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“Stunned” Swiss regroup after Euro elimination

Alex Frei, here at a training session on June 12, symbolises Switzerland's Euro 2008 campaign

The Swiss football team were struggling on Thursday to come to terms with how years of preparation had gone up in smoke in just four days.

The morning after their Euro 2008 fate was sealed with a 2-1 loss to Turkey, the co-hosts regrouped at their training camp near Zurich and tried to focus on their last group match against Portugal on Sunday.

For coach Köbi Kuhn, what went wrong on the field was clear. “We didn’t score goals,” he said. “In the two matches, we had enough chances. But we didn’t take them.”

Switzerland lost their opener to the Czech Republic 1-0, another match they seemed to control for long stretches before conceding a late goal. Their second loss on Wednesday ended any hope of advancing to the quarterfinals.

Kuhn said he was not frustrated by the performance of his players, but disappointed that the “results weren’t as they should have been”.

“This team belongs with the best in Europe,” said the 64-year-old coach, who will step down after the tournament and be replaced by Bayern Munich’s Ottmar Hitzfeld. “Of course I would be happier if we were playing in the quarterfinals.”

While the match against Portugal means nothing for either team as far as the tables are concerned – Portugal have already qualified – Kuhn said he was determined to go out on a high.

“The public deserves another quality match from us,” he said. “It’s hard knowing that Sunday will definitely be our last match in the tournament – but that’s football. That’s life!”

“Completely stunned”

Switzerland became only the second host of the European Championships to be eliminated before the last four. Euro 2000 co-host Belgium also failed to get through the group stage.

“We’re completely stunned!” admitted defender Ludovic Magnin, who took over the role of captain following an injury to Alex Frei, on Thursday.

“We certainly didn’t get much sleep. I still find it hard to put my feelings into words. It’s even worse to experience something like that in one’s own country, in front of a home crowd,” he said.

“We really needed to play better – keep more possession up front and in the midfield and not crack at the back at the end of the match. We still have things to learn.”

Midfielder Ricardo Cabanas also said the defeat was hard to digest. “We were waiting for this tournament for more than five years and we’ve gone out after four days,” he said.

Missed opportunities

“I haven’t had a chance to watch the match yet, but I know that we missed chances and made mistakes. You can’t do that against teams such as the Czech Republic and Portugal,” Cabanas added.

Injuries also played a role in Switzerland’s struggles, with striker Blaise Nkufo being ruled out of Euro 2008 in May with a torn adductor muscle.

That left the team with a shortage of attacking options, a problem that would become more severe after 45 minutes of the opening match, when Alex Frei’s tournament ended with a torn left knee ligament.

Frei, the team’s captain and record scorer, was joined on the sidelines for the second match by usual strike partner Marco Streller, who has a groin injury.

Their replacements – Hakan Yakin and Eren Derdiyok, both of Turkish origin – created a number of chances against Turkey that did not materialise into goals. Yakin scored an easy tap-in, but missed a golden chance to put the Swiss up 2-0 when he shot wide of an open goal from five metres.

Team doctor Cuno Wetzel on Thursday declared the 19-year-old Derdiyok the latest casualty, saying he was in the hospital to get tests done on a left ankle sprain. He is questionable for Sunday.

But Cabanas says there is no question of the Swiss “short-changing” the fans against Portugal.

“Life is not only about winning or losing,” he said. “We must also set an example for young players.”


Switzerland is co-hosting the Euro 2008 football tournament with Austria from June 7-29.

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 its 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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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR