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Under-21s qualify for European Championships

Alex Frei ran the Russian defence ragged Keystone Archive

Switzerland's Under-21 football team pulled off a remarkable comeback away to Russia to book a place in the 2002 European Championships for the first time in their history.

Trailing 1-3 at half-time, the Swiss scored twice in the second half in Ramenskoye to draw the match and finish top of their qualifying group, with just one point separating them and the Russians.

A dramatic opening 45 minutes saw coach Bernard Challandes’ team snatch an early lead in the second minute when Ludovic Magnin fired home from a quickly taken free kick by the outstanding Ricardo Cabanas.

But Swiss hopes of qualifying for next year’s tournament were sent reeling as the Russians hit back with three goals in seven minutes through Vasily Berezutsky, Artyom Bezrodny and Ruslan Pimenov.

Whatever Challendes said at half-time certainly revitalised his young charges who came back at the Russians in the second half. Servette’s Alex Frei, “on loan” from the senior squad, gave the Russian defence a torrid time up front.

It was Frei who earned a penalty for the away side in the 54th minute which Cabanas slotted home to make the score 2-3. The skipper then booked the team’s ticket to the European Championships in the 82nd minute following excellent work by Frei.

At the final whistle Challandes paid tribute to his squad who finished undefeated with four wins and four draws. “This qualification is a superb reward for a faultless campaign,” he said.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR