their collective spirit can take them to the finals.

Switzerland coach Béatrice von Siebenthal
Switzerland coach Béatrice von Siebenthal ©Sportsfile

In 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying, Switzerland finished bottom of a five-team group. Four years on, having topped their section, Béatrice von Siebenthal's team are a play-off with England away from next summer's finals in Germany.

Prior to this competition, Switzerland had never finished above third in a full World Cup or UEFA European Women's Championship qualifying group. Their young side, though, first secured two wins against the team considered their main rivals for second place, the Republic of Ireland.

Then on 19 June they travelled to top-ranked Russia – who had beaten Switzerland 2-1 in Baden – and secured a 3-0 victory that effectively booked a play-off place, something mathematically confirmed after an 8-0 defeat of Kazakhstan. On Sunday they visit England for the first leg before a home return on Thursday.

Von Siebenthal, appointed in 2004, said of the win in Russia: "That was a fine achievement, Russia were clear favourites. Now we are among the best eight teams, which is a very good performance for us." Highly-rated striker Ramona Bachmann, 19, scored twice in Russia but the coach added: "There is no player in the limelight in our team. I don't want us to depend on any individual."

Atlanta Beat forward Bachmann has not been the only one to catch the eye in Switzerland's run. Hamburger SV attacker Ana Maria Crnogorcevic, also 19, struck five times against Kazakhstan in the absence of Bachmann, following a record of 25 goals in 29 Under-19 appearances.

Also based in Germany are SC Freiburg duo Marisa Brunner and Isabelle Meyer, 1. FC Saarbrücken defender Noémie Beney, SC Bad Neuenahr midfielder Danique Stein and VfL Wolfsburg winger Martina Moser. Elsewhere, Lara Dickenmann is a creative and brave presence who helped Olympique Lyonnais to last season's UEFA Women's Champions League final.

They will need to be at their best against UEFA Women's EURO 2009 runners-up England, but Von Siebenthal said: "We want to use our good position now and qualify for Germany. We are highly motivated."

England are certainly taking nothing for granted, having been held 2-2 by Switzerland earlier this year. "We'll be expected to win, but Switzerland have got nothing to lose so it's going to be a really tough game," said England manager Hope Powell. "They're a much improved team – they've progressed even since we played them at the Cyprus Cup in March, and our players have to appreciate that."