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Swiss begin World Cup campaign with 1-0 defeat

Russia's Vladimir Beschastnitsch (right) fights for the ball with Switzerland's Stephane Henchoz in Saturday's match in Zurich Keystone

Switzerland have been narrowly beaten by Russia in their first qualifying game for the 2002 World Cup.

This content was published on September 2, 2000 - 10:54

The absence of Chapuisat, Türkyilmaz and Sesa appeared to cost Switzerland dear with a single goal from Vladimir Beschastnitsch enough to settle the match.

Switzerland began the first half impressively with debutant Badile Lubamba looking more than comfortable on the international stage. The Congo-born defender appeared to have been given a roaming brief by Trossero, operating at times as an extra winger alongside Basel's Mario Cantaluppi.

As early as the second minute, Lubamba had made his mark on the game, floating a cross into the Russian area which Rusian Nigmatullin collected under some pressure. Soon after the Lugano player threaded an inch-perfect pass through the midfield to Hakan Yakin.

The young Grasshoppers striker succeeded in beating the keeper, but was unable to get enough power on his shot. As the home crowd rose to their feet in expectation, Russian midfielder Alexei Smertin sprinted to the goal-line and just managed to keep the ball out.

As Switzerland pressed forward the Russians were unable to mount anything other than a few isolated counter-attacks, all of which were adequately dealt with by stand-in keeper, Marco Pascolo. At the other end Alexandre Rey hit a shot narrowly over the Russian bar while Comisetti had a free-kick tipped just wide of the post.

As the first half drew to a close, Lubamba again went on the attack. His cross from the right wing found Rey unmarked, but the Servette striker managed only to head the ball down into the ground and across the face of the goal. Yakin reacted quickly but couldn't jump quite high enough to turn the ball in.

Three minutes before the break, Rey had the crowd on their feet once more, but after breaking through the Russian defence the forward struck the ball into the side netting.

Russia began the second half more purposefully following the introduction of striker Alexander Panov. Within three minutes of the restart the St Etienne player had twice burst through the Swiss defence, forcing frantic tackles from Pascolo and his defenders on both occasions.

The Russians continued to press forward and in the 62nd minute Valery Karpin was unlucky not to score, his powerful shot rebounding off the top of Pascolo's post.

With just 20 minutes left to play the visitors finally made the breakthrough, Karpin lifting the ball into the area where Beschastnitsch stood unattended. The Santander striker headed past a stunned Pascolo to leave the Swiss rueing their missed opportunities.

The closing stages saw yet more chances go begging. Rey tripped over the ball with the Russian net just a few metres away. With five minutes to go Ciriaco Sforza was unable to get more than a glancing header to a well-taken Comisetti free-kick.

The Russians were happy to defend in numbers as the seconds ticked away. If the Swiss crowd had expected a difficult match beforehand, the promise of the first half appeared to have raised their expectations. The final whistle may have followed a brave attempt by a makeshift side, but it was met with jeers by many home supporters.

swissinfo with agencies

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