Injured striker Alex Frei has urged Switzerland to fight on without him for the European Championship after admitting that his own Euro dream was over.This content was published on June 9, 2008 - 16:13
In an emotional news conference, the team's captain and record scorer explained his bitter disappointment at being ruled out of the tournament after rupturing his left knee ligament in Switzerland's opening 1-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Saturday.
"A dream is destroyed for me," Frei said. "But I told the team before the match that the whole nation has a dream. This must go on."
Frei was down for several minutes after being fouled by Czech defender Zdenek Grygera shortly before half-time in the Group A match in Basel.
Frei limped off the field, a trainer on each side holding him, tears streaming down his face. After going to the bench, Frei walked half the length of the field, again with a trainer at each side, and made his way to the tunnel. He was replaced by Hakan Yakin when the second half began, but returned on crutches to watch.
"In the moment it happened, I heard my knee and felt that it was not good," said Frei, who has had a hip operation, two torn muscles and a calf injury in the past 13 months. "I know my body too well."
Frei, who will be sidelined for six weeks, said he had not slept well the past two nights and added that "there were a lot of tears".
But the Borussia Dortmund player said he was trying to stay positive.
"I don't blame anyone for anything – not even my opponent Grygera," he said. "It was unlucky. But I must count my blessings, in that a difference of just a few millimetres would have meant six months out."
He added: "You can stay down or yet can get back up and fight. Champions get up."
Frei said he would stay with the team throughout the tournament and help in any way he could.
Lack of strikers
Switzerland coach Köbi Kuhn conceded on Sunday that it was a big loss, but said the team would have to focus on its next match against Turkey on Wednesday. A loss for either team would almost surely mean elimination.
"He was an important player. He was a goal-getter," Kuhn said. "But he's out. We have to move forward."
The injury leaves Switzerland short on strikers for the match against Turkey, which lost its opener to Portugal.
Team doctor Cuno Wetzel said on Monday that Marco Streller would likely be ready to play despite re-aggravating a groin injury. Should he fail to recover, Switzerland would be left with 19-year-old Eren Derdiyok and Yakin as the only attacking options.
Frei became Switzerland's all-time leading scorer on May 30 after scoring twice against Liechtenstein, passing Kubilay Turkyilmaz. He has 35 goals in 60 international appearances.
swissinfo with agencies
Switzerland is co-hosting the Euro 2008 football tournament with Austria from June 7-29.
The two countries were chosen to host the third-biggest sporting event in the world – and the biggest in Swiss history – on December 12, 2002.
The 31 games will be 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. Switzerland will play their three group matches in Basel.
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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