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Switzerland lose opening Euro qualifier

Wayne Rooney scores the first of three England goals in Basel

(Keystone)

Switzerland have been beaten 3-1 by England in their first qualification match for the 2012 European Football Championship.

Goals from Wayne Rooney in the tenth minute, Adam Johnson in the 70th, Switzerland’s 18-year-old Xherdan Shaqiri one minute later and Darren Bent in the 88th mean Switzerland are now fourth in their five-team group.

They have seven matches to turn things round if they want to travel to Poland and Ukraine in 21 months.

While Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld will take small consolation from his team’s first home goal in six matches, he is fully aware that no Switzerland striker has now scored in 12 games, since September 9 last year when Alex Frei and Eren Derdiyok found the net in a 2-2 draw in a World Cup qualifier in Latvia.

The first goal at St Jakob Stadium in Basel on Tuesday was scored after ten minutes when Wayne Rooney – currently making tabloid front pages for his extracurricular activities – sidefooted in a Glen Johnson cross from six metres.

England coach Fabio Capello’s bet on the Manchester United forward paid off.

"[Rooney] told me he is ready to play and he wants to play," said Capello before the match. "We're focused on the game and not the private life of the players."

Two Sunday tabloids have alleged that Rooney cheated repeatedly on his then-pregnant wife last year with a prostitute.

Hitzfeld had tried a few mind games, reckoning concerns about an expensive divorce would affect Rooney’s game, but in vain.

Young talent

Switzerland started the second half with more purpose and looked to be getting back into the game when defender Stephan Lichtsteiner, already on a yellow card, picked up another one in the 67th minute for a needlessly reckless challenge on Milner.

Switzerland were still adjusting to losing a man when Adam Johnson picked up a nice through ball from Steven Gerrard and coolly rounded goalkeeper Diego Benaglio to slot into an empty net.

Things looked to be going from bad to worse for the Swiss, when out of nowhere midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri ran past two players and smashed the ball into the top corner from 25 metres.

Hitzfeld can take comfort that his squad contains a few young rough gems that, with a bit of polishing, could sparkle if not at Euro 2012 then at the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

But any Swiss hopes of earning one point from a draw were buried two minutes from time when Darren Bent picked up a pass from Wright-Phillips and drove it low into the net with his left foot from 17 metres.

Bad start

“We started badly and let in a goal straight away. After that we played with even less confidence,” said Hitzfeld after the match.

He described Lichtsteiner’s dismissal as “irritating”, but said that as a professional he shouldn’t have picked up his first yellow for arguing with the referee.

“The defeat against England obviously comes at a stupid time – in the very first game – but we have chances to come.”

Xherdan Shaqiri had mixed feelings. “We should have done better in this match. But [England keeper] Joe Hart congratulated me on my shot. It was a beautiful goal.”

In the other Group G match on Tuesday, Montenegro beat Bulgaria 1-0. Wales did not play.

Switzerland’s next match is against Montenegro in Podgorica on October 8.

Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ch

Teams

Switzerland: Benaglio; Lichtsteiner, von Bergen, Grichting, Ziegler; Margairaz (46. Shaqiri), Inler, Pirmin Schwegler (83. Costanzo), David Degen (64. Streller); Frei, Derdiyok.

England: Hart; Glen Johnson, Jagielka, Lescott, Ashley Cole; Walcott (13. Adam Johnson), Gerrard, Barry, Milner; Rooney (79. Wright-Phillips); Defoe (70. Bent).

end of infobox

Qualification

The nine group winners and the runner-up with the best record against the top five sides in their pool qualify directly for the final tournament. The eight remaining runners-up enter the play-offs.

Current Group G standing:

1. England 2 2 0 0 7:1 6
2. Montenegro 2 2 0 0 2:0 6
3. Wales 1 0 0 1 0:1 0
4. Switzerland 1 0 0 1 1:3 0
5. Bulgaria 2 0 0 2 0:5 0

end of infobox

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