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New ambitions for Switzerland at the World Cup?

With preparations for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in full swing, Switzerland are hoping to build from past disappointing tournament performances and advance into the knockout stages. With a change in head coach and standout names in the mix, how well will they perform Down Under this summer?

The appointment of former Germany striker Inka Grings as head coach, has played a significant part in creating a new philosophy for the Swiss team, as they look to turn around their discouraging history with major international tournaments. Past struggles to progress through the group stages has meant that the team has lacked confidence on an international stage; Switzerland placed 3rd in their group within the past 3 major tournaments they competed in (2015, 2017 and 2022).

German legend Grings was appointed by La Nati in November of 2022 and took over the squad in January of this year, following a successful spell at Swiss club FC Zurich. The 44 year old won the double and achieved qualification for the UEFA Women’s Champions League in the year and a half she was at the club. Prior to her coaching career, the former forward is Germany’s 3rd all-time top goal scorer with 63 goals to her name, in addition to winning 2 European Championships.

Taking over a side, which underperformed at last year’s European Championships, Grings uses her experience as a player to encourage her team to “have courage and feel freedom on the pitch”. She has brought an attacking mindset to a team that was grounded in build-up and possessional play, focusing on a quick, straightforward transition from defence into attack.

The team’s performance at the 2022 Euros was poor, being drawn in a group with Sweden, the Netherlands and Portugal, they were subject to a challenging set of fixtures in order to advance and ultimately they only gained 1 point and placed third, unable to qualify. After a hard-fought qualification for this year’s tournament, they are hoping for a different story.

Winning 8 out of 10 qualification games, and losing only once, 1-0 to Italy, determined that they were subject to play-offs in order to secure qualification. After dominating play against Wales, the Swiss made a comeback from 1-0 down, with an 120th minute winner from Fabienne Humm to make it 2-1 and secure qualification.

Being drawn into a group with the Philippines, Norway and tournament co-hosts New Zealand, Switzerland have ambitions to top their group, as this draw sees them with teams amongst the 5 lowest ranked teams in the tournament; despite this they will “not underestimate” their opponents. Going into their first game against the Philippines, Grings wants her side to “be dominant, get into a flow and shake off any nerves”.

The 23 named by Grings features several players who are inarguably important to the team. Lia Wälti is named and expected to captain the side, which comes despite uncertainty as the Arsenal midfielder suffered an ankle injury in May. Being an intelligent player, Wälti sits in the heart of midfield and impressively leads the team; being considered one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, her ability to get herself out of difficult situations is exceptional. Club teammate Noelle Maritz is also named in the squad, the dependable right-back has 102 caps and is expected to form part of the Swiss defence.

With several influential players who are able to lead the line, the Swiss are looking for no trouble finding the back of the net. Recent UEFA Champions League winner and all-time top goal scorer for Switzerland, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic has been selected, alongside PSG forward Ramona Bachmann on her return from injury. This fierce duo forms an integral part of Switzerland’s attack and are able to use their experience and composure in front of goal to lead younger players. Alisha Lehmann making return to the squad, following taking a break from international football, is another attacking option, in addition to experienced forward Fabienne Humm.

Young midfielder Iman Beney heartbreakingly misses out, following an ACL rupture in training just days after being selected. The 16 year old was an exciting one to watch, adding depth into Grings’ side and was set to become Switzerland’s youngest ever Women’s World Cup player. There was no place for star midfielder Riola Xhemaili in the final 23, with Grings including the fact that she is ‘lacking sharpness’ ahead of the tournament.

The tournament kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20th, with Switzerland’s first game against the Philippines on Friday 21st July, 6:00 BST. Can Inka Grings’ side change their story with their goal of qualifying for the knockout stages?

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