Ex-manager gives Swiss thumbs up
Former Swiss national football coach Roy Hodgson has told swissinfo the team can be proud of their World Cup performance despite being eliminated in the round of 16.
Hodgson was impressed with the Swiss team ethic and defensive record, but said more goals are needed if they are to stand a chance of winning Euro 2008 that Switzerland will co-host.
He praised current coach Köbi Kuhn for the way he organised his players during the tournament. Switzerland were knocked out of the World Cup in a penalty shoot-out against Ukraine on Monday.
However, Hodgson, who led the Swiss team during the 1994 World Cup and helped them qualify for Euro 1996, warned fans not to set their sights too high at the next European championships.
swissinfo: How do you rate Switzerland's performance at the World Cup?
Roy Hodgson: I congratulate Switzerland because they did extremely well and they have every reason to be proud. They were thoroughly prepared and worked together very well as a team.
In the games against France and Ukraine in particular I thought their defending was excellent, not just in the back line but through the whole side including the forwards. One of the most positive aspects of their play was the work rate of the whole team.
Anyone who says the team froze on Monday [against Ukraine] or were too afraid of losing clearly does not know what they are talking about.
swissinfo: Which players stood out for you?
R.H.: In Patrick Müller and Ludovic Magnin Switzerland have two outstanding players. Müller could go on playing until he is 50 because he plays with his head.
I was also impressed with midfield players [captain] Johann Vogel, Ricardo Cabanas and Raphael Wicky.
swissinfo: Where could Switzerland have done better?
R.H.: If you look at the tournament as a whole the obvious problem is that they don't have enough threat in front of goal. They scored four goals in four games and one of those was offside.
swissinfo: How do you rate coach Köbi Kuhn?
R.H.: It's difficult for me to give a detailed answer because I was not on the bench with him and I don't know what he was thinking or the reasons behind his tactics.
You might ask questions about some substitutions, but he put out a well organised team that exceeded expectations. It was not obvious that they would qualify from their group and nobody expected them to finish above France.
I know as a coach myself that most coaches come to big tournaments as great heroes who should lead the team for years to come. But after the initial euphoria of qualifying the criticism starts after a couple of bad results and a lot of coaches end up being sacked two weeks later.
But Kuhn is clearly working with intelligent leaders [at the Swiss Football Association] and he will get the support he deserves.
swissinfo: Do things bode well for Switzerland at Euro 2008?
R.H.: I think they have every chance of doing well because most of the players that were here [in the World Cup] will be still playing in two years' time.
In addition, they also have some promising younger players in the wings who could be ready for the big stage by then. Let's not forget that Johan Vonlanthen [the 20-year-old striker who missed out on the World Cup with an injury] could also be available to strengthen the team.
Switzerland are a well-oiled unit and they will be more experienced by the time Euro 2008 comes around.
The only question is: what is doing well? It is important that expectations are not so unrealistic that they destroy the confidence of the team. I think Switzerland will impress but they are not an England or a Germany, so the bar should not be set too high.
swissinfo-interview: Matthew Allen in Bad Bertrich
Roy Hodgson was Swiss national team coach from January 1992 to November 1995
He guided Switzerland to the 1994 World Cup in the US where the side also went out in the round of 16, losing 3-0 against Spain.
He also oversaw Swiss qualification to the 1996 European Championships (their first time at the tournament), but left his post before it began.
Before Hodgson's reign, Switzerland had not qualified for a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup.
He has also managed Swiss sides Neuchâtel Xamax (2000-2002) and Zurich Grasshoppers (1999-2000).
Other sides include Swedish club Malmö, Italy's Inter Milan, England's Blackburn Rovers and the United Arab Emirates national side.
In January of this year Hodgson took on the job of coach to Finland's national team.
He is a also a member of the Fifa technical committee for the World Cup.
Switzerland were appearing in their eighth World Cup finals.
They finished top of their group with two wins and a draw (against France).
They also left the tournament with the strongest defensive record after keeping a clean sheet in all four games during open play.
Switzerland and Austria co-host the next European Championships to be held in 2008
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