Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld believes his side are better, more creative and more attacking than four years ago when they stunned eventual FIFA World Cup™ winners Spain.
Hitzfeld, the 65-year-old former coach of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, begins his Group E campaign against Ecuador on Sunday before his side face France and Honduras. The veteran boss believes a place in the last 16 is within his team's grasp, which would compensate for a first round exit in South Africa in 2010 despite their famous 1-0 win over the Spaniards.
"My dream is to get to the second round and then we can dream of going further," said Hitzfeld on Saturday. The German, who retires after this FIFA World Cup, has blended the battle-hardened troops of 2010 with an exciting crop of youngsters such as Haris Seferovic and Granit Xhaka, as well as the highly-regarded Xherdan Shaqiri.
My dream is to get to the second round and then we can dream of going further
"We started a transition four years ago, we have rejuvenated the group of experienced players," said Hitzfeld. "The team are better, more attacking, more creative with better organisation than in 2010. Switzerland are well-organised, capable of quickly switching from defence to attack. The players are tense, that's normal, but we have the experience to counter that."
Despite his confidence, Hitzfeld is wary of the challenges posed by an Ecuador team that did not qualify in 2010 and whose best performance was a run to the last 16 in Germany in 2006: "They have some good players, their strength is the counter-attack. Every team has its strengths and weaknesses and Ecuador will have analysed ours."
Switzerland are the top seeds in the group even though France are the 1998 World Champions and UEFA Euro 2000 winners, but Hitzfeld has plenty of respect for Didier Deschamps' side. "We are ahead of France in the FIFA standings because we have been successful with good performances in the last few years, but France have huge potential and are amongst the favourites."