'Things never turn out the way you expect.' The truth behind this old saying became painfully clear for Switzerland at this year's FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Ravenna, Italy. After a runners-up finish two years ago in Dubai, the Eidgenossen arrived on the Adriatic Coast full of optimism. Many experts had even tipped them to be dark horses for the title.
However, a 3-2 defeat to hosts Italy in their final group game ended Swiss hopes of a place in the quarter-finals. The game had started brightly for Angelo Schirinzi's charges after Stephan Leu opened the scoring, but two defensive errors allowed the Italians to turn the tables and ultimately secure their place in the last eight.
"We're hugely disappointed," said Schirinzi in a post-match interview with FIFA.com. "Still, if you play like that, you don't deserve to win. We made too many individual errors and lost our heads. We allowed Italy back into the game and they took full advantage. Credit to our opponents, they gave everything. We didn't deserve to go through based on our performances."
"We tried to set our stall out to stop our opponents, but we couldn't put any of our plans into action," continued the Swiss tactician. "Perhaps our mentality was wrong, or we underestimated our opponents. I just don't know. With hindsight, we should have done a lot of things differently."
"It was a very even group. The Senegalese were technically very strong, even Iran had a good side despite losing all three of their matches. We've had a long year and played in several tournaments like the Euro [Beach Soccer] League, as well as regional and national championships.
"Perhaps the World Cup came at a bad time for us," he continued. "Our minds are exhausted and our legs heavy. We don't possess the quality some nations have to make up for those deficits. We all need to work on ourselves. We were able to prepare properly for Dubai 2009, but this year it wasn't possible due to all the tournaments. That was certainly a problem."
Despite Switzerland's premature exit, Schirinzi remains optimistic about his side's future. "Of course it's difficult to come to terms with at first. We're disappointed and we need to lick our wounds, but the good thing is that we're learning. We made mistakes which we know not to in future. Sometimes you have to take one step back to take two forward."