Swiss ambition intact after PyeongChang 2018 setback

Consistently ranked among men’s world ice hockey’s top ten sides, Switzerland bounced back from Olympic disappointment at PyeongChang 2018 to win silver at the IIHF World Championships three months later.

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Ice hockey is one of Switzerland’s most popular sports. The country’s 12-team National League pulls in the highest attendances of any domestic championship in western Europe. Switzerland has also hosted eight IIHF World Championship competitions and will stage a ninth in 2020. In addition to its three silvers, the national team, nicknamed Die Nati, has won six World Championship bronzes (1930, 1937, 1939, 1950, 1951 and 1953).

Switzerland’s men have also been consistent qualifiers for the Olympic Winter Games, making 16 appearances in all and five in a row since missing out on a place at Nagano 1998. The two bronzes they have won both came on home ice in St Moritz, in 1928 and 1948, while the country’s women’s team won a bronze of their own at Sochi 2014.

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Coached by former Swiss international Patrick Fischer, the 25-strong men’s squad had high hopes of bettering bronze when they headed to PyeongChang 2018, having booked their Olympic place thanks to a top-eight finish at the 2015 IIHF World Championships. 

The Swiss made a faltering start to their campaign in the Republic of Korea, however, losing 5-1 to Canada. Recovering their poise to beat the host nation 8-0, they then suffered a 4-1 defeat to the Czech Republic, which left them facing a qualification play-off with Germany for a place in the quarter-finals. 

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The teams were tied at 1-1 as the match headed into overtime, which lasted less than a minute, with Yannic Seidenberg netting to set the Germans on the road to the final, where they went down to Olympic Athletes from Russia.

“We came with some big objectives and we wanted to do well, but we just weren’t able to play our game and be at our best,” said Fischer on his side’s early departure from PyeongChang, where they had hoped to reach the last eight at the very least. “It’s sad, but I can’t wait for the next opportunity to come along. I have every confidence in these players.”

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Fischer’s confidence was well-founded: the Swiss advanced all the way to the final of the World Championships in Denmark that May, where they played out a 2-2 overtime draw with Sweden before losing the shootout. It was Switzerland’s third world silver medal, the previous two coming in 1935 and 2013.

Currently seventh in the world rankings, the Swiss are hoping to hit form again at the 2019 Worlds, to be held in Slovakia on 10-26 May, when they will line up in Group B alongside Italy, Austria, Latvia, Norway, Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden.