5 Switzerland players to watch at World Cup

Published on NewsOK Modified: May 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm •  Published: May 31, 2014
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GENEVA (AP) — Perhaps this is Switzerland's best chance to make an impression at the World Cup.

The Swiss have a talented group of mostly young players who are aiming to give veteran coach Ottmar Hitzfeld a fitting finale for his career.

Here are five players to watch:

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XHERDAN SHAQIRI

Still only 22, Xherdan Shaqiri should make many lists of potential breakout stars in Brazil.

Shaqiri will be going to his second World Cup with talent that has not yet been fully exposed.

At Bayern Munich, the stocky wide attacker has to wait for his chance in the biggest Champions League matches behind Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Mueller. In the Bundesliga, Shaqiri is a consistent scorer and assist provider for the runaway champions.

Despite tight and physical marking from opponents in Brazil, Shaqiri has strength and balance to compare with the similarly sized Lionel Messi.

The poor man's Messi? It sounds like an insult, but really isn't.

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GOKHAN INLER

Switzerland fans have long looked for Gokhan Inler to step up and be "patron" of the midfield.

Now captain of the "Nati," Inler has increasingly shown the strength and creativity to dictate play. However, it is an intriguing tussle for central midfield slots among Napoli teammates Inler, Valon Behrami and Blerim Dzemaili.

Behrami and Dzemaili stood out in a 1-0 win over Brazil last August. Inler was benched because he would be suspended for a subsequent World Cup qualifier, so Hitzfeld paired the other two.

Inler soon returned and, celebrating his 30th birthday in Brazil after the group stage ends, should be in his prime.

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FABIAN SCHAER

Switzerland has often seemed to lack a world-class central defender in recent years. Fabian Schaer might be the solution.

The 22-year-old Schaer has impressed in only his second season with Swiss champion FC Basel and since making his international debut against Brazil.