Its strength is defence

It is safe to say there isn’t much excitement around Switzerland’s chances at the World Cup. Its squad is inexperienced and the style of football dreary. In 2006, Switzerland managed four goals from four games, exiting the competition after defeat to Ukraine on penalties in the round of 16.

Four years later, the Swiss managed only a single goal before bowing out in the group stages. Nothing radical is expected this time but with a young bunch of players — many of whom won the under-17 World Cup in 2009 and reached the final of the U-21 European Championships in 2011 — things could improve. In Valon Behrami, the captain Gokhan Inler, Valentin Stocker, Granit Xhaka and the hugely talented Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland boasts a strong midfield. Much will depend on Shaqiri, whose pace and trickery will be vital if the side is to open defences up. The strikers Haris Seferovic and Josip Drmic are ones to keep an eye on.

Switzerland’s strength, however, is its defence. The side conceded only six goals in 10 qualifying matches, and has two quality fullbacks in Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez. The coach Ottmar Hitzeld, who has won the Bundesliga seven times and the Champions League twice, insists on discipline. While the team will try nothing adventurous, he has set a target of reaching the last 16.

It is easier said than done, in Group D, with France, Honduras and Ecuador for company. Although the last two don’t seem formidable, they are more comfortable in the hot and humid conditions that Switzerland will struggle in. Progress rests on winning the first game over Ecuador and getting at least a point in the second with France. The world, though, is not holding its breath.