Where are the Swiss conquerors now?
Switzerland won the FIFA U-17 World Cup on 15 November 2009
Where are those champions now?
FIFA.com talks with coach Dany Ryser and defender Charyl Chapuis
'They came, they conquered, they never returned.'
This modified version of the well-known saying is rather fitting for Switzerland, who won the country’s first-ever global title at their historic maiden outing at a FIFA U-17 World Cup™ in 2009. Since lifting that trophy in Nigeria, however, the Swiss have never reached the tournament again.
“Lots of things always just have to come together for Switzerland,” said Dany Ryser in an interview with FIFA.com. Switzerland’s U-17 coach at the time, Ryser now works for UEFA and FIFA in coach education, and as a technical observer at tournaments. “You have to qualify in the first place and then there’s a lot more to do at the tournament itself. The dynamic we had in Nigeria hasn’t been repeated."
That success in Africa lives on though. “Nice memories come to the surface every so often,” Ryser said. “That win is talked about over and over again. They were unforgettable moments with the team during what was a long time in a very special environment. Such success would never have been possible without such a fantastic team spirit. After we beat Brazil in the group stage I felt that we could become world champions.”
Defender Charyl Chappuis likewise has fond memories, as he told FIFA.com: “It was probably the nicest period of my career. The conditions in Nigeria were undoubtedly special, but our togetherness and team spirit were unique.” And what did he make of Ryser? “I’ve never had another coach who was so meticulous about details. He set us up perfectly to face the opposition in every game."
But where are those young starlets now? Together with Ryser, we take a closer look back on the key players from Nigeria 2009.
Benjamin Siegrist (goalkeeper, 28)
Best goalkeeper at the tournament
The Technical Study Group described him as “a goalkeeper with good reactions and positional play, excellent on his line as well as on crosses"
Clubs include: Aston Villa, Vaduz, Dundee United
Took part at the 2012 Olympics
Ryser: "He was very important for us. He kept us in a lot of games with his saves. I viewed him as a very focused young goalkeeper back then. After that, his development didn’t continue as we or he thought it would. The fact he went to England at a young age certainly contributed to him not having a hugely successful career, because there’s enormous competition for places over there as a goalkeeper.”
Frederic Veseli (captain and defender, 27)
Clubs include: Manchester City, Manchester United, Lugano, Empoli, Le Mans
National team: 29 caps for Albania
Participated at EURO 2016 with Albania
Ryser: "He was my captain, an absolute leader. I knew he had a mistake in him in every game, but otherwise he was unbelievably reliable and very loyal. I’m delighted that he ended up playing at the European Championship in 2016, even if it was for Albania. He was very mature for a 17-year-old. I can still remember very clearly how he reacted when we were stuck in the airport before the final against Nigeria. He calmed me down by saying: ‘They won’t start the final without us’. That was impressive.”
Nigeria 2009 - Colombia - Switzerland 12/11/90 - Lagos
Santiago Arias of Colombia is sent off
LAGOS, NIGERIA - NOVEMBER 12: Santiago Arias of Colombia is sent off during the FIFA U17 World Cup Semi-Final 1 between Colombia and Switzerland at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on November 12, 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo by Jamie McDonald - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Nassim Ben Khalifa of Switzerland celebrates his goal
LAGOS, NIGERIA - NOVEMBER 12: Nassim Ben Khalifa of Switzerland celebrates his goal during the FIFA U17 World Cup Semi-Final 1 between Colombia and Switzerland at the Teslim Balogun Stadium on November 12, 2009 in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo by Jamie McDonald - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Charyl Chappuis (defender, 28)
Clubs include: Grasshopper, Buriram United, Suphanburi, Muangthong United, Port
National team: 20 caps for Thailand (five goals)
2014 Southeast Asian Championship winner
Social media star in Thailand (1.4m followers on Instagram)
Rejected an offer from Juventus after the U-17 World Cup
Ryser: "He was someone who was not only decisive in defence but also going forward. I advised him to move to Thailand back when he did, but I regretted it because he could also have had a great career in Europe if his coaches had believed in him more. Unfortunately, most Super League coaches didn’t want centre-backs smaller than 6’3” (1.90m) back then. It’s great what he’s gone on to achieve though. He’s a star in Thailand.”
Haris Seferovic (forward, 28)
Clubs include: Grasshopper, Fiorentina, Real Sociedad, Eintracht Frankfurt, Benfica
National team: 69 caps for Switzerland (19 goals)
Participated at EURO 2016 and at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™
Ryser: "With Nassim Ben Khalifa and Haris Seferovic we had an outstanding strike duo. But it wasn’t always easy with the two of them. They both played at Grasshopper Zurich but they didn’t really gel together. Neither wanted the other to score, they wouldn’t square a pass to a team-mate in front of goal because they wanted to score themselves. I talked to them and said: ‘If you two keep this up, I’ll only take one of you to the World Cup.’ Speaking to them separately, I asked them who they thought I would take. Both said Ben Khalifa. Yes, Nassim was further along in his development than Seferovic at the time, but I made it clear that if Seferovic was the only one putting the team first, then I’d leave Ben Khalifa at home. Both players really gave their all for the team at the tournament, they gelled brilliantly and scored decisive goals.”
Nassim Ben Khalifa (midfielder/forward, 28)
Clubs include: Wolfsburg, Nurnberg, BSC Young Boys, Eskisehirspor, Grasshopper Club Zurich
National team: Four caps for Switzerland (no goals)
adidas Silver Ball winner as the second best player at the U-17 World Cup 2009 (four goals, three assists)
Ryser: "I always compared him to Mario Gotze. He had a superb tournament and joined Wolfsburg afterwards. He wasn’t able to break through there and then he had a serious injury. After that he was never again able to reach the level I saw in him."
Granit Xhaka (winger/midfielder, 28)
Clubs: Basel, Borussia Monchengladbach, Arsenal
National team: 83 caps for Switzerland (12 goals)
Participated at 2014 and 2018 World Cups, as well as EURO 2016
2017 Swiss Player of the Year
Ryser: "He was a late developer and at the time he wasn’t the leader he is today in the national team. He wasn’t a first-team regular in the U-16s because he was physically still a bit behind the others. But to me it was always clear that he had a huge amount of talent. He only got into the starting line-up as the World Cup got closer. Given his slight frame I didn’t think he was robust enough yet to thrive in central midfield on the international stage. That’s why I put him on the wing. I’m not surprised he’s gone on to have such a great career, and I’m really happy for him."
Ricardo Rodriguez (full-back, 28)
Clubs: Zurich, Wolfsburg, AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven, Torino
National team: 77 caps for Switzerland (eight goals)
Participated at EURO 2016 and the 2018 World Cup
Ryser: "Ricardo only joined us a month before the tournament started because there had been delays with getting his naturalisation. I’ve never seen a player so unaffected by stress or pressure. He never lost his cool. He was an extraordinary player even back then."