Jun 15, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT
Switzerland will be an unknown no more after they take on Ecuador from the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia, kicking off at 12 noon ET.
The Swiss bunch won its Euro qualifying group, but with opponents such as Iceland, Norway, Slovenia, Albania, and Cyprus, it’s hard to tell exactly what this team is made of.
With nine players 23 years old or younger, the squad is incredibly young and inexperienced, but those youngsters are massively talented.
A number of kids on the Swiss team are incredibly fresh. Striker Josip Drmic didn’t feature too much during the qualification, but has earned a place at the end of the round robin and in the subsequent friendlies, scoring three goals in two March friendlies and putting himself in pole position to start in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s attack.
Ecuador is back at the big dance after missing out in 2010, and they’re known for all-or-nothing play. Having never drawn a World Cup game, Ecuador is 3-0-4 in tournament matches overall.
Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia is ready to lead his team into Brasilia, but will look to avoid the fate that fell to him in their most recent friendly, against England when he was sent off for a tussle with Raheem Sterling
Switzerland – Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Rodriguez, Djourou; Xhaka, Behrami, Inler; Drmic, Stocker, Shaqiri.
Ecuador – Domínguez; Paredes, Guagua, Erazo, Ayoví; Gruezo, Noboa, A Valencia, Noboa; E Valencia, Caicedo.
1. How will the young Swiss team react on the big stage? With so many new players, the Switzerland squad is coming into such a big stage for the first time. They haven’t lost since November when they fell at South Korea 2-1 in a friendly – their only loss in the last two years. However, the squad has morphed and changed much since then, and the lack of consistency could also affect their performance.
2. Can Ecuador score on the Swiss defense? Since drawing 4-4 with Iceland last September, Switzerland has conceded just five goals in seven matches. Ecuador’s attack will be led by Valencia and headed by 25-year-old Pachuca striker Enner Valencia. It will be tough to get past that Swiss back line, but if this exciting World Cup has taught us anything, even the best are vulnerable.
Expectations: Honestly, this is a mystery. Expecting anything particular out of this match is setting one’s self up for disappointment. The Swiss will be the favorites thanks to their FIFA ranking, but that is misleading.
One blogger’s prediction: Oy, asking me to predict this one is scary. I’m high on Drmic, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Switzerland grabs a slim 1-0 lead, scoring towards the end of the first half and tightening up even more the last 45 minutes.
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