BERN (Reuters) - Switzerland’s young, multicultural team are often regarded as a success story both in sporting and political terms, yet a cloud has descended over them as they head to the European Championship in France.
The future certainly looked bright for Switzerland two years ago when they beat Ecuador and Honduras at the World Cup and took Argentina to within a minute of a penalty shootout.
However, the Swiss seem to have lost their way since veteran coach Ottmar Hitzfeld retired and was replaced by Vladimir Petkovic.
Petkovic said when he took over that he wanted Switzerland to dominate their matches against all opponents with an aggressive, attacking game, yet has struggled to impose that style.
Instead, Switzerland still look more comfortable when the opposition take the initiative.
The club form of many players, a perennial problem, has also dipped.
Captain Gokhan Inler has been unable to force his way into the Leicester City team this season following his move from Napoli and is at risk of being left out altogether.
The form of Switzerland’s forwards, who all play in the Bundesliga, is another worry with Haris Seferovic and Admir Mehmedi both struggling for goals and Josip Drmic likely to miss the tournament through injury.
The qualifying campaign was patchy with Switzerland failing to put up much of a fight in two defeats to England.
In the end, it basically boiled down to the last 10 minutes of their tie at home to Slovenia when they hit back from 2-0 down to win 3-2.
Had Slovenia won, Switzerland would have finished second and been forced into a playoff.
Even their reputation as a glowing example of integration suffered a setback when full back Stephan Lichtsteiner suggested there were too many “Secondos” (second-generation Swiss without citizenship) in the squad.
Switzerland’s miserable performances in their two friendlies in March, when they lost to Ireland and Bosnia without scoring, suggested they could struggle to even make it beyond the first round in France, where they face Romania, Albania and the hosts in Group A.
Editing by Neil Robinson