When the Heidi Boys beat the fancied few

June 18, 2010, 3 Comments

Switzerland 1-0 Spain. A score-line that fairy tales are made of, at least for anyone Swiss, particularly given the background. Switzerland had not won an opening match in the World Cup finals since 1954 and had never beaten the reigning European champions. It looked like a certain three points for the Spaniards. The Heidi Boys had other ideas.

Even without their injured top-scorer, captain Alex Frei, Switzerland managed to pull off the surprise of the tournament so far and turn Group H on its head. The Swiss press called it ‘the miracle of Durban’, dubbed the coach ‘Gottmar’ Hitzfeld (Gott meaning God in German); no doubt there were plenty of sore heads in Swiss offices yesterday morning. And sore arms. The Swiss love nothing better than waving the national flag on high-days and holidays, and Wednesday was definitely the former. Who knows, if the Swiss go all the way, there may even be a national holiday? If you want to relive the essential moments of the game, click here.

Only four years ago in Germany, Switzerland earned itself two World Cup records that it didn’t really want. It was the first team ever to be eliminated from the finals without conceding a goal (0-0, 2-0 and 2-0 in the opening rounds, then 0-0 in the last 16 against Ukraine.) It’s perhaps no great surprise that the Heidi Boys defend so well – they all have to join the army and Switzerland is constantly prepared for invasions that may never happen. Defence is the only form of attack for neutral Switzerland. The second record came in that match against Ukraine, when Switzerland became the first team not to score a single penalty in the shoot-out. Another 0, but not a happy one.

In the past, Switzerland’s World Cups have not been great: eight times managing to get past the qualifying rounds and from those, three quarter-final matches (1934, 1938, 1954). That 1954 match may have been Switzerland’s last quarter-final appearance but it was one to remember. Played in Lausanne (Switzerland was the host that year) in 40C heat, it was the highest scoring match in World Cup history, with 12 goals. Losing despite scoring five times was hard enough for the Swiss; losing to Austria made it even harder. Just put the names of England and Germany in there instead, and you’ll understand the nature of the Swiss-Austrian sporting rivalry. By the way, West Germany went on to win that 1954 Cup in the Bern, played at my favourite stadium, Wankdorf. Here’s a previous post about that name.

Now all the Heidi Boys have to do is beat two more Spanish-speaking teams, Honduras and Chile. And if they can finish top of their group, they then avoid a likely clash with Brazil. Fingers crossed for that, except in Switzerland most people don’t do that. They hold thumbs. The first time a friend presented me with a fist clenched around his thumb, I didn’t quite know how to react. He was to old to be fist-bumping and too polite to be itching for a fight. In fact, he just wanted to wish me good luck. So, it’s Hopp Schweiz and thumbs clenched on Monday.

3 Comments on "When the Heidi Boys beat the fancied few"

  1. Janie Friday June 18th, 2010 at 09:41 PM · Reply

    Love it when you give me the information I want. History about the Swiss in the World Cup plus a little tidbit on the thumb holding. Some day…… I am going to visit Switzerland. I just don’t know how that is going to happen…yet.

    • swisswatching Friday June 18th, 2010 at 09:48 PM · Reply

      Thanks Janie; glad to be of service. The funny thing is that there were interesting things about the Swiss in the World Cup to relate. Maybe that’s true for every country? Now that Germany have lost and England scraped another dismal draw, Switzerland is the team to watch!

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