Switzerland got off to a great start in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, meaning they are now searching for the third successive qualifying win. Norway, on the other hand, beat Slovenia to make amends for the disappointing defeat in Iceland, but they could find it hard to match Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side in Bern.
New era for the national team
Having recognized few years back that they have one of the most talented squads in world football, the national team chiefs did well to appoint experienced coach Ottmar Hitzfeld to oversee the birth of a new generation. Team’s showings at the 2010 World Cup and a memorable win over future champions Spain hinted Switzerland were not so far away from top European sides, while friendly wins over Germany and Croatia just before the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign showed the team are finally ready to leave their mark on international football. Boosted by some impressive showings in friendly games, Switzerland were pretty convincing at the start of the World Cup qualifiers, recording 2-0 wins over Slovenia and Albania, so they now have got to be considered favourites against out-of-form Norway.
Johan Djourou will continue in the heart of defence despite being on the fringes at Arsenal, and absolutely no selection worries, Ottmar Hitzfeld is likely to stick to the side that recorded a 2-0 win over Albania.
Norway struggle on the travels
Norway remain on the outskirts of international football and having failed to qualify for six straight major tournaments, they clearly face an uphill task to reach Brazil. The Nordic side showed a lot of promise in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, but they missed out on the play-off spot on goal difference. However, the team have been pretty disappointing since, losing to England and Greece at home and sharing spoils with Croatia, with poor showings in these friendly games hardly creating a perfect introduction into the competitive matches. As a result, Norway succumbed to a disappointing 2-0 defeat in Iceland at the start of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, although they did manage to beat Slovenia at home in the second group game, but only after scoring a winner deep into injury time. Taking everything into account, it is easy to see Egil Olsen’s side lack the quality as well as the experience to match the best sides in Europe, so I just cannot see them getting something from Bern.
Key attacker Mohammed Abdellaoue is sidelined through injury, while John Arne Riise and Brede Hangeland are the more experienced players in the squad.
Switzerland have been on fire at the start of the qualifying campaign and with all key players available, they should be able to record the third successive victory. Norway are far from the desired form at the moment and given they were beaten 2-0 in Iceland, the Scandinavians cannot be expected to fare any better against the Swiss.
Our prediction: Home win
Odds: 1.75 (3/4)