Hitzfeld: Swiss preparations have gone well

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There is a lot of expectation in Switzerland that a team with a core of players from the side that won the Under-17 world title in 2009 can become the first Swiss team to reach the quarter-finals since 1954.

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Switzerland’s respected German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who is in his last tournament before retiring, believes his side are capable of surprising at the world showpiece and says that he has a better squad than the one he took to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

The Swiss are grouped in Group F with France, Honduras and Ecuador.

“It’s a very strong group,” said Hitzfeld. “All three teams are not easy to beat; otherwise they would not be qualified for the World Cup.

“But we have had a very good preparation so far. We do have the potential to qualify for the round of the last 16. That is our goal. Then there are no limits.

“Being an optimist by nature I say we are better than 2010 and therefore yes we will reach the last 16.”

The Swiss know that Ecuador will be tough according to fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner.

“Ecuador have a very good team, very technical, they’re very good, believe me,” he said.

“I spoke to [his Juventus teammate Fernando] Llorente who played against them with Spain [a 2-0 win for the world champions in August last year] and he told me they’re good,” he added.

Ecuador midfielder Edison Mendez is keen to finish his long career on a final high — and if the Swiss weren’t already aware of their opponents hunger to win Mendez provided it when he reflected on his childhood and having to scavenge for food.

“Sometimes to become somebody, you have to go hungry. The key to success is there,” he said.

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