Diego Benaglio: "Much is Possible"
Switzerland's World Cup adventure begins on June 16 with the match against Spain. Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio talks about his World Cup memories, the special conditions in South Africa and Switzerland's chances of success.
Diego Benaglio, what are your first World Cup memories?
The 1994 finals in the USA and of course Switzerland's matches.
Bregy's goal from a free kick to go one nil up against the USA in the opening game - what a fantastic moment! And then there was Switzerland's 4:1 victory over Romania, including the goal that Alain Sutter scored with his allegedly weaker right foot...
Now you're in goal yourself at the World Cup finals: how far can Switzerland go in South Africa?
We're always completely focused on the next match, and that's the game against Spain. Then the next match and the next stages. We're going to take each game as it comes and give our best each time. Afterwards we'll review our performance. But the primary aim of course is to be able to set new targets for ourselves. I'm convinced that Switzerland will make it through the group stage and into the last sixteen.
But the first two teams that Switzerland meets - Spain and Chile - are both above Switzerland in the world rankings, Spain by a large margin...
That's exactly the challenge that we face! And we've already shown in the World Cup qualifying stages that we can handle situations like this. Greece was also ranked ahead of us but we beat them 2:1 in Athens and 2:0 in Basel.
But surely Spain is in a different class from Switzerland…
Spain is European Champion and has lost just one game in the last 25. Spain has fantastic mid-field players and some outstanding individual talents who all manage to work together as a team. So, it looks like it should be a walkover for them. They're the favorites to win the tournament, but they'll be under pressure to perform in the first game and they'll be carrying a huge weight of expectation. And we have just one game against Spain! There's no return game, no second chance, and that means that everything is possible. We want to achieve what nobody believes is possible.
You're going to be under considerable pressure yourself.
I'm part of a team, and everybody will play their heart out. I don't see myself as different in any way.
Goalkeepers are going to be under particular scrutiny during this tournament because of the unpredictability of the new ball. How do you plan to deal with it?
I'm not going to worry about it. There's nothing I can do about it anyway, so I'm not going to waste energy discussing it. FIFA wants more goals, more spectacle, and it thinks that this ball will help deliver it. It's not my job to get involved in these decisions. I just have to do my best to concentrate on this ball and prepare myself to deal with it - that's all. Every minute of every training session. And not just with the Swiss team. I've already had a chance to familiarize myself with the ball at club level with Wolfsburg.
It's going to be winter in South Africa. How are you preparing for the conditions there?
(smiles) Anyone who plays in Switzerland or Germany needs no special preparation for these conditions. It's really the same story as with the ball: the external conditions are given and they're the same for all teams. So it's a matter of adapting to the prevailing conditions on match day. That's what I'm focusing on.
You seem very calm and collected. Is that how you are during matches or do you sometimes get nervous?
I just try to concentrate on the essentials and not get distracted.
That's not going to be easy in South Africa where the stadiums will be full of the buzzing of thousands of vuvuzelas!
You're right, that will be new for me. Another special feature is that the sound remains the same and remains equally loud, regardless of whether the game is exciting and full of chances or dull and dominated by tactics. I think we have an advantage because our first match is relatively late in the tournament schedule and some teams will already have had experience.
There's one other topic that I have to mention. You're going to become a father in September. Many congratulations.
Thanks, my wife Nadin and I are very happy. We can hardly wait.
And the public seems to be happy too…
We really didn't want this news to go public. You can see how little we wanted it by the fact that Nadin didn't come to Crans when the players' partners were allowed to come along. We knew that some elements in the media were out for pictures of the footballers with their wives and kids. If Nadin had turned up, everyone would have seen of course that she's pregnant. But “Blick” got its hands on this information anyway - I don't know how - and asked me about it during our World Cup preparations in Crans-Montana. I'm not someone who tells lies, so after talking to Nadin about it I confirmed that Nadin is seven months pregnant. But no more than that. And nevertheless it's been blown up into a big story. Two sentences padded out with lots of old photos from my biography.