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Proud Swiss reach first milestone

Swiss pride: fans celebrating their team's qualification to the round of 16 Keystone

The Swiss football team have expressed their pride at reaching their target of qualifying for the World Cup knockout stage after beating South Korea.

This content was published on June 24, 2006 - 10:14

The 2-0 victory in Hanover on Friday ensured that they qualified at the top of their group without conceding a goal and now meet Ukraine in the round of 16.

Coach Köbi Kuhn told swissinfo before the tournament that he was only thinking about getting through the first phase. He said after the match that he was particularly pleased with the way his young players coped with the pressure.

"To win our group with seven points and no goals conceded is a great achievement for Swiss football. This young set of players has performed with exceptional maturity during three very intense games," he said.

"We have now reached our first goal and we now face a very strong opponent in the next round. But if we continue to work as hard as we have done then we can continue in this tournament."

Man of the Match Alex Frei, who scored the second goal against the Koreans, said he was satisfied with the way the team cleared the first hurdle of the tournament in style.

"I am extremely proud that Switzerland has got through to the next round and can now be counted as one of the top 16 countries in world football," said the striker who has now netted twice in the tournament.

Blemish

For defender Patrick Müller, the tournament has only now kicked into life after Switzerland successfully negotiated the group stages.

"Now that we have reached the knockout stage we have the feeling that the World Cup has really begun. If we hadn't qualified we would have felt that we would have missed out on something," he told swissinfo.

The only blemish on a night of celebration for the Swiss was an injury to their other goal scorer Philippe Senderos. The defender dislocated his shoulder falling awkwardly and on Saturday it was confirmed that he would miss the rest of the World Cup.

Senderos, who would have been charged with marking Ukrainian star striker Andriy Shevchenko on Monday, will be replaced by Johan Djourou, who acquitted himself well when he came off the bench to replace Senderos.

"It was such a tough game for us that we need to take some time out to cool down before we start to concentrate on our next match," Djourou told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Hanover

In brief

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.

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Key facts

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.

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