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Swiss “spy” prepares for Ukrainian challenge

6-0 to Switzerland? Bernard Challandes, football spy Keystone Archive

Following Switzerland's progression to the last 16 at the World Cup, the manager of the national Under-21 team tells swissinfo about the Swiss performance so far.

Bernard Challandes, from Neuchâtel, has a key role in Germany: to “spy” on Switzerland’s potential opponents and work out their strengths and weaknesses.

Challandes has been a member of the Swiss Football Association for ten years and trainer of the national youth team since 2001.

Before Switzerland’s first match, against France on June 13, Challandes had studied the 1998 World Champions’ game. That encounter finished a creditable 0-0 for the Swiss.

After that, Challandes turned his attention to Spain and Ukraine, Switzerland’s probable opponents if they made it to the next round. As it turns out, Switzerland finished top in their group and now face the Eastern European team at 9pm local time on Monday in Cologne.

swissinfo: What do you make of Switzerland’s victory over South Korea and their qualification to the round of 16?

Bernard Challandes: It’s a terrific achievement. We mustn’t lose sight of that. The team continues to grow in strength and its performance against South Korea on Friday was its best yet.

We have rediscovered that desire that characterises the Swiss team: that youth, that madness – but also a great intelligence for the game. I think being positive is the only possible reaction after that first phase.

It was necessary to confirm our good start against the South Koreans – who, it should be noted, are an excellent team – and it’s never easy. But the players promptly delivered – they stood up and were counted.

swissinfo: Did you think Switzerland could finish top in their group?

B.C.: Logically, the heavy favourites were France, but nowadays the differences involved are so small – that’s football. Our target was to get to the last 16 and we’ve done that. Switzerland might be at the top of the group but it is not yet Brazil – as the general euphoria would have you believe.

swissinfo: You are part of the national team but slightly on the margins as you have to travel a lot and analyse potential opponents. How do you work?

B.C.: I move around and follow future opponents. Yesterday for example I was in Berlin to watch Tunisia and Ukraine. After the match we get tapes of the game but during it I note interesting plays and specific phases of the game and when exactly they take place.

This saves loads of time when [manager] Köbi Kuhn and [assistant manager] Michel Pont want to put together a sequence of clips to show the players. It’s necessary to highlight the important elements of the game so as not to overload the players with information.

swissinfo: So what advice did you pass on before the French game?

B.C.: I wouldn’t talk of it as advice. We work together and I make suggestions, I say what I feel on certain points. I’m sure you’ll appreciate that that remains private.

swissinfo: Switzerland take on Ukraine on Monday. Without divulging any secrets, how do you rate your next opponents?

B.C.: They are an excellent team who qualified for the World Cup without any problems. The school of Kiev teaches a very vertical, very animated game. The players are technically excellent and can count on their star striker Andriy Shevchenko.

Ukraine got off to a shaky start to this tournament, conceding four goals to Spain in their first match, but that match was played in temperatures of 35 degrees and included two own goals.

We’re going to have to be on our guard, but I honestly think Switzerland have the means to overcome this hurdle.

swissinfo-interview: Mathias Froidevaux in Hanover

Switzerland next play Ukraine in the round of 16 in Cologne on Monday. They can afford no slip-ups as the losing team goes out of the tournament from now on.

Switzerland have the second youngest squad in the tournament with an average age of 25 years and four months. Fellow group stage qualifiers Ghana boast the youngest set of players.

Prior to this World Cup Switzerland had failed to keep a clean sheet in all their 22 previous matches – an unwanted tournament record.

The Swiss are appearing in their eighth World Cup finals, reaching the quarter-final stage in 1934, 1938 and 1954 (the year they hosted the tournament). Their last appearance before this year was in 1994 when they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Spain.

Final Group G table:

Switzerland – played three, seven points, four goals scored and none conceded;
France – played three, five points, three goals scored, one conceded;
South Korea – played three, four points, three goals scored and four conceded;
Togo – played three, no points, one goal scored and six conceded.

On Saturday it was confirmed that Swiss defender Philippe Senderos would miss the rest of the World Cup after dislocating his shoulder in the game against South Korea, in which he scored the opening goal.

Senderos, who would have had to mark Ukrainian star striker Andriy Shevchenko, will be replaced by Johan Djourou.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR