After battling through to the starting field for London 2012, Switzerland are back at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament for the first time in 84 years. The Swiss last contested the tournament at the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, but failed to survive the first hurdle in a 4-0 defeat to Germany. The greatest triumph in the association's history had come four years earlier in Paris with a march to the final, although Uruguay prevailed 3-0 and the Swiss went home with silver medals. Overall, the Alpine nation have triumphed just once in significant global tournaments, when winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2009 in Nigeria.
The junior generation which triumphed two-and-a-half years ago in west Africa has now crystallised into a team capable of causing a stir at the Olympic Games. A handful of the youngsters who collected the U-17 crown will reappear on the global stage in London this summer. The Swiss FA’s (SFV) long-term talent development programme is slowly but surely beginning to bear fruit. Second place at the UEFA European U-21 Championship 2011 was a great achievement and points to a well-stocked reservoir of potential in the nation’s footballing youth. The Olympic squad is likely to include a number of players with experience of Europe's biggest leagues.
The new Swiss elite appears to possess sufficient quality to follow in the footsteps of a generation which contested two FIFA World Cup™ finals in succession, Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010. The powers that be at the SFV recognise the importance of their rough diamonds gaining valuable experience at major international tournaments, so the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament 2012 represents another vital step in helping the nation's up and coming players close in on the highest international standards. Many observers feel the side travel to London with an outside chance of a medal, which would surely lay the foundation for lasting success in the future. Whatever happens, the footballing world will be monitoring the talented Swiss for a while to come.
Facts and figures
Paolo Sturzenegger, Walter Dietrich
At the European U-21 Championship 2011 in Denmark, Switzerland cruised through their group with three victories in as many matches, before edging past the Czech Republic 1-0 in the semi-finals. Spain proved too much of a hurdle and the Swiss fell 2-0 in the final, but their ticket to London was already secure.
The numbers game
3 - Striker Admir Mehmedi, now on the books at Dynamo Kyiv, finished second-top scorer at the European U-21 Championship 2011 on three goals, behind only Spain's Adrian on five.