Next month's Euro 2008 championship will be the final great football challenge facing Köbi Kuhn after seven years as coach of the Swiss national team.This content was published on May 9, 2008 - 10:47
swissinfo and Teletext went to see him to find out how he was approaching this last test.
swissinfo/Teletext: How do you feel now that the opening match of Euro 2008 is only a few weeks away?
Köbi Kuhn: The pressure is on, but it has nothing to do with the fact that it will be my last tournament as national coach. A certain amount of tension is only to be expected ahead of such an event.
We have come in for a fair bit of criticism over the past few weeks, but it's not very serious and I'm not too bothered - at least as long as the attacks aren't against me personally.
France and Germany both had problems before their respective World Cups, and it wasn't until the competition was underway that they were able to put them behind them. We should be encouraged by those examples. At the present moment I'm thinking of nothing but Euro 2008.
swissinfo/Teletext: Does the fact that the tournament is being played in Switzerland really make any difference?
K.K.: The Swiss team is young, but most of the players play in the main European championship leagues. So they will be able to cope with the pressure that is part and parcel of this competition.
As I have said many times, we are perfectly capable of realising our dream, but it is equally possible that the championship will be over for us at the end of the first round despite playing some good football.
One thing is certain, from May 19 onwards when we get to the training camp in Lugano, all the players will be totally focussed on Euro 2008. We shall at last have the chance to work hard for a whole three weeks before we meet the Czech Republic. That will enable us to be better that we have been these last few months.
swissinfo/Teletext: You have just pointed out that most of your players play in foreign leagues. When you were a player you remained loyal to FC Zurich and never tried to play outside Switzerland. Have you any regrets?
K.K.: It was a different age. I had a few chances to go to Germany, but for various reasons I didn't take them. You must realise that at that time German players would come to play in Switzerland and I must say that I have never had any regrets. I had a wonderful career in Switzerland. Anyway, in the 1960s the great footballing nations were England and Italy and those markets were closed.
swissinfo/Teletext: Let's return to Euro 2008 and talk about Switzerland's three opponents in group A (the Czech Republic, Turkey and Portugal).
K.K.: To take the Czech Republic first: they are an athletic team, very resourceful, with plenty of personality. This opening match will be very important. It could help to put us on course for the rest of the tournament. On the other hand, a defeat in the first game would make things much more difficult for us. As always, the match coming up is the most important one...
As for Turkey, we are very familiar with them and we know they are a formidable team. Obviously memories of the events of two years ago [bad tempered games in Bern and Istanbul] will hang over the match, but we shall try our best to forget them as soon as we go onto the pitch.
Finally, Portugal: I just hope that Cristiano Ronaldo will continue to score a lot of goals for his club, Manchester United, and that he will hold back a bit with the Portuguese team.
swissinfo/Teletext: Suppose that on June 6, on the eve of the opening match, Tranquillo Barnetta and Alex Frei were to leave their hotel after dark to go and have a few beers... as you yourself did when you were a player 40-odd years ago... How would you reac
K.K.: If I were to hear about such an outing I think I would have an excellent way to apply pressure by forcing them to run flat out for 90 minutes.
swissinfo/Teletext: Köbi Kuhn, where will you be on June 29?
K.K: I shall be watching the final on TV... or from the bench in the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna. That would be my greatest dream.
Interview swissinfo/Teletext, Mathias Froidevaux and Miguel Bao
Jakob (Köbi) Kuhn was born on October 12, 1943 in Zurich where he spent the whole of his playing career. (FC Zurich from 1960 to 1977).
As a player with FC Zurich Kuhn won the Swiss championship six times and the Swiss Cup five times. He also played in two European Champions Cup semi-finals against Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Capped 63 times for the national squad, he played in the 1966 World Cup in England.
In June 2001 he succeeded Enzo Trossero as trainer of the Swiss national team.
He is the first Swiss trainer to be involved in the final stages of three major tournaments (Euro 2004, World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008).
Swiss television viewers voted him Swiss of the Year in 2006.
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