Switzerland have plodded along unspectacularly since their first international fixture in 1905 but are currently enjoying a productive period, regularly ranking inside the FIFA rankings' top ten.
Switzerland's national soccer team have performed fairly steadily for the most part throughout their history, although perhaps the 1990s proved to be an exception.
A regular feature at international tournaments and a rare feature in the latter stages of them, Switzerland have plodded along unspectacularly for the last few decades, but they have given fans some moments to remember, particularly through legends such as Alexander Frei.
Formation and early years
Switzerland played their first international fixture in 1905, losing 1-0 to France. In 1924, they earned the silver medal at the Paris Olympics, losing to Uruguay in the final of the soccer tournament.
Switzerland participated in their first World Cup tournament and the second ever held in 1934, where they beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the round-of-16 before eventually suffering elimination at the hands of Czechoslovakia in the quarter-finals.
In 1938, Switzerland once again made the World Cup quarter-finals, seeing off West Germany 4-2 in the last 16 via a replay only to be beaten 2-0 by Hungary.
After finishing third in their group at the 1950 World Cup, Switzerland hosted the tournament in 1954. Once again, they reached the quarter-finals, beating Italy in a play-off to qualify. However, in the quarter-finals, they were beaten 7-5 by Austria.
After group-stage exits at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups, Switzerland did not qualify again until 1994. They also did not feature in the European Championships until 1996.
The Roy Hodgson era
Roy Hodgson was appointed in 1992 and by August 1993, he had helped them climb to third in the FIFA Rankings. Hodgson led Switzerland to the 1994 FIFA World Cup in the USA, losing only one match in qualifying.
Switzerland drew 1-1 to the USA in the opening match of the tournament before going on to beat Romania 4-1 and lose 2-0 to Colombia in their other group stage matches. Despite the defeat to Colombia, the qualified for the last 16, where they were beaten 3-0 by Spain.
Hodgson went on to guide Switzerland to qualification for Euro 1996, but the team struggled at the tournament itself, exiting in the group stage.
The introduction of Kobi Kuhn
Switzerland went into freefall in the late 1990s, failing to qualify for the 1998 World Cup or Euro 2000. From an all-time high of third in the world rankings in August 1993, they had dropped to an all-time low of 83rd by December 1998.
Jakob 'Kobi' Kuhn took over as head coach in 2001. He had plenty of work to do in transforming a team which once again failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea.
Kuhn led Switzerland to Euro 2004 ahead of Russia and the Republic of Ireland - a promising start to the new era. However, they were eliminated in the group stage, finishing bottom after defeats to England and France followed a 0-0 draw to Croatia. There was, at least, one bright moment as Johan Vonlanthen became the youngest player ever to score at the Euros.
Switzerland qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany by beating Turkey via the away goals rule in Istanbul. At the tournament, they finished first in a group featuring France, South Korea and Togo. This qualified them for the round-of-16, where they were beaten on penalties by Ukraine, becoming the only team to be eliminated from the tournament without conceding a goal.
Switzerland co-hosted Euro 2008 along with Austria. In the build-up to the tournament, their preparations were disrupted as Kuhn's wife was hospitalised due to an epileptic attack.
The team's fortunes worsened in the opening match against the Czech Republic. They suffered a 1-0 defeat, hitting the bar at the other end and seeing Alexander Frei ruled out of the tournament after suffering an injury.
A 2-1 defeat to Turkey followed in Switzerland's next match, but prior to the game, Kuhn had been informed his wife had woken up from a nine-day coma.
He told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper: "I had two feelings inside me on Wednesday, one of huge disappointment because we had gone out of the tournament and a great joy because of the surprise news from the hospital."
Switzerland rounded off their Euro 2008 campaign in style, picking up a 2-0 win over Portugal, who neverthetheless topped the group.
Time under Hitzfield
Ottmar Hitzfeld took over from Kuhn following Euro 2008 and led the team into the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. They started off with a 1-0 win over eventual champions Spain courtesy of a goal from Gelson Fernandes. However, Switzerland were still eliminated at the group stage.
Mark Gonzalez of Chile ended Switzerland's record 559-minute run without conceding a goal at the FIFA World Cup.
Switzerland missed out on qualifying for Euro 2012, but were back in action at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where they advanced to the round-of-16 along with France, from a group which also contained Honduras and Ecuador. There, Switzerland were beaten 1-0 by Argentina due to a late winner in extra time scored by Angel di Maria.
Switzerland made the round-of-16 at Euro 2016 in France, but were eliminated following a penalty shootout defeat to Poland.
At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, they once again were eliminated in the round-of-16.
Switzerland made the semi-finals of the inaugural UEFA Nations League in 2018/19, losing to eventual champions Portugal and then to England in the third-place play-off.
The Swiss then went on to shock favourites France at Euro 2020.
Vladimir Petkovic's side beat Turkey 3-1 in their final group game to progress to the last-16 stage with four points. They then fought back from 3-1 down to force extra-time against France, going on to win 5-4 on penalties.
Alexander Frei, Xherdan Shaqiri, Heinz Hermann, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Johann Vogel are among the highest-profile players to have donned the Swiss national team jersey. Frei is their all-time top goalscorer and Hermann holds the caps record.
Switzerland has a rivalrous but respectful relationship with Germany. They took the position after World War II that soccer should be a bridge-builder between nations and that Germany should not be shunned.
Switzerland has a population of approximately 8.5 million, with the cities of Basel and Zurich enjoying a fierce soccer rivalry within the country.
- Mar 25, 2022
- Jul 02, 2021