Fifa ranking: 15
Best result: Quarterfinals(1934, 1938 and 1958)
Switzerland have enjoyed a purple patch over the past few years. At the Uefa Euro last year, the Nati made it all the way to the quarterfinals, knocking out World Cup title-holders France in the process, before losing to Spain on penalties.
The bubble burst slightly this year, with the Swiss managing a solitary win over Portugal in two friendlies and four Uefa Nations League matches.
They suffered four losses and a draw during that six-game run, shipping 10 goals in total. The defence suddenly seemed fragile, and Yakin will have to get his team back to their qualifying form. Should he manage that, the sky is the limit for them in Qatar.
Vladimir Petkovic left big shoes to fill when he vacated the Swiss hot seat last year, despite still being under contract. Fortunately, his replacement proved to be an inspired choice.
Under Yakin, Switzerland managed an exceptional World Cup qualifying campaign, remaining undefeated throughout and relegating European champions Italy to a play-off place.
Goalkeeper Yann Sommer summed up Yakin’s philosophy as follows: “He puts a lot of emphasis on face-to-face conversations and a good team spirit. He also looks at the defence from a centre-half’s point of view, which I think is valuable.”
Even back in his playing days, Yakin was known to take on board the need to let a team express itself.
With 104 caps and 12 goals, Xhaka is one of the most experienced members of Yakin’s squad. He plies his domestic trade at Arsenal, and is the captain and nerve centre of the Swiss team.
Born in Basel but with family from Kosovo and Albania – his brother Taulant plays for Albania – Xhaka has a full range of strings to his bow.
Injuries restricted him to just two games in the World Cup qualifying campaign, but the captain has been back in the starting line-up for all six matches this calendar year. The fact that only one of those ended in a win will doubtless provide plenty of motivation for an experienced campaigner like Xhaka, who has more than 100 Bundesliga appearances and 200 more in the Premier League to his name.
If anyone can drag the Nati up by their bootstraps ahead of the World Cup, it’s this man. – Fifa.com