Improved Swiss confident of last-16 berth – Hitzfeld

Speaking ahead of Sunday’s opening game against Ecuador, the experienced Hitzfeld said an injection of youth and creativity allied with traditional Swiss defensive solidity would help his team avoid the early exit they suffered four years ago.

佛山桑拿

Switzerland began their campaign in South Africa with a stunning 1-0 win over eventual winners Spain before defeat by Chile and a draw with Honduras ended their hopes.

“We began the revolution in 2011 when we brought in younger players,” Hitzfeld told a news conference at the national stadium in the Brazilian capital.

“We have a very strong younger generation and we also have young, yet experienced, players,” added the 65-year-old German, who took over in 2008 after coaching stints at clubs including Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

“In that sense we have a better mix and I think also in human terms the team is better suited to each other.

“We are a bit more creative going forward and in defence we are still well organised.

“I am convinced we will perform better this time and that we will reach the last 16.

“Dreams are there to be realised. It is already a dream to be here in Brazil at the World Cup.

“My dream is of course that we reach the last 16 and then we can dream bigger.”

Hitzfeld said there was a lot more to Ecuador than well-known players like Antonio Valencia and Felipe Caicedo and Switzerland would have to be careful not to be caught out by one of the South Americans’ swift counter-attacks.

“Ecuador’s strength is their counter and they can turn defence into attack in the blink of an eye,” he told reporters.

“They also have two excellent centre backs and the full backs are very quick.

“We know Ecuador’s strengths and we know that we will have to be at our best tomorrow to win the game.”

GAME TIME

Midfield pair Gokhan Inler, the captain, and Valon Behrami also appeared at the news conference and Behrami said it was an attempt to show a reported spat between the two, who play for Italian club Napoli, was in the past.

“It could be one of the reasons we are here together is to show that everything is okay between us,” Behrami said.

“I have a lot of respect for him and he has a lot of respect for me so tomorrow we are going to be fighting for the team and the team needs us together.

“So we are ready, we are very calm, we know the importance of the first game and we can’t wait just to begin this World Cup. It’s game time now and we will do everything we need to do to win.”

France and Honduras, who meet in Porto Alegre on Sunday, make up Group E.

(Editing by Ed Osmond)