Switzerland will be taking part in a FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup for only the second time this summer. After failing to make an impression last time round, the Eidgenossen are now determined to prove themselves in Germany.
At the last edition of the tournament in 2006, the Swiss suffered a trio of defeats at the hands of Korea DPR, Germany and Mexico, conceding 14 and scoring just two as they crashed out of the competition at the group stage. Nonetheless, four years later the squad have every reason to expect a far more positive showing.
The UEFA U-19 Women's European Championship 2009 in Belarus gave some indication as to how far Swiss women's football has come over the last few years. Under the tutelage of coach Yannick Schwery, the ladies in red breezed past Germany 3-0 and only just missed out on the final. Indeed, their progression to the semi-finals, where they eventually lost 3-0 to England, was enough to secure their place at this year's FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.
"We reached the semis at the European Championship but not many people were aware of it in Switzerland. It's going to be different with the World Cup being held in Germany. The euphoria is going to be incredible because the fans and their families can all attend the matches. Also, many of our players play in the Bundesliga," Schwery told FIFA.com at the group stage draw in Dresden a few weeks ago.
Switzerland have been drawn alongside reigning champions USA, as well as Korea Republic and new-girls Ghana in Group D. First up are the Koreans on 14 July in Dresden, before Schwery's side take on the Americans three days later in the same city. Their third and final group match against Ghana is on 21 July in Bochum. Undoubtedly, on paper at least, a difficult task lies ahead for the valiant Swiss.
"I don't have any major expectations ahead of the tournament. Of course USA are the group favourites and they'll be difficult to play against, but aside from that we'll take it as it comes. We're hugely looking forward to being there. We know that we need to achieve something extraordinary if we are to boost the profile of the women's game back home," said Schwery.
The Swiss must finish at least second in their group to qualify for the quarter-finals, something Ana Maria Crnogorcevic feels is firmly within the team's grasp: "We have a good chance of getting through the group stage," said the Hamburger SV striker in an interview with FIFA.com. "We want to reach the quarter-finals, but anything more than that will depend on who we come up against. There's a lot of luck involved. It also depends on how you perform on the day, but we want to win every match. If we can do that, we'll win the tournament."
Alongside superstar Ramona Bachmann, 19-year-old Crnogorcevic ranks as one of the hottest properties in Swiss women's football. "Ramona is an absolutely world-class player," said Crnogorcevic of her lauded team-mate. "You can always rely on her. The good thing for me is that she draws focus and opponents onto her, leaving more room for someone like me to take advantage. It's great fun playing alongside her in attack. It raises my game."
Hailed as "the most attractive player in the Bundesliga" by German tabloid 'Bild', Crnogorcevic is a solid believer in the qualities of the Switzerland team and feels sure they can cause an upset or two in Germany. "I think Germany, USA, Brazil and Korea DPR are all amongst the favourites. Then there are a sides like England, Switzerland, Japan and Nigeria who can beat anyone on their day."
"My dream draw would have been Germany, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Ghana all in the same group, with the opening match against Germany of course. We'll just have to play them in the final instead!" said Crnogorcevic with a smile. "There's no reason why we can't we win this U-20 World Cup. I want to be as successful as possible with Switzerland."
Indeed, with their current generation of talent, a healthy amount of confidence and a deadly strikeforce, the Swiss are set to turn more than just a few heads in Germany.