Swiss beat Austrians in "Euro host derby"
Two goals from Marco Streller and one from Hakan Yakin have given Switzerland victory over their neighbours and co-hosts of Euro 2008, Austria.
The two teams played the friendly, which ended 3-1, in front of 22,500 fans at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich, one of four arenas in Switzerland hosting the championship.
With 237 days to go until the competition kicks off in Basel's St Jakob's Park on June 7, Switzerland – who like Austria have automatically qualified as hosts – needed to boost their confidence after a shoddy 4-3 loss to Japan last month in a match which they led 2-0 at halftime.
Austria, currently ranked 85th in Fifa's rankings, continued their dire run of form and have now failed to win in nine matches – a feat they haven't managed for 33 years.
But the Swiss, ranked 42nd, won't lose sleep over that and will instead savour revenge against their Alpine neighbours for the 2-1 defeat inflicted on them in Innsbruck in November 2006.
No sooner had the Swiss fans sat down on Saturday than they were up out of their chairs celebrating Marco Streller's first-minute goal.
The FC Basel striker picked up a well-timed pass from Tranquillo Barnetta – who played a role in all three Swiss goals – and coolly slotted the ball past the helpless Austrian keeper, but the shocking Austrian defence will have strikers licking their lips come June.
Not that Austria had a monopoly on amateur defending – nine minutes later Red Bull Salzburg striker René Aufhauser found himself completely unmarked in front of the Swiss goal and headed in a cross for the equaliser.
Swiss nerves settled after a messy start and Young Boys Bern striker Hakan Yakin put the Swiss ahead in the 36th minute and Streller got his second in the 55th to secure the match.
"I had some good chances in front of goal – I'm happy to have scored twice. I'm grateful to Barnetta," Streller said. "Now we have to move on to Wednesday's match against the United States [in Basel]."
Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn admitted his team had got "careless" after going 1-0 up – "Austria didn't make life easy for us in the 20 minutes [after the equaliser]" – but praised Barnetta and was satisfied with Switzerland's second-half performance.
The 64-year-old Kuhn's contract will not be extended after Euro 2008 and Swiss newspapers are currently speculating on his successor, who will be named early next year.
Ottmar Hitzfeld, the German coach of Bayern Munich has made positive noises, and Basel coach Christian Gross has also been mentioned.
swissinfo with agencies
Switzerland will co-host the Euro 2008 championships, the second time the country has staged a major football tournament after the 1954 World Cup.
The qualifying phase of the tournament began in autumn 2006 and will end on November 21, 2007. Co-hosts Austria and Switzerland will qualify automatically.
The winners and runners-up in the seven qualifying groups – 16 teams - will go through to the Euro 2008 final round. A draw will take place in Lucerne on December 2, 2007 to decide the composition of the groups for the finals.
15 of the 31 Euro 2008 matches will be played in Switzerland and 16 in Austria. Switzerland will play the opening match of the tournament at Basel's St Jakob's Park on June 7. The final will be in Vienna on June 29.
Swiss stadiums: Zurich - Letzigrund (30,000 seats); Basel - St Jakob's Park (40,000); Bern - Stade de Suisse (30,000); Geneva - Stade de Genève (30,000 seats).
A Federal Sports Office report in May reckoned the event could generate revenue of SFr1.5 billion ($1.24 billion) with profits of SFr860 million for the country.
Switzerland: Coltorti - Lichtsteiner, Senderos (Grichting 46), Djourou, Magnin - Inler, Fernandes (Celestini 82) - Vonlanthen (D.Degen 18), Yakin (Margairaz 46), Barnetta - Streller (Nkufo 77). Coach: Köbi Kuhn
Austria: Manninger - Garics, Hiden, Proedl (Schiemer 41), Fuchs - Aufhauser, Scheimer - Standfest (Ertl 65), Ivanschitz (Harnik 82), Weissenberger (Moerz 65) - Kuljic (Kienast 65). Coach: Josef Hickersberger
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