Swiss aim to end group phase with flourish
Switzerland have set their sights on a top place finish in their World Cup group when they take on South Korea in Hanover on Friday.
The current group leaders will go all out for victory in their final match of the phase despite needing only a draw against the Koreans to be sure of qualifying for the next round.
Finishing first will not only boost Swiss confidence, but would come with the probable added advantage of avoiding an in-form Spain in the final 16.
But defender Philipp Degen denied the team is motivated by fear of meeting a free scoring Spanish side who will finish top of their group barring a major upset.
"To do well in the World Cup you have to keep winning games so we want to beat South Korea to keep our momentum going," he told swissinfo.
"We don't mind who we meet in the next round because all the teams will be good, not just Spain. Ukraine and Tunisia [Switzerland's other possible opponents along with Saudi Arabia] have also shown that they are quality sides."
Switzerland's 2-0 win against Togo on Monday put them in contention, along with South Korea and France, to qualify from the group stage after the final round of matches.
A draw for the Swiss would put them ahead of the Koreans on goal difference, guaranteeing them at least second place, while a victory would clinch top spot in the group.
That would be a fitting way to mark coach Köbi Kuhn's 50th game in charge of the national team. That run started with a victory against Austria in 2001, but Kuhn was in no mood to dwell on records and warned against complacency.
"The only thing I am interested in is three points, not a nice cake," he said. "I have seen the Koreans play twice and in both games they displayed a high level of technical skill and showed a lot of pace up front."
The Swiss side got a boost from sport minister, Samuel Schmid, who travelled to Hanover to lend his support. He will attend the match.
"I'm very proud of what they have achieved," Schmid said. "They have great technical skill, a wonderful team spirit, strong motivation, a good mix of young and experienced players and a good tactician in Köbi Kuhn. All of these qualities bring success."
Schmid predicted a 2-1 victory for the Swiss over South Korea, but that might be optimistic since Kuhn has hinted that he might rest players who were on the pitch for the entirety of the opening two games.
Six players, including captain Johann Vogel, striker Alex Frei and defender Philipp Degen come into the match on a yellow card knowing that another caution would result in a ban for the next game.
Under Fifa rules, players with one yellow card have the booking erased after the group stage, but suspensions still carry over into the next phase.
But Degen was adamant that he would not hold back for fear of being cautioned again, if he plays.
"Sure it is in the back of my mind that I could pick up a suspension, but I will play my natural game and not let it worry me," he told swissinfo.
Striker Daniel Gygax misses the game after picking up an abdominal muscle injury against Togo, but defender Valon Behrami looks to have shaken off a groin strain to put himself in contention for selection.
swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Hanover
Köbi Kuhn's record (before June 23):
49 games, 21 victories, 16 draws and 12 losses with 77 goals scored and 58 conceded.
His first match in charge was a 2-1 win against Austria in Vienna on August 15, 2001.
Kuhn led Switzerland to the European Championships in Portugal in 2004, but the side was eliminated in the first round.
Group G table before last round of matches:
Switzerland – played twice, four points, two goals scored and none conceded;
South Korea – played twice, four points, three goals scored and two conceded;
France – played twice, two points, one goal scored, one conceded;
Togo – played twice, no points, one goal scored and four conceded.
Goal difference is calculated by subtracting the number of goals conceded from the number of goals scored.
Switzerland's goal difference is +2, South Korea +1, France 0, Togo –3.
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