Switzerland's coach-in-waiting, Ottmar Hitzfeld, has every confidence that Switzerland can do well in Euro 2008, even if they are not one of the favourites.
Köbi Kuhn's appointed successor has had a silver-lined season with Bayern Munich, winning the league cup at the start of the season and the German Cup final against Borussia Dortmund in April.
Two further titles are up for grabs: the German league title and the Uefa Cup. That would make it the best season ever for the German record champions and Hitzfeld would have won everything that a club coach could achieve.
You start a new chapter in your coaching career in the summer. You return to Switzerland, your second home. Will the next two years as Swiss coach also be your parting shot?
Ottmar Hitzfeld: No, no, it should not be seen like that. For me this marks a new period in my life and a new challenge. I am looking forward to my new job of training a national team for once – it should be exciting. I will gain new experiences. I don't yet know how everything works. What will it be like having the team available only every few weeks? How can I motivate such a team?
And naturally there is the goal of qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010. This will also be an enormous challenge for me. If things go well with Switzerland, I can imagine a longer term of office as national team coach.
You could have also become German national team coach in 2004. Why did you turn that down and say yes to Switzerland?
O.H.: A combination of things were just not right for me in 2004. I was burnt out and needed a break after six years and 11 titles with Bayern. It was simply the wrong time. The offer from Switzerland came, in this respect, at a better time and it is also a special situation.
Naturally it was also a call from the heart because I had been active in Switzerland for 17 years as a player and coach. I would never have gone to Austria, France or the Netherlands to become their national coach.
A new coach also brings changes. The changes in personnel are already known. Should we also expect changes in the technical field?
O.H.: It is normal that with a new coach you also get changes in support staff. That has a lot to do with trust. Otherwise, there will not be a lot of changes. I am not the type to throw everything onto the trash heap. Whatever worked before will continue to exist. The Swiss team functions and the Swiss football association functions. You do not have to change that much.
Switzerland recently lost a friendly match against Germany 0-4. Do you understand the unrest from the fans and media?
O.H.: I think these reactions are totally excessive. We experienced that in Germany two years ago. The team must put this to one side. I believe that such a defeat only serves to summon extra resolve and to focus concentration on the serious battle ahead.
I did not understand all the excitement, but it simply comes with the territory in this job: if you win, everyone celebrates; but if you lose, it sparks criticism. You have to keep calm in these situations.
How far do you think Switzerland can go in Euro 2008?
O.H.: Switzerland could pull off a sensation. If they reach the semi-finals or the final, it would be a dream.
Switzerland has achieved great things in the past few years. You should not forget that
they qualified from their group ahead of France in the 2006 World Cup. And it is also legitimate for Switzerland to have the ambition to become European champions. Whoever participates in the competition can win it. But Switzerland is not one of the favourites.
But it also creates pressure when you say you want to be European champions.
O.H.: There should be pressure – it stimulates performance. These are all professional football players, most of whom play abroad under pressure on a daily basis. They have to be used to such expectations. It comes with the job.
Interview: René Baumann in Munich (Sportinformation Zürich)
Hitzfeld was born in 1949 in Lörrach, Germany, close to the Swiss border. He is coach of Bayern Munich until the beginning of June and has already won the League Cup and German Cup, with the league title beckoning by the end of the season.
Köbi Kuhn's successor will coach the Swiss national team from July 2008.
Hitzfeld won the Swiss league title with FC Basel in 1972 and 1973. He was top league scorer with 18 goals in 1973.
Hitzfeld won back-to-back league titles as coach of Zurich Grasshoppers in 1990 and 1991. He was also three-times Swiss Cup winner as a coach in Switzerland.
In Germany Hitzfeld has won the league title six times – twice with Borussia Dortmund and four times with Bayern Munich.
His biggest achievement was winning the Champions League in 1997 and 2001. Both times he was named "World Coach of the Year".
2010 World Cup qualifiers
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