The date - 25 June 2014 - is likely to live long in the memory of Switzerland defender Fabian Schar. Having been an unused substitute in his country’s first two matches at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the 22-year-old made his tournament debut against Honduras and was celebrating both a victory and qualification for the last 16 come the final whistle.
“It was my first ever World Cup game,” Schar told FIFA a couple of days later. “Before kick-off I was much more nervous than I usually am.” Not that anybody noticed, as the centre-half was a composed presence on the field, with his accurate passing and excellent positioning helping the Nati keep a maiden clean sheet at Brazil 2014 and progress to the knockout rounds.
Doing so meant the Swiss side met the minimum target they had set themselves and there is now a sense they can play without a burden of expectation weighing them down. With that in mind, Schar is understandably hoping for another taste of the action against Argentina.
Competition for places
Many pundits had predicted the Basel native would be one of Switzerland’s first-choice centre-backs going into the tournament, but Ottmar Hitzfeld is spoilt for choice in that area. Steve von Bergen was considered an automatic pick, leaving Schar to jostle with Johan Djourou and Philippe Senderos for the remaining slot at the heart of defence.
Schar was towards the lower end of the pecking order having arrived in Brazil on the back of a difficult season in which he was frequently forced to the sidelines with injury. However, after Von Bergen succumbed to an injury himself, Schar took up the mantel.
The two-time Swiss champion is already looking forward to testing his mettle against a menacing Argentinian attack spearheaded by four-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner Lionel Messi. While Schar, who has seven international caps, believes the Albiceleste are clear favourites due to the “extraordinary” players in their ranks, he is confident Switzerland can cause the South Americans some problems too: “We’ve shown a few times that we can compete with, and beat, big teams.”
Victory would take Switzerland into the quarter-finals for the first time since their home World Cup in 1954. However, Schar is aware that the team will need to improve on their display against Honduras in order to do so and is backing the in-form Xherdan Shaqiri to come to the fore again. “We’re very happy to have him and I’d be delighted if he continued scoring.”
Yet the imposing defender is also conscious of the fact that Shaqiri cannot single-handedly steer Switzerland into the next round and called on every member of the squad “to give their absolute all". "That’s the only way we’ll have a chance," he added.
If they do, Schar could well have another date forever engraved in his memory.