For some years now, the Swiss have rated as the most dangerous European underdogs of them all, capable of upsetting the continent’s top sides at any time. Despite this, they have never previously qualified for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The real breakthrough came in 2005 with a spectacular and unexpected triumph to claim the European crown. Proving this new-found strength was no flash in the pan, Switzerland battled to the continental runners-up spot in both of the last two years.
The team coached by Angelo Schirinzi are unquestionably on the up, and have established themselves as one of the best nations on the continent. The evidence includes a creditable fifth place in the 2009 EURO League, and third spot in the European qualifying tournament for Dubai 2009, sealing a berth at the showdown in the Emirates. Steady individual improvement lies behind Switzerland’s rapid ascent. Alongside star striker Dejan Stankovic, a number of other players have achieved top-class international standard.
"We’ve worked very hard towards this. I reckon we truly deserve it. This is the best day of my life! Now we can relax and enjoy the sun, the beach and the rest of the tournament. The pressure’s off now." So said Switzerland keeper Nico Jung following his side’s success in the Dubai 2009 qualifying tournament in Castellon, Spain. The national team are riding a tidal wave of enthusiasm for beach soccer in Switzerland, which has seen the sport rapidly put down roots, and sow the seeds for a potentially rich harvest in years to come.
Facts and figures
Dejan Stankovic, Stephan Meier, Nico Jung
The Swiss came through their group in Castellon with a 100 per cent record, before beating Turkey (7-2) and Italy (5-3) in the knockout stages. They were beaten 4-2 by Spain in the semi-finals, but sensationally beat Portugal 8-6 in the third-place play-off.
The numbers game
31,000 - The number of fans who rose to acclaim their beach soccer heroes at St. Jakob Park in Basel ahead of the international meeting between Switzerland and Italy in mid-August, when the players took to the field beforehand in acknowledgement of their triumph in reaching Dubai 2009.