World Cup 2006 Preview Switzerland

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Outright Odds: 150/1

Group G Winners: 4/1

Switzerland qualified from the same group as Group F opponents France and also remained unbeaten in 10 qualifying matches, with four wins and six draws. After finishing in runners-up spot they faced Turkey, a side they had beaten just once in their history, in the play-offs. After winning the first leg 2-0 they almost lost their nerve and needed to rely on the away goals rule as Turkey won the return 4-2.

The line between success and failure was a narrow one in the tightest of all the European groups. Switzerland finished level on points with Israel, but made the play-offs due to a superior goal difference.

Manager Jakob “Kobi” Kuhn has revived the national team’s fortunes since taking charge in 2001. He was the first Swiss coach to guide his country in 12 years and qualified for Euro 2004 and now the finals in Germany.

Switzerland have never been mainstays of the World Cup which makes qualification a real achievement. They reached the second round in 1994 but have failed to qualify for the last two tournaments. They reached the quarter finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954.

Kuhn has put together a talented young side in stark contrast to France resorting to lure their old-timers out of retirement. Up front they have at their disposal last season’s French league’s top goalscorer in Alexander Frei.

He is partnered by 20-year-old Johan Volanthen, who became the youngest goalscorer in European Championship history two years ago. Volanthen, with a mixture of Colombian flair and Swiss know how has been dubbed the Wayne Rooney of Switzerland and he will be under pressure to perform.

Ludovic Magnin of VfB Stuttgart is a creative left back with an eye for set-pieces while the team is captained by Johann Vogel, now at AC Milan with over 70 caps to his name.

Their main downfall could be a lack of nerve on the big stage. They were 3-0 up on aggregate against Turkey in the play-offs but the tie ended 4-4 on aggregate and there are question marks over goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbuhler, incidentally the only player over the age of 30 in the expected starting line-up.

But, after going 10 games unbeaten in qualifying, Switzerland should fear nobody, especially opening match opponents France, who they drew twice with along the way to Germany.

Recommended Bet

If Switzerland does not suffer an attack of nerves they pose an excellent betting opportunity to win Group G at tempting odds. They face France in their opening match and have arguably easier opponents in South Korea and Togo thereafter.

Switzerland to win Group G @ 4/1

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