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Swiss bow out of Euro 2004 with heads held high

Johan Vonlanthen slots in the Swiss equaliser Keystone

Switzerland are out of the European football championships in Portugal, after losing 3-1 to defending champions France.

This content was published on June 21, 2004 - 23:36

The Swiss, who went into their Group B game with nothing to lose, put up a brave performance but it was not the night for David to slay Goliath.

After playing for more than an hour with a determination that at times unsettled the French, the Swiss visibly tired, leaving France’s Thierry Henry to poach a couple of goals that killed off the Swiss challenge.

Henry’s goals carried France to victory after Switzerland had levelled Zinédine Zidane’s early goal through 18-year-old Johan Vonlanthen, who became the youngest scorer in the tournament’s history.

After England’s defeat of Croatia in the other Thursday tie, France and England go through to the quarter-finals of the competition.

French took lead

The French took the lead after 20 minutes when Zidane rose practically unchallenged at the near post to head in a corner from Robert Pires.

France threatened to add a second until the reshaped Swiss team struck back six minutes later. Vonlanthen latched on to a shrewdly-placed through pass from Ricardo Cabanas and slid a low diagonal shot beyond the reach of French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.

At the age of 18 years and four months, Vonlanthen was three months younger than England’s Wayne Rooney when he scored against Switzerland last Thursday.

It seemed just reward for the Swiss after spells of good, controlled possession football. But they picked up the first half’s only yellow card when Hakan Yakin was cautioned for tugging the shirt of Pires.

Switzerland’s Wicky followed him into the referee’s notebook in the second half for a foul on substitute William Gallas as the Swiss defended resolutely. Henry was also booked for diving.

No real French style

Although pressing forward more in the later stages of the game, France lacked any real commanding style, with Swiss goalkeeper Jörg Stiel barely having a shot to save before Henry struck the French second from close range.

Henry sealed victory with a classic individual effort six minutes from time, cutting in from the left to leave Stiel with no chance.

Swiss trainer Köbi Kuhn had praise for both teams at the end of the game.

"I congratulate my team. The young squad put in a strong performance... France for me remain the tournament favourites. But we gave them a run for their money," he commented.

With striker Alex Frei suspended on Monday afternoon by Uefa for spitting at England’s midfielder Steven Gerrard, the Swiss had been keen to try to salvage some pride against a French side that had previously not shown any real form.

The match against the European champions was Switzerland’s third and final game in Group B. Earlier in the competition, the Swiss had drawn 0-0 with Croatia and lost 3-0 to England after being reduced to ten men in both games.

Midfield lynchpin Johann Vogel was sent off in the first game; defender Bernt Haas was also shown a red card in the second - both after each receiving two cautions.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Cidade de Coimbra Stadium, Coimbra
Referee: Michel (Slovakia)
Attendance: 30,000
Goals: 20 mins Zidane 1-0; 26 mins Vonlanthen 1-1; 76 mins Henry 2-1; 84 mins Henry 3-1.

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In brief

Teams:

Switzerland: Stiel; Henchoz (Magnin), Murat Yakin,
Müller, Spycher, Cabanas, Vogel, Wicky, Gygax (Rama), Hakan Yakin (Huggel), Vonlanthen.

France: Barthez; Lizarazu, Silvestre, Thuram, Sagnol (Gallas), Vieira, Makelele, Pires, Zidane, Henry, Trézéguet (Saha).

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