Switzerland have avoided the big guns of European football in the draw for the Euro 2004 championship.
But the team still face a series of tough matches in their qualifying group against the Republic of Ireland, Russia, Georgia and Albania.
The Swiss lost both matches against Russia in their recent failed attempt to qualify for next summer's World Cup finals in South Korea and Japan, suffering an ignominious 4-0 hammering in Moscow and a 1-0 defeat in Zurich.
But an upbeat Swiss manager, Kobi Kuhn, drew some comfort from the fact that there was no obvious favourite in the group. "One of the positive aspects about this is that the Republic of Ireland and Russia could both end up dropping points against teams like Georgia and Albania in what is a tricky group," he said.
However, history will be against the Swiss since they have failed to beat the Russians in 10 previous contests, and their record against the Republic of Ireland is hardly cause for celebration: three victories, seven defeats and a draw.
Kuhn can draw some comfort from the fact that, as a player, he was a member of the side that beat the Republic of Ireland 1-0 in Geneva during the qualifiers for the 1976 European Championship.
The Swiss manager also has happy memories of Switzerland's two previous meetings with Albania, ending up on the winning side in Tirana and Geneva in 1965 and scoring twice. But Georgia will be uncharted territory for the Swiss.
Representatives of each of the five countries are scheduled to meet in Dublin next month to draw up a fixture list, with the opening game already pencilled in for September 7.
The qualifying tournament runs from September to October 2003, with the 10 group winners qualifying for the finals, which run from June 12 to July 4 2004. The 10 group winners will take part in play-offs on a home-and-away basis in November 2003.
swissinfo with agencies
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