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Sideshow in St Gallen

Kuhn is insisting his team stay focused on Wednesday

(Keystone Archive)

While football fans across Europe enjoy Wednesday's Champions League final, Switzerland's senior football team will be contesting a friendly game against Canada.

As well as clashing with the biggest club match in European football, the game in St Gallen comes just a week after the end of the Swiss league season and a mere three days after the Swiss Cup final.

"I know that the timing is not ideal," Switzerland coach Köbi Kuhn admitted on Tuesday, "but we have to take every opportunity to get together as a team.

"The players are of course tired at the end of a demanding season," Kuhn added, "but I expect them to be fully concentrated before they go on their well-deserved holidays."

Seven players missing

Fully concentrated but not fully present, it seems. Having already freed up Alex Frei, Ricardo Cabanas and Ludovic Magnin for the European under-21 championships, Kuhn will also be without goalkeeper Jörg Stiel and midfielders Christoph Spycher and Fabio Celestini, all three of whom are injured.

Experienced midfielder Johann Vogel is also absent, having not yet been released by his Dutch club PSV Eindhoven, leaving Kuhn without seven key players.

The Swiss defence is at least expected to be at full strength with newly-crowned Swiss player of the year Murat Yakin and best Swiss player abroad Stéphane Henchoz taking up the full back positions. Sunderland's Bernt Haas and FC Cologne's Marc Zellweger are expected to battle it out for the right back position with Servette Geneva's Sébastien Fournier taking up his usual position on the left.

After scoring the winner for Basel in Sunday's Swiss Cup final, Yakin admitted he would now rather be heading off for his planned golfing holiday in south Tyrol.

Professional

"We are all professional enough to motivate ourselves one more time, though," said the Basel star. "If we don't gear ourselves up properly we could get into difficulties and we certainly don't want to look ridiculous."

Although without a professional league of their own, Canada have a team packed with foreign-based players who could present the Swiss with some problems. The most well-known internationally are the strikers Paul Stalteri (Werder Bremen), Tomasz Radzinski (Everton) and Kevin McKenna (Heart of Midlothian).

More familiar to the local Swiss supporters, though, will be Daniel Imhof - the joint Swiss-Canadian national who represents Canada at international level but earns his salary playing for St Gallen.

by Mark Ledsom with agencies


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