The date 11 October appears to be a propitious one for the Swiss national team. On 11 October 1995, Switzerland beat Hungary to book their place at UEFA EURO 1996; on the same date in 2003, victory over Republic of Ireland guaranteed La Nati a berth at the following year's continental showdown. And as all good things come in threes, 11 October 2013 and victory over Albania ensured Ottmar Hitzfeld's ensemble will be present at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
FIFA.comcasts the spotlight on Switzerland's route to Brazil, in the words of some of their key players and coaching staff.
"Beating one of your main rivals away from home is always good. These three points could be crucial, but only if we can follow them up at home. Our aim is to win against Albania. To pick up six points from your first two games would be fantastic, and that's what we're aiming for."
Diego Benaglio spoke to Swiss paper Blick, analysing Switzerland's start after a 2-0 win over Slovenia 7 September 2012.
Benaglio's team-mates promptly heeded the goalkeeper's words and Switzerland topped their group after Matchday 2:
"We played well as a team in both matches, I think that was the key to us earning the six points. The side realised that we could only put ourselves in a good situation by building on our win over Slovenia. You could feel from the very first minute that we wanted to do that. The fact that we're at the top of the group now isn't important. We've only played two games and there's still a long way to go in this qualifying campaign."
Benaglio reflected on a job well done to Swiss broadcasters *SRF after a 2-0 triumph over Albania on 11 September 2012.*
However, Switzerland dropped points for the first time in their next qualifying games. Hitzfeld's charges recorded a 1-1 draw with Norway, a 2-0 victory over Iceland and a goalless stalemate against Cyprus.
"Our finishing was poor and Cyprus only looked to attack on the counter. I'm sure everyone will view this as two points lost. I think my striker's instinct left me when I ran through on goal but still didn't manage to shoot despite being in a good position. Now we have to try and make amends at home."*
The 0-0 draw with Cyprus on 23 March 2013 was not the best performanceValentin Stocker and Co put on during qualifying, as he told football.ch.
*Nevertheless, things did improve in the return leg…
"This is a very important win. My congratulations go to the team for their attitude and team-spirit, and to the substitutes, who were decisive. Over two games against Cyprus we created 20 chances but only scored once. We've got great attacking potential with a lot of young players. We've taken a big step towards Brazil and although we're not there yet, this lead gives us greater security."
Assistant coach Michel Pont, speaking to football.ch, praised his players after their 1-0 triumph over Cyprus on 8 June 2013.
While the next game against Iceland showed the side's tremendous attacking quality, it also highlighted Switzerland's defensive shortcomings.
"We weren't focused enough over the 90 minutes. That won't happen ever again."
*Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, speaking to football.ch was in no mood to mince his words after the 4-4 draw with Iceland on 6 September 2013. Stephan Lichtsteiner summed it up for Blick:
*"It's so disappointing. The only thing we can say is that it was our own fault. We played superbly and were 4-1 up, but then we conceded a silly goal and one thing led to another. There's nothing you can really say. It's a massive shame, but we'll learn from this and will be better in the next game."
Three matchdays before the end of the qualifying campaign, Fabian Schar put Switzerland on the verge of reaching the World Cup.
"We've got Brazil in our sights and after the 4-4 draw against Iceland we played as a team in Norway. We're happy to have made amends for the home fixture. I made a little slip-up in defence and I'm glad we weren't punished for it."
Two-goal hero Schar spoke to football.ch after a 2-0 win over Norway on 10 September 2013.
On the penultimate matchday, Switzerland sealed their passage to Brazil 2014 with victory over Albania.
"I'm delighted that we've managed to qualify. First we need to let it all sink in and then we need to wait for the draw in December. Who will our opponents be? Can we make it to the last 16? Of course we have a certain objective in mind, but it's still early days."
Hitzfeld expressed his joy to SRF at qualifying for the World Cup and is hoping for a good group when the draw is made on 6 December. **