Blerim Dzemaili demands more courage from the Swiss national team

He played football at three World Cups and is a TV expert in Qatar. FCZ player Blerim Dzemaili says he is very happy with this World Cup. And he calls for more courage from the Swiss.

Blerim Dzemaili celebrates his goal against Costa Rica at the 2018 World Cup. Four years later he thinks the national team is walking a fine line.

Natasha Pisarenko / AP

Blerim Dzemaili, you work in Qatar as an expert on Ticino television. How do you like this World Cup?

It’s a good World Cup, very entertaining. The rhythm is higher than usual because this World Cup is played in the middle of the season and the players are less tired. I have a lot of joy.

Despite the difficult circumstances in Qatar?

It’s a great tournament for the spectators, there are no hooligans, all the stadiums are within an hour’s drive. The atmosphere in Doha is great, the many South Americans and Arabs create a great atmosphere. I am very disappointed with those Europeans who are boycotting the tournament and doing it badly. This punishes the players. In parts of Europe we always have the feeling that we know everything best and that we have to teach others.

The human rights situation in Qatar is bad.

Of course it is. What was it like last time in South Africa, in Brazil, in Russia? It’s a football World Cup, there are always debates. There are other cultures and when we visit here we have to adapt. And in the end it’s about football.

What did you find tactically?

The trend has continued that all teams are very well organized. The outsiders defend hard, they move skillfully. The Japanese were the best example of this when they defeated Germany. When they then had to play the game against Costa Rica, they lacked the ideas. It’s no different in Switzerland. She was outstanding defensively against Brazil, but totally harmless offensively.

What is your verdict on the Swiss?

It’s a fine line they walk. It’s going as everyone expected, now the final against Serbia is coming. But so far I haven’t been brave enough.

Is that a criticism of Murat Yakin?

No not at all. The results are correct, Switzerland has reached the World Cup, European champions Italy have not. What you shouldn’t forget: Murat doesn’t have a lot of options on the offensive. I would definitely have taken more forwards and fewer central players to the World Cup, even if the selection isn’t as big as it used to be. I also found it strange that not every position is occupied twice, with the full-backs there are no alternatives. But last year at the European Championship, the first two games were also weak, after which Switzerland improved. I trust her again, the potential is there.

Is it the best Swiss national team in history?

I was offended when I heard that. Seriously: that’s what we said at every tournament, too. Only the results will decide. Switzerland now needs Xherdan Shaqiri with his ideas and dribbling, the corner kicks and free kicks. He is a rascal in a positive sense who wants to have fun. I thought it was ideal that he didn’t play against Brazil because I don’t think he could have played three games in eight days at that level.

How do you like the Captain Granit Xhaka?

Granit is the best Swiss player in recent years. But in central midfield, Remo Freuler and Djibril Sow are similar footballers. At the last World Cup, Valon Behrami was a clear winner of the ball, I liked playing further up between the lines, Granit was the designer. That was more balanced.

How could this be solved?

I’m a big fan of Denis Zakaria. He has everything it takes to be dominant. He’s different from the others in midfield, with his long strides, strong technique and good shot. I think Denis Zakaria deserves a chance because he would bring a new, different side to the team. Anyway, it’s important to play more offensively.

More Vladimir Petkovic, less Murat Yakin?

Maybe a mix would be perfect. Everything has become so tight in football, the teams neutralize each other, sometimes you need something wild, unexpected.

Now comes the game against Serbia, like at the 2018 World Cup, when there was the double-headed eagle affair. What do you think about it today?

My family comes from North Macedonia, and at the time I was less hostile than Xhaka and Shaqiri, who were born in Kosova. It was clear to me four years ago that it would escalate, it was all so emotional.

Granit Xhaka is very quiet at this World Cup. Can you believe that relaxation?

In any case. Don’t forget: Granit is now captain, he has to lead the team at the World Cup, be a role model. And he has already heard all the provocations. He’s gotten older and more mature, he has a family now. I really like Granit because he’s a player who speaks his mind and takes responsibility. I love such types of players, I’m also one of those who polarize. Unfortunately, many footballers today are similar. They do their job, are diligent and quiet, without rough edges.

As a footballer, how do you actually experience a World Cup when you’re sitting in the hotel the whole time?

It all goes by so quickly, it’s never boring. Now the players are already in the mode in which the return flight can be at any time the next day. It’s important that the players can get out, go to a shopping mall or a restaurant here in Doha, find distraction.

During a World Cup, how aware are you that you’re at a World Cup?

Unfortunately too little. I go and watch Serie A games from time to time and then I think: “Wow, I played there.” You only realize later how great a World Cup is for a footballer.

There is one more thing we need to discuss with you.

Now comes the Argentina game.

In the 2014 World Cup round of 16 you missed a huge chance in overtime when you hit the post from close range and missed the 1-1.

I could have been a folk hero. It was an unfortunate situation. This scene was perhaps a symbol of the relationship between national coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and me. I would have liked to play more.

At the 2014 World Cup, Dzemaili hit the post against Argentina.


Four years later, Switzerland, without energy, lost 1-0 to Sweden in the round of 16.

We were weak. But some mistakes had been made before. There was concern after the game against Serbia, we should have rested more players in the third group game against Costa Rica. I would like to play that match against Sweden again. But those national players who are still there have benefited from this experience. You could see that at the European Championships last year. And that can now also help at this World Cup.

Blerim Dzemaili

69 international matches, 11 goals, 3 world championships

fcr. ยท Blerim Dzemaili works on the World Cup in Qatar as an expert for Ticino television โ€“ including on the Swiss games. The FC Zurich footballer likes the relaxed atmosphere at RSI. He’s been in Qatar for almost two weeks, training will continue at FCZ next Monday. The 36-year-old has 69 caps for Switzerland and has scored 11 goals. In 2006 he took part in the World Cup in Germany as a 20-year-old without playing, in 2010 he was injured, four years later in Brazil Dzemaili was substituted on three times, in 2018 in Russia he was a regular player. He scored two World Cup goals. After the World Cup in Russia, Dzemaili was no longer called up for the national team.

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