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Swiss footballers need to work as a team

Long faces as Swiss team defeated by minnows Luxembourg Keystone

Switzerland's win against Latvia on Saturday has kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa.

The Swiss won 2:1, their first win in the three games they have played so far in the qualifying round.

But the victory was by no means a foregone conclusion. They drew their first match with Israel, but their loss to minnows Luxembourg a month ago was a real shock. The players came in for plenty of criticism by commentators and punters for their pitiful performance on pitch.

On the eve of the match with Latvia, sport psychologist Jörg Wetzel told swissinfo that the Swiss are still not quite working as a team.

Although Saturday’s victory has given Switzerland four points in all, there is a long way to go. They face their strongest opponent, Greece, next Wednesday in their fourth qualifying match.

Hiring Ottmar Hitzfeld, the successful German coach, seemed like the best thing that could happen to Switzerland after the disappointing results during the European championship in June.

But the match against Luxembourg seemed to prove that even Hitzfeld, who won titles galore with club teams in Germany, was powerless.

Wetzel thinks the new coach has a tough task.

Time of the essence

Wetzel says Hitzfeld has had very little time to set norms and define the roles within the team that has been under pressure from the start.

The psychologist is far from laying the blame on Hitzfeld, as he already wondered about the Swiss squad at the Euro tournament.

“The aims and roles were left too vague,” said Wetzel.

He adds that the team did not have to go through a “productive process” because Switzerland automatically qualified as a host nation. The team got away too easily after their early elimination, according to Wetzel.

“It is a huge challenge for Hitzfeld to set things straight and ensure communication between the clubs, the players and the national squad.

Personal contact

Most team members play for clubs abroad, but they do not get matches on a regular basis. Hitzfeld often has just a couple of days to work with them before a match.

“Personal contact is crucial for players, be it over the phone and email or with a visit,” said Wetzel.

“It will help the coach shape the team and define the role of a player in the squad.”

Time is of the essence in this process, but even star coach Hitzfeld cannot pull more time out of the hat, says Wetzel.

However, the sport psychologist is confident that Hitzfeld has plenty of professional and personal experience to lead the Swiss team back to the road to success.

“I think he can give a push to the sometimes ‘mollycoddled’ players,” said Wetzel.

He says Hitzfeld has to remind the players of their responsibility and explain to them what a privilege it is to be a professional in sport – “this toy department of real life.”

swissinfo, based on an article in German by Renat Künzi

After their loss to Luxembourg, Switzerland were second from the bottom in their qualifying group 2.

They had one point after drawing 2-2 against Israel and a 2-1 shock defeat against Luxembourg at home.

Their victory against Latvia earned them three points, putting them up to third position.

Switzerland are due to play group favourite Greece next Wednesday.

There are another six fixtures for the Swiss team next year.

13 teams from the 9 European qualifying groups make it to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Switzerland qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany and co-hosted the European Championship this year.

(after two matches each)

1.Greece – 6 points
2.Israel – 4
3.Latvia – 3
4.Luxembourg – 3
5.Switzerland – 1
6.Moldova – 0

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR