Switzerland already had an uphill battle to make it out of Group H with Spain, Honduras and Chile for company, and the news today that star striker Marco Streller – who also had to miss Euro 2004 through injury – will be out the World Cup will be a further downer on Swiss spirits.
Streller scored six goals in the final five games for Basle as the Swiss domestic season drew to a close and he has a solid international goals record of 11 goals in 32 games.
The Swiss will now have to rely on Alexander Frei and Blaise Nkufo, who both notched five in qualifying, as a source for their goals. Streller has been replaced by FC Nurnberg striker, Albert Bunjaku who hit 21 goals for Basle this season, but is hugely inexperienced at this level with just two caps, and lacks the influence Streller possessed.
The Swiss arrive in South Africa having lost only one competitive fixture since bowing out of Euro 2008 in the group stages, a bizarre 2-1 home defeat to minnows Luxembourg in September 2008. Many will remember that they bowed out of Euro 2008 without conceding a goal, losing on penalties to Ukraine, and their resilience at the back will be the difference between making it out their group and heading home.
Two recent friendly results will have also dented Swiss confidence ahead of the World Cup. They went down 1-0 and 3-1 to Norway and Uruguay respectively and haven’t scored a goal from open play for 338 minutes. Now those who were backing the Swiss to successfully navigate Group H certainly have an increased reason to worry with the absence of Streller.
However, many will feel that Frei, with 40 International goals to his name, will have enough to help Switzerland make it out the group. If they manage to do this they’d likely face a far superior Brazil side in the Last 16, so the 2/1 on Switzerland being eliminated at that stage could still represent good value.