Switzerland vs. Croatia: Preview

Harold Cunningham

Switzerland and Croatia meet in a clash of World Cup dark horses on Wednesday.

Neither Switzerland nor Croatia are serious World Cup contenders, but both teams have the potential to cause some upsets in Brazil. They meet in a friendly in St. Gallen on Wednesday, with Switzerland looking to repeat the 4-2 victory they picked up in a friendly in Split back in 2012.

The hosts probably just about have the edge, with Ottmar Hitzfeld's attacking options making up for their defensive frailties. Though their full-backs are good, their centre-back pairing will likely be made up of Johan Djourou and Steve von Bergen, and neither has ever impressed at the top level.

Higher up the field they're rather better endowed, with either Blerim Džemaili or Valon Behrami set to partner their equally-experienced national team captain and Napoli teammate Gökhan Inler in the pivot. However, it's in the attacking midfield zone that the Swiss strength truly lies, with a sprinkling of star quality provided by their tricky winger Xherdan Shaqiri, and his former Basel teammate, playmaker Granit Xhaka.

Croatia's only comparable wonderkid is Mateo Kovačić, though it's far from certain he'll make Niko Kovač's starting 11 after a season in and out of the Inter Milan team. Even so, their creativity would be more than made up for by the inclusions of Ivan Rakitić and Luka Modrić in the midfield pivot. Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandžukić will be suspended for the first World Cup match against hosts Brazil, but could still be given the friendly nod.

Much like Switzerland, their weaknesses are at the back, with Dejan Lovren and Vedran Ćorluka an unconvincing pairing and full-backs Danijel Pranjić and Darijo Srna into their twilight years. All this should mean we see a game with goals.

Squads

Switzerland

Goalkeepers: Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg), Yann Sommer (Basel)

Defenders: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Johan Djourou (Hamburg), Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), Ricardo Rodríguez (Wolfsburg), Michael Lang (Grasshopper)

Midfielders: Tranquillo Barnetta (Eintracht Frankfurt), Gökhan İnler (Napoli), Gelson Fernandes (Freiburg), Valon Behrami (Napoli), Blerim Džemaili (Napoli), Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich), Granit Xhaka (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Valentin Stocker (Basel), Pirmin Schwegler (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Forwards: Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg), Mario Gavranović (Zürich), Haris Seferović (Real Sociedad), Josip Drmić (Nürnberg)

Croatia

Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subašić (Monaco)

Defenders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Igor Bubnjić (Udinese), Domagoj Vida (Dynamo Kiev), Vedran Ćorluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Dejan Lovren (Southampton), Danijel Pranjić (Panathinaikos), Ivan Strinić (Dniepropetrvsk), Gordon Schindelfeld (Panathinaikos), Šime Vrsaljko (Genoa), Hrvoje Milić (Rostov)

Midfielders: Ivan Rakitić (Sevilla), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid), Ivan Perisić (VfL Wolfsburg), Mateo Kovačić (Inter Milan), Milan Badelj (Hamburg), Niko Kranjčar (QPR), Mate Maleš (Rijeka), Ivo Iličević (Hamburg), Ognjen Vukojević (Dynamo Kiev)

Forwards: Mario Mandžukić (Bayern Munich), Ivica Olić (VfL Wolfsburg), Eduardo Da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), Nikica Jelavić (Everton), Ante Rebić (Fiorentina), Leon Benko (Rijeka)

Match Date/Time: Wednesday, 8:30 p.m. local, 2:30 p.m. ET

Venue: AFG Arena, St. Gallen, Switzerland

TV: SRF zwei, RTS Deux, RSI La 2, RTS Sport (Switzerland), HRT 2 (Croatia)

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