With the release of the Switzerland World Cup 2014 Kit, we have a Q&A with Juventus & Switzerland fullback Stephan Lichtsteiner (scroll down for images of kit).
The qualifying campaign has been very successful for your team. Where do you still see room for further improvement in the team, so the main tournament in Brazil will be successful, too?
The qualifying campaign was in fact good but there’s still a lot of room for further improvements, which is a very positive thing. Each player has still room for individual improvements and as team we can and have to improve surely too. We have to take into consideration that each national team hasn’t the time needed during a qualifying campaign to work on details. There’s almost no time to work seriously on team tactics and the condition of the players are given. A national team coach can’t take too much influence in these short periods of time and is depending a lot on the work of the club coaches. Our coach is getting absolutely the maximum out of this situation. It’s very impressive how he’s using these short periods of time to make us better, individually and as team. He works in a very efficient and effective way. But what impresses me the most is that he and his coaching staff are always very present during our club-periods. They are following each player accurately and they are supporting us. They are giving us important advice and are making sure that we feel comfortable. They are working on us even if we aren’t on national team duty. And this is surely one of our secrets and an important factor of success. The three weeks of preparation before the tournament will be therefore absolutely crucial. We want to be better prepared for this tournament than any other team and with our coach, staff and team spirit I’m very confident we will manage it. A top-preparation is the most essential basis for top-performances and if we are able to play all games on our highest level we can be the big surprise of the World Championship 2014 in Brazil.
Switzerland drew a ‘favourable’ group some may say. How likely will it be for your team to make it through the group stage?
Yes, a “favourable” group in the sense that we have it in our hands to make it through the group stage which is without any doubts our clear ambition. Nevertheless we will face very difficult and complicated opponents. We don’t need to discuss France’s individual quality. The key question will be how they will show up as team. The fact they turned around a 2:0 away-defeat against a strong opponent like Ukraine is a strong indicator that they grew together as team. Ecuador and Honduras are two very difficult sides too. We surely won’t underrate them. Both teams are physically and tactically strong. They play very aggressive and have some very good players in their team, who can at any time decide games. We have to pay attention and to be always fully concentrated. It won’t be easy at all to face these three sides but we will be very well prepared, and small details will decide the games. If we play our best football I’m sure we will qualify for the knock-out stages. We have to deliver and I’m convinced we will deliver.
You will be most likely tasked with keeping Franck Ribéry quiet when Switzerland play France. Do you have any thoughts on how you can do that?
Franck Ribéry is an absolute top-player. He makes the difference, at Bayern Munich as well as in the French national team. Franck is very gifted and talented. Everybody knows it. But I’m even more impressed with his development as person within the last year. He became a real team leader who works each game his socks off to help his side what is not self-evident for a top-star like him. But France is not just Ribéry. They have many very good players, who can do something special and decisive in each moment of a game. I know Franck for years and I played also already against him. I have a plan in my mind how to keep him as quiet as possible. Top-players like him you can never completely nullify but I’ll be prepared. I’m sorry if I have to disappoint you, but I can’t tell you more about my tactics at this point. I don’t want to do Franck the favour and give him already an idea what he has to expect. (Laughs)
You will play in Brasilia, Salvador and Manaus during the group stages, all of these are cities with 60-80 % humidity, and high temperatures. Do you think this will be disadvantage for you and France coming from central Europe?
No. Everything else is an excuse and I don’t like excuses at all. All teams have the same conditions. It’s very simple: The better side shall win and go through. Our coach Ottmar Hitzfeld will prepare us very well. He’s a top-coach and very experienced. We have all the confidence of this world in him. Furthermore PUMA is doing a very good job too. The new kits will help us a lot to deal with these for us not completely usual conditions. I’m very confident the conditions won’t have a negative impact on us and we can even turn it into an advantage for us.
Your national team coach Ottmar Hitzfeld has had some notable successes as a club coach in his past career, winning the UEFA Champions League twice for example. He hasn’t won a title as a national team coach yet, but in October he announced that Brazil 2014 will be his last tournament with the Swiss team. What will Hitzfeld and the national team need to achieve to make him ‘be remembered’?
Ottmar Hitzfeld is not just a top-coach and surely one of the greatest ones in football history, no, he’s also a very good man. He’s an example for all of us, an idol and we are very happy and grateful we had the chance working together with him during the past six years. Ottmar Hitzfeld doesn’t need to achieve anything, he’s already a living legend and he will be always remembered as one of the greatest coaches in history. Our coach taught us a lot during the past years. The team and each single player developed very well under his management. Therefore it’s much more a strong obligation for us as team to play a fantastic tournament in order to finish his fantastic work in the way he and his work deserve to be finished.
Which teams do you see as the favourites to win in Brazil?
I honestly don’t like to make predictions. There are some very strong sides which can all win the World Cup. It sounds maybe boring but I’m completely focussed on our team, me and our next opponents. Playing in a World Cup is for each player likea huge dream becoming true and we want to take this unique chance to represent our country Switzerland in the best possible way. I’m completely concentrated on us. The single thing I can say is that we are surely not the favourites.
You have significant International experience, playing for Swiss National Teams since 2006. How good is the current Swiss team compared to the past national teams you were part of?
In my point of view the current Swiss team is the best in my area. We have a very good mix of very talented young players with a huge potential for development and experienced team-leaders, who are playing regularly abroad in international high-level-clubs. Furthermore we have an awesome coach that has a great coaching team around him. And the best thing is: There’s still room for improvements. This team is just at the beginning. If we continue to work so hard and disciplined, with this good mentality and if we remain hungry and ambitious I expect a lot more to come from this team. I’m very positive and confident. It’s a privilege for me to be a member of this team.
The new Swiss kits feature PUMA’s new football performance technology PWR ACTV, what do you think about this innovation and the new kits?
PUMA have done an awesome job with this, once again. The design of the kits is very nice and represents our country perfectly. I’m sure the new football performance technology PWR ACTV will give us great support in Brazil with the conditions we will face over there. The new kits will be a real advantage for us and will give us an extra-boost to deliver top-performances. I’m very happy with it and would like to thank PUMA for their amazing, innovative support.
Stephan Lichtsteiner wears the new Switzerland World Cup kit by PUMA, available from Kitbag.com from Wednesday March 5th. For more information on PUMA’s national kit sponsorships and evoPOWER and evoSPEED boot ranges head to http://puma.com/football
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