Mr. Hitzfeld, now you can admit it: France, Ecuador, Honduras – a dream draw for Switzerland.
Out of Pot 2, I would rather have had Greece or England than France. But you're right – we are capable of making it through the group, but we should not underestimate the South Americans.
What makes them dangerous?
They are instinctive footballers. Technically strong, lively, and very quick. And they're tougher than the Europeans. They always go for the body and hurt their opponents.
What makes the current Swiss team special?
There's the mixture of youth and experience, as well as the team spirit. The way we play is more creative and flexible than at the 2010 World Cup, which means that we can go on the offensive much more.
The team's biggest star is its manager. Is this an advantage or a drawback?
That's not an issue for me. All that matter to me are authenticity and integrity. And we do have many stars – players who have already won titles in Switzerland, Germany, and Italy.
Is Xherdan Shaqiri the best Swiss player that you have ever coached?
He is very talented, but is still at the start of his career. The best was Stéphane Chapuisat, with whom I won the Champions League at Dortmund. He was always underrated in Switzerland.
What were the main things that you learned from the World Cup adventure in 2010?
We were quite isolated in South Africa and occasionally got a touch of cabin fever. This time, we have chosen a hotel in Porto Seguro. That's on the beach and will be housing other guests, so we'll be able to switch off once in a while.
Are you no longer "the general" as you were formerly known in Germany?
The new generation of players needs more freedom and I give it to them. But even in Brazil, there will be a code of conduct that everyone will have to follow.
The World Cup is a giant shop window – everyone wants to play there. How do you prevent individual interests from being placed above those of the group?
The players need to know that success comes only with teamwork, and I impose financial penalties for indiscipline. However, too much harmony can also be damaging. The team should respect each other, but every player must want to be in the starting line-up.
It will be a stressful tournament, with heat, humidity, and long journeys. Is the team doctor your most important man?
We shouldn't make a fuss about the climate. But of course, we're working hard to prepare. In that respect, I prefer practice over theory. That's why I've already spoken to my former players from Brazil, Paolo Rink and Giováne Élber, who know these conditions better than anyone.
The World Cup will mark the end of your coaching career. Have you felt the occasional pang of regret?
I'm currently concentrating purely on our matches, and I'm confident that we'll see a strong Swiss team. But I have no idea how I will react after the final match. I'm not ruling out the possibility of the same thing happening as when I left Bayern Munich: then, the tears started to flow during the farewell in the stadium.
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Source: Bonviva Magazine