GENEVA (AP) — Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld plans to end his illustrious career in Brazil, ideally in July and not June.
A two-time Champions League winner as coach, Hitzfeld has set his Swiss team a target of reaching at least the quarterfinals. Then, at 65, the man admirers call "Gottmar" will bow out of football.
Hitzfeld will leave a Swiss team he has guided for six years in good shape for his successor, former Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic.
"Today, our team reached maturity. It has grown up," Hitzfeld told French broadcaster BFM, reflecting on World Cup qualification.
For that, Hitzfeld deserves credit, having rebuilt the squad from a low point three years ago.
After starting poorly in a failed 2012 European Championship qualifying campaign, Swiss media and fans openly questioned if the German coach's contract should be renewed at a $2 million-plus annual salary.
The Swiss FA responded by giving him a two-year extension. Hitzfeld kept faith in young players who were proven at the youth international level and adapted a physical style of play to fit a group which made up with skill what it lacked in stature.
After almost three decades of constant success, Hitzfeld's reputation as a coach should have been secure ahead of this World Cup.
He won multiple league titles and domestic cups in Switzerland, with Aarau and Grasshopper Zurich, then in Germany with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.