Tournament newcomers Switzerland have impressed on their maiden voyage to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Boasting the likes of world-class striker Dejan Stankovic - currently the number two scorer at Dubai 2009 - as well as talented goalkeeper Nico Jung, the Swiss have consistently delivered entertaining, coordinated performances here on Jumeirah Beach. As they look forward to their quarter-final encounter with Group C winners Russia, they know that their cohesion as a team will be one of their major allies on the day.
Captain Mo Jaeggy told FIFA.com: “We are a team. That’s what makes us work well. Every one of us is constantly working for each other, constantly running for each other. We have Dejan, who is world-class and scores on anyone and everyone we face.”
“The Russians are physically strong and very good,” he said. “Tactically, they are very strong as well. We know them very well and have played them a lot (in friendlies and qualifiers). We lost to them by a single goal not long ago, for example, so we are at the same level.”
Russia, too, have certainly been in fine form here in Dubai, defeating first Costa Rica and then Italy on their march to the quarter-finals. Switzerland and Russia have faced each other twice before in qualifying action. Last year, the Russians grabbed a narrow 3:2 quarter-final win to deny the Swiss a trip to Marseille 2008. And, in 2007, they managed an 8:2 victory in the first stage of the European qualifiers. The sides did not meet at this summer’s qualifiers for Dubai 2009 in Castellón, Spain.
Switzerland are a side that rivals respect and, here in Dubai, more than one opposing player have been overheard saying that the Swiss have always been strong and certainly deserve to be here. Their good communication on the pitch can only be helped by the fact that among their ranks are three brothers, Mo and younger siblings Kaspar and Valentin Jaeggy. And though the trio know well what to expect from each other, such familiarity extends to all members of the team.
“This is the fourth season that my brothers and I have played together,” said the Swiss captain. “Of course we know each other very well, but really we know everyone on our team very well. Being brothers isn’t a particular advantage, really, because we know all of our team-mates very well – on the pitch, things are equal.”
Having already been booked in a previous match, Mo Jaeggy sat out of his side’s final group stage encounter against Brazil on Wednesday, as did Jung, enabling Valentin to make his debut in the Swiss goal. Switzerland lost by two goals in the hotly-contested match, relinquishing a 2-1 lead in the process, but Valentin turned in an admirable performance. Brazil goalkeeper Mao, in fact, went out of his way to acknowledge Valentin’s work, seeking him out to shake his hand after the match. And Mao later said: “I must congratulate the Swiss goalkeeper. He did really well.”
“It was a fantastic match, the first one I’ve played in here,” said Valentin. “We lost, but we had a great game. Russia will be a very hard game. We will try to win. They are a tough side – always going after the ball, similar to Brazil, really.”
Russians in mind
Though understandably a bit frustrated after Switzerland’s narrow loss to the Seleção, Switzerland’s player/coach Angelo Schirinzi said: “Now we only have Russians on our mind. And anyway, if we beat the Russians, we may eventually face Brazil again here in Dubai. Next time we will work hard again and maybe we can win.”