Playing in their second successive World Cup, Switzerland will have realistic ambitions of making the knockout round for only the third time in their history.
Holding the Swiss midfield together will be anchorman Gokhan Inler. The man who plays his football in Italy was one of the rare standout performers from Switzerland’s poor showing at Euro 2008.
While Inler is of Turkish descent, the 25-year-old started his career in Switzerland, making his name at Aarau and then FC Zurich, where he won two Swiss Championships.
Interest was high for the holding midfield player at the end of 2006/07 and Udinese fought off competition from Hertha Berlin to secure Inler’s signature. His promising performances led to recognition from the national team in September 2006 when he was called up for the first time and has subsequently been a regular member of the squad.
Some doubted whether Inler could make the step up to one of Europe’s toughest leagues but the aggressive and tough tackling midfielder has beaten off competition from Christian Obodo and Giampiero Pinzi for a regular spot in Udinese’s starting eleven.
Inler’s displays were so impressive across 2007/08 that he was voted the best new player in Serie A by Gazzetta dello Sport.
“You know what you will get with Inler and it is never bad,” says Ottmar Hitzfeld, the Swiss national coach who has been impressed from what he has seen of Inler since taking over in 2008.
While Inler is unlikely to offer any type of a goal threat in South Africa, it’s his defensive duties that will help to protect the Swiss back four at this summer’s tournament. Helping his team to solid performances over both Honduras and Chile could offer a chance of qualification to the knockout rounds for the Swiss, even with European champions Spain in Group H.
Perhaps in more illustrious company Inler could demonstrate his ability further, the 2010 World Cup though will give him another chance to shine at the grandest stage in football.
Uruguay, the two-time winners of the World Cup, needed to come through a play-off to seal a place in South Africa after finishing 5th in South American qualifying.
The 23-year-old has amassed 74 goals in 97 games since joining in 2007 and was the awarded the Dutch Player of the Year for 2009/10 while he also claimed the golden boot in Holland’s premier division.
While Suarez’s pace and trickery could see him deployed in a wide position, it would seem a waste to disrupt a potentially devastating partnership with Forlan.
Suarez’s worth in a forward position is perhaps highlighted by the fact that when he has scored for Uruguay (10 goals in 30 caps), they have not lost.
An enthusiastic performer, Suarez has sometimes been criticised for his lack of concentration but also has the ability to pull off the audacious. However, discipline has also been an issue in the past and the striker has been warned over the amount of unnecessary yellow cards that he picks up.
With this said it seems a matter of time before the forward makes his mark on a grand stage. This World Cup could provide him with the perfect opportunity.
With Barcelona and Manchester United apparently lurking it can’t be long before a serious bid is made for the prolific striker. Although Ajax boss Martin Jol would love to keep him at current club Ajax.
“He really is a joy to watch. Is he too good to ply his trade in the Eredivisie? I don’t think so. I’d rather have two or three players more like him in my team.”
On Thursday Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said that Suarez would start against France in the country’s opening fixture.