Switzerland may only be appearing for the second time in the European Championship finals, but they have made it through to the World Cup finals on seven occasions.
swissinfo looks back with sports journalist Jean-Jacques Tillman on the country’s track record in those tournaments.
Tillman was the voice of football for television viewers in the French-speaking part of Switzerland for many years.
He covered nine World Cups during his 37 years in television, as well as 300 European matches and 30 English FA Cup finals.
Now retired, the former journalist and commentator for Swiss-French Television has had a passion for the “beautiful game” since early childhood.
He recalls some of the most memorable moments and players from Switzerland’s footballing past – from Eugen Wallaschek in the 1930s to Stéphane Chapuisat today.
1934 Italy and 1938 France
While Switzerland did not take part in the very first World Cup finals in Uruguay in 1930, they qualified for both Italy in 1934 and France in 1938.
As there were no television images available at the time, Swiss football fans had to rely on the radio coverage of Marcel Suès, known as “Squibbs”, to hear how the team were faring.
His commentaries and reports brought to life the exploits of the players of the time.
One of those players was Switzerland’s Eugen Wallaschek.
“He is in his late eighties today and was in the side that caused a big upset by knocking Germany out of the 1938 finals at the Parc des Princes in Paris,” remembers Tillmann.
“I’ve met him several times over the years and he told me how strong the Swiss team of the day was, both mentally and technically. He still asks himself whether the whole thing was not a dream.”
The World Cup did not take place again until after the Second World War.
The 1950 tournament was held in Brazil; once again when it came to finding out about the team, Swiss football fans were left short-changed.
“Match reports arrived three or four days after the games had taken place,” explains Tillmann.
“That meant Switzerland’s performance on the field – and in particular the draw they managed against Brazil thanks to two goals from Jacques Fatton – went largely unnoticed.”
Switzerland were the hosts this time around, getting as far as the quarter-finals before being knocked out by Austria (7-5) in Lausanne.
But the highlight of this particular World Cup took place on July 4 in Bern.
That was the day of the final that saw West Germany up against tournament favourites Hungary – a side unbeaten in four years.
The result was an unexpected 3-2 win for the Germans in a game that marked their return to the international footballing family.
“It was a huge disappointment for me – a shock,” recalls Tillmann.
“The Hungarian side of that era played magical football, and at the end of the match I cried because it seemed so cruel to see them lose.”
1962 Chile and 1966 England
The finals in Chile (1962) and England (1966) were a low point as far as Switzerland’s performance was concerned. They lost all their matches.
It started in the 1962 tournament opener against the hosts Chile with a 3-1 loss and was followed by a 2-1 defeat to West Germany. During the game, Norbert Eschmann had to leave the field after fracturing his fibula.
“It happened only 15 minutes into the game,” he remembers.
“And unfortunately it meant that we were down to just 10 men. After the match it was time to think about packing our suitcases for the trip home.”
Although they already knew they could not qualify for the next stage, the Swiss still had one more match – and one more defeat – this time 3-0 at the hands of Italy.
Four years later in England it was a similar story for the Swiss.
The current manager of the national side, Köbi Kuhn, was in the squad, but was one of three players dropped for the opening match as punishment for having been out drinking the night before.
Switzerland lost the game 5-0.
“It was my first World Cup as a commentator,” explains Tillmann. “ Kuhn, along with two other players, was left out of the team to face West Germany at the start of what was a disastrous tournament for us in England.”
Switzerland followed up with further losses to Spain (2-1) and Argentina (2-0).
1994 United States and 1996 England
Switzerland’s last two appearances in the finals of an international competition were at the World Cup in 1994 in the United States, and Euro 1996 in England.
Under manager Roy Hodgson, the Swiss opened the 1994 tournament against the hosts with a 1-1 draw.
They qualified from their group to make it to the last 16, where they were knocked out 3-0 by Spain.
Two years later Switzerland made their first appearance in the final stages of the European Championships – again drawing 1-1 in the tournament opener against the hosts.
But they failed to make it beyond the group phase after losing their next two matches.
This summer in Portugal the Swiss have the chance to show what they are made of. They completed a successful qualifying campaign, topping their group.
With a squad packed full of players who ply their trade in some of Europe’s most competitive leagues (notably England, France and Germany) Switzerland go into the finals full of hope and with a good chance of causing an upset.
“The schedule for the group matches has been kind to the Swiss,” says Tillmann. “They open their campaign against Croatia before taking on the talent England and finally the holders and favourites France.”
swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux
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