Switzerland Xherdan Shaqiri Image Credit: Supplied

Appearances: 10
Best finish: Quarter-finals in 1934, 1938, 1954
Manager: Vladimir Petkovic
Star player: Granit Xhaka

Their debut in 1934 started with a last eight stage entry followed by a second time four years later. After that there was a lull as the country of a mere eight million inhabitants competed but never progressed past the group stages till their third and last success in 1954.

However, this time there are at least handful different reasons why Switzerland can replicate their quarter-final form of the past.

It’s true that Switzerland earned their trip to Russia with an aggregate 1-0 win against Northern Ireland via the play-offs. But their actual qualifying campaign was near flawless, including a stunning 2-0 win over European champions Portugal. Then followed eight wins on the trot and everything looked bright for an eleventh showing in the global competition till a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal defeated them in their last qualifier and forced them into the play-offs on an inferior goal difference.

Secondly, Switzerland has never shied away from strong opponents. History books indicate that the Swiss relish strong opponents. In 2006, Switzerland held eventual runners-up France to a goalless draw in their group stage, and four years in South Africa they went on to stun eventual champions Spain by a solitary goal. This time, La Nati (meaning the national team) can attempt another shock as they take on former five-time champions Brazil in their first match in Rostov on June 17.

Another aspect of the current squad is coach Petkovic’s insistence on a more attacking, possession-based style and the results are being seen with Switzerland opting on compact and disciplined performances. During the 2014 tournament in Rio they went down to an extra-time goal from Argentina to bow out in their Round of 16 encounter.

At one point Switzerland had climbed into fourth in the Fifa World Ranking. And Russia will be their fourth successive trip to a World Cup. Next, in recent past they have lost to top teams very narrowly, bringing about a new-found self-belief among the players that they are in a position to match even the best. Russia 2018 will be no exception either.

Squad

Goalkeepers: Roman Buerki, Yvon Mvogo and Yann Sommer

Defenders: Manuel Akanji, Johan Djourou, Nico Elvedi, Michael Lang, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Jacques-Francois Moubandje, Ricardo Rodriguez and Fabian Schaer

Midfielders: Valon Behrami, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Blerim Dzemaili, Gelson Fernandes, Remo Freuler, Denis Zakaria and Steven Zuber.

Forwards: Josip Drmic, Breel Embolo, Mario Gavranovic, Haris Seferovic