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Stephan Lichtsteiner Q&A

Written By Themba Khumalo on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 | Wednesday, March 05, 2014

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?
The qualifying campaign was good but there’s still a lot of room for further improvements, which is a very positive thing. Each player has room for individual improvements and as team we can improve.
We have to take into consideration that each national team hasn’t the time during a qualifying campaign to work on details.

There’s almost no time to work seriously on team tactics and the conditioning of the players. A national team coach can’t have much influence in these short periods, so depends a lot on the work of our club coaches. It’s very impressive how our coach is 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 most is that he and his coaching staff are always very present during our club-periods. They follow each player accurately and support us. They give us important advice and make sure we feel comfortable. They work with us even if we aren’t on national team duty, and this one of the secrets of our success.

The three weeks of preparation before the tournament will be 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. If we are able to play all our games at 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 doubt 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 show up as a team.

The fact they turned around a 2:0 away-defeat against a strong opponent like Ukraine, indicates that they grew together as team. Ecuador and Honduras are two very difficult sides and we won’t underrate them. Both are physically and tactically strong. They play very aggressive football and have some very good players, who can decide games. It won’t be easy, 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.

You will likely be 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 a person in the last year. He became a real team leader who works his socks off to help his side, which is not always evident among the top-stars. 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 have known Franck for years and have played against him. I have a plan on 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 an idea of what he can 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 a disadvantage for you and France coming from central Europe?
No, 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 in him. Furthermore PUMA is doing a very good job too. The new kits will help us a lot to deal with these 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.

The new Swiss kit feature PUMA’s new football performance technology PWR ACTV, what do you think about this innovation?
PUMA have done an awesome job with this, once again. The design 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.

Your national team coach Ottmar Hitzfeld had some notable successes as a club coach, winning the UEFA Champions League twice. 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 one of the greatest coaches 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 for the chance to work with him over the past six years.

Ottmar Hitzfeld doesn’t need to achieve anything, he’s already a living legend and he will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches in history. Our coach taught us a lot during the past years and the team and each player developed very well under his management. Therefore there is an obligation for us as team to play a fantastic tournament, 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 boring but I’m completely focussed on our team and our next opponents. Playing in a World Cup is a huge dream come true and we want to take this unique chance to represent our country Switzerland in the best possible way. What I can say is that we are not the favourites!

You have significant International experience, playing for the Swiss national team since 2006. How good is this team compared to past national teams you were part of?
In my view the current Swiss team is the best in my era. We have a good mix of very talented young players with huge potential for development, and experienced team-leaders who play regularly for high-level-clubs. Furthermore we have an awesome coach with a great coaching team around him. And the best thing is: there’s still room for improvement. This team is just at the beginning. If we continue to work hard and be disciplined, and remain hungry and ambitious, I expect a lot more from this team. I’m very positive and confident. It’s a privilege for me to be a member of this team.
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