Tranquillo Barnetta rates as one of the most important players in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s team. The 25-year-old started all ten of his country’s FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers and made a decisive contribution to Switzerland sealing a berth at the global showdown for the second time in a row.
St. Gallen-born Barnetta combines refined technique with indomitable fighting spirit and is currently the ideal solution on the left flank, the position he has generally filled for Hitzfeld.
"I think it’s important that I’ve played plenty of games and have lots of international experience now. This is what I want to give back to the team. My recent performances have been OK, but I need to pose more of a threat in front of goal. That’s what I’m working on, as well as defending my place in the team, obviously," the Bayer Leverkusen schemer recently told FIFA.com.
The affable player’s long experience in the German Bundesliga cannot have hindered his progress on the international stage. Barnetta has plied his trade for Leverkusen for more than five seasons now and has developed into a respected and established figure in the German top flight.
That was not always the case. After bringing the player from FC St. Gallen to Leverkusen, the Rhineland club loaned out their new arrival to Hannover, but injury prevented him making any impact there. The wide midfielder only emerged as an influential presence after his return to Leverkusen for the 2005-6 campaign.
In Switzerland, Barnetta was spotted early on as one of his country’s most promising young footballers. He appeared at every youth level for the Swiss, claiming U-17 European Championship honours in 2002 and competing at the U-21 European Championship two years later. He made the senior squad for UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal the same year, but did not play at the tournament.
His senior debut finally arrived on 8 September 2004 in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Ireland, with his first goal in national colours coming on 1 March 2006 in a 3-1 victory over Scotland. Barnetta has also scored at the world finals, hitting the target in a 2-0 victory over Togo at the 2006 edition in Germany.
He was a member of the Switzerland team for the home UEFA EURO in 2008, but was unable to help the joint hosts stave off a sobering first-round exit from the tournament.
In the light of that disappointment, Barnetta is more determined than ever to put on a good show at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa.
"The great thing about a World Cup is testing yourself against the best. Our preparations for the tournament will be crucial, because we’ll need to be totally focused for three games at the very highest level. It’ll be extremely exciting for the whole squad. Our target has to be surviving the group stage. It’s a massive challenge, but it’s our main goal. We’re not thinking any further ahead than that right now. Anything else might distract us from concentrating on the essentials,” the midfielder exclusively told the world governing body’s official website, offering a clear formulation of Switzerland’s ambitions in June and July.