Sepp Blatter, president of football's international governing body Fifa, has blamed Switzerland's coach for his home country's early elimination from Euro 2008.This content was published on June 18, 2008 - 16:41
Blatter said in an interview with the Lausanne-based newspaper Le Matin that he had advised the Swiss Football Association (SFA) to dump Köbi Kuhn after the team's second-round loss in the 2006 World Cup.
"We had reached the ceiling with this coach," Blatter said he told SFA president Ralph Zloczower at the time. He said that Zloczower replied by saying: "You know my hands are tied. It's the league that controls the national team."
Blatter, who has railed against political interference in football matters, criticised Kuhn for being too loyal to established squad members.
"That trust works with the juniors, but not at this level," Blatter said. "He should have made braver choices."
Blatter neglected to mention that the 64-year-old coach axed World Cup captain Johann Vogel and fielded an entire midfield under the age of 24 at Euro 2008, co-hosted by Switzerland and Austria.
"Why did he insist on [Marco] Streller in place of someone faster?" Blatter asked, referring to the 27-year-old striker who started in Switzerland's opening game.
"And why deprive yourself of [Mario] Eggimann?" Blatter added, speaking of the defender and captain at Bundesliga side Karlsruhe, whom Kuhn left out of the squad.
Switzerland lost their first two group games – 1-0 to the Czech Republic and then 2-1 against Turkey – before beating a second-string Portugal side to finish with three points. They nevertheless finished bottom of their group.
While Blatter said Kuhn lacked courage, he praised Turkey's coach Fatih Terim for being "like a boxer in a ring who feels that his opponent is groggy and close to being knocked out" – a reference to Turkey's extraordinary 3-2 win over the Czech Republic, which involved two goals in the dying minutes.
The 72-year-old Blatter said he would not predict the June 29 final in Vienna, Austria. The Netherlands are currently favourites.
Former international player and coach Umberto Barberis, who told swissinfo he was "both saddened and angered" by Switzerland's performance at Euro 2008, refused to blame Kuhn, pointing his finger instead at the SFA.
Barberis, a consultant for swissinfo during Euro 2008, said the SFA shouldn't hide behind Kuhn's departure and needed to learn from the "sporting fiasco... that was in large part their fault".
"Only in Switzerland could a national team and its association be satisfied with a win against a Portuguese B team with nothing at stake," he said. "And daring to boast about their first Euro victory while simply regretting being eliminated from the tournament..."
Barberis said Kuhn was more a victim than someone to blame. "Sure he made some mistakes, but his hands were tied. Ultimately it was he – and to a lesser extent goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler – who were on display and who took the bullets."
So who was responsible for the failure? "The SFA's technical department, which used to be led by Hansrudei Hasler, and its armada of technicians who went to countless matches and kept reams of notes on Switzerland's opponents and possible opponents," he said, adding that the SFA also spent a fortune on fitness programmes for Swiss players.
Barberis said he simply wants some answers and accountability. "I'm not here to say [the SFA] are idiots. I just have the impression that they are idiots..."
Lack of professionalism
The Swiss Football Association is no stranger to accusations of incompetence.
In August 2004 an independent report criticised the SFA for its handling of an incident in which striker Alex Frei spat on England's Steven Gerrard during Euro 2004.
It concluded that the SFA did not lie about the affair, but could have acted more professionally in the way it dealt with the matter.
The report, by Lucerne-based lawyer Ulrich Fässler, strongly criticised the SFA and in particular the delegation it sent to represent Switzerland at Euro 2004.
The lawyer concluded that SFA delegates were not well prepared and that those present in Portugal reacted too slowly to the incident.
swissinfo with agencies
Switzerland is co-hosting the Euro 2008 football tournament with Austria from June 7-29.
The 31 games are being played in four cities in Switzerland (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich) and four cities in Austria (Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna). The final will be held in Vienna on June 29.
The finals will be broadcast in 170 countries and are expected to be watched by about eight billion cumulative TV viewers.
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