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"European championships often spring surprises"

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Stéphane Chapuisat, a former pillar of the Swiss team, tips Germany and Italy to contest the Euro 2008 final. But he tells swissinfo Switzerland has an outside chance.

This content was published on April 26, 2008 - 18:27

The former Borussia Dortmund player, who competed in two European championships, hung up his boots two years ago and now acts the official Swiss ambassador for the European championships.

swissinfo: It is often said that the Swiss public lack enthusiasm for Euro 2008. Do you get this feeling?

Stéphane Chapuisat: Hardcore fans are certainly impatient for this event to kick off. And I'm convinced that people less interested in football will become more enthusiastic nearer the time. It will certainly turn into a wonderful celebration. We saw this during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

swissinfo: You played in the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Euro 1996 in England and Euro 2004 in Portugal. What are your fondest memories?

S.C.: The opening match during Euro 1996 against England was filled with emotion. This is certainly one of my best memories. From a sporting perspective I fondly remember the World Cup in the US, where we reached the last 16 thanks to some good performances.

My memories of the European championships in England and Portugal are somewhat more subdued because we failed to get beyond the group stages.

swissinfo: The Swiss coach and some players have set themselves the target of winning Euro 2008. Could this really happen – particularly after the recent 4-0 defeat in a friendly against Germany?

S.C.: It is difficult to say. We have a good team that can certainly match our opponents. No team stands out in our group and everything hinges on the first match. With the whole country behind the team and a good start, Switzerland could go far.

swissinfo: The Czech Republic, Turkey and Portugal – how do you rate these teams?

S.C.: The Czech Republic have very good players, even if Juventus player Pavel Nedved will not be there. The question is: how will they replace him in such a big tournament? Much will depend on the form of [Arsenal midfielder] Tomas Rosicky.

We know the Turks well. They are technically outstanding players. Our matches against Turkey are always intense, but we beat them in 2005 [in the World Cup play-offs], which is important for our confidence.

However, Portugal start the group as favourites, so it is good that Switzerland do not meet them until the last group game.

swissinfo: Hottiger, Geiger, Herr, Sutter... during the 1994 World Cup names like Sforza and Subiat were already exotic in the Swiss team. Today we have young players with Spanish, Italian, Kosovan and Turkish roots. How significant is this?

S.C.: This is surely positive. The French national team, for example, began to win titles when new talent from the second generation of immigrants came into the side. It is, however, unfortunate that we have lost good players such as Rakitic, Petric and Kuzmanovic. Switzerland invested a lot in these players, but they chose to represent their countries of origin.

swissinfo: Should the rules be changed?

S.C.: It is certainly bitter when the Swiss football association loses players that it has trained. But the rules of Fifa, the world football governing body, are clear: until a player is 21 he can choose which national team he wants to play for. Perhaps one day the rules will change, for example so that the federation that trains the player receives compensation.

swissinfo: When you went to Germany, hardly any Swiss players were playing abroad. Today you hear of 15- and 16-year-olds already playing for European club youth teams. What do you make of this?

S.C.: When I went to Germany, the rule was that a maximum of three foreigners could play in a team, but this rule no longer applies. In my opinion young Swiss players should first try to get a good grounding in the Swiss top league. Without this experience it is difficult to go abroad. In only one case – that of Johan Djourou – has [going abroad as a youth] worked well. In most cases it has been a disaster.

swissinfo: Ottmar Hitzfeld becomes Swiss coach after Euro 2008. He was your coach in Dortmund. What's he like?

S.C.: I had a marvellous time with him. He is a coach who always gets the best from the players. He creates confidence and manages groups very well. For him to accept the task, he must believe in this team.

swissinfo: Who will play in the Euro 2008 final in Vienna on June 29?

S.C.: I expect Germany and Italy will contest the final, but European championships often spring surprises. And I hope, naturally, that Switzerland will be the biggest surprise this time.

swissinfo-interview: Daniele Mariani

Stéphane Chapuisat

Stéphane Chapuisat was born on June 28, 1969. His father, Gabet Chapuisat, was an international footballer and is now a coach.

Chapuisat started his career with canton Vaud club Malley before transferring to Lausanne-Sport.

In 1990 "Chappi" – as he is known – went to Germany, first with Bayer Uerdingen and a year later to Borussia Dortmund.

He won the German league championship twice with these clubs, in 1995 and 1996, and the Champions League with Dortmund in 1997.

Chapuisat scored 102 goals in 218 games for Dortmund – a record second only to Giovane Elber as the most successful foreign goalscorer in the Bundesliga.

After eight seasons with Dortmund, Chapuisat returned to Switzerland. Between 1999 and 2002 he played for Zurich Grasshoppers, winning the league title in 2001. From 2002 until 2005 he played for Young Boys Bern.

For the 2005/2006 season, he made a surprise return to his old club FC Lausanne-Sport in the Challenge League [second division].

Chapuisat made his international debut on June 21, 1989, on the bench against Brazil (Switzerland won 1-0). His last international game was during Euro 2004.

He scored 21 goals in 103 international matches.

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