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Swiss fix World Cup hopes on playoffs

Swiss coverage of Wednesday's scoreless draw has been mostly kind

(swissinfo.ch)

The Swiss press was kind about the national team's performance in Dublin on Wednesday, despite great disappointment over missing World Cup qualification.

Having failed to secure a win against Ireland, Switzerland came second in their group and therefore did not qualify automatically. Commentators disagree over the team's chances in the playoffs.

Switzerland's scoreless draw against Ireland meant they came away from the final group-qualifying match with 18 points, putting them equal with Israel, but ahead on goal difference.

France, whom Switzerland held to a 1-1 draw last Saturday, won Group Four, qualifying with 20 points after beating Cyprus 4-0.

The result means that the Swiss squad will have to wait for the playoffs next month for a chance to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The draw will take place on Friday in Zurich.

The Blick sports section begins with the encouraging line "Chin up boys!" The paper still seems confident of Switzerland's chances for qualification. "Now we'll take the long way to the World Cup," it announces.

The Tages Anzeiger front-page picture shows the moment when striker Alex Frei realised he had missed his best shot at goal ten minutes before the end. This was the one that got fans' pulses racing the most and sums up the feeling of missed opportunity.

Playoff chances

Opinions differ over Switzerland's chances in the playoffs. The Tages-Anzeiger is sceptical. "What's needed in those four days in the middle of November is an exceptional performance."

Der Bund is more confident. While Switzerland could face tougher opposition than Ireland in the playoffs, it believes that a team that has not lost for 13 games can be relied upon.

The French-speaking press is largely positive. Le Matin talks about how far Switzerland has come that securing a place in the World Cup playoffs seems like a national catastrophe. "This is proof... that the players have won the love and passion of the people."

"Yes, the whole country expected its heroes to qualify for Germany last night. It didn't happen, and the party has been postponed until later."

Le Temps is philosophical, reminding readers that the game illustrates the eternal story of the glass being half full or half empty.

"The players delivered an intelligent and serious first half, spurred on by their performance on Saturday against France."

"In the last half hour the two teams tried to achieve the goal of liberation. Lansdowne was electrified; a knockout was in the air. But neither side gave in."

The Tribune de Genève was poetic in disappointment, commenting that Switzerland had caressed its dream without managing to seize it.

Irish reaction

Meanwhile, the Irish press bemoaned the fate of the national team, dumped into fourth place in the group, with World Cup dreams in tatters, after a lacklustre performance in Lansdowne Road.

The Irish Times front page has the rueful headline "Ireland bows out as World Cup campaign ends with a whimper" and speaks of the consequences for Irish manager Brian Kerr.

"A long night in Lansdowne. It ended with long faces and soon there will be long knives... The three-year tenure of manager Brian Kerr almost certainly died with Irish hopes."

The Times called the game the Republic's worst qualification finish since 1986.

swissinfo, Clare O'Dea

Key facts

The draw for the playoffs will take place in Zurich at 12 o'clock on Friday.
Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and Norway will go into the hat at Fifa's Zurich headquarters.
Then it will be decided who meets who in the three two-legged ties scheduled for November 12 and 16.
There will be three seeded teams in the draw - Czech Republic, Spain and Turkey – and each will be paired with one of the unseeded trio of Switzerland Norway and Slovakia.
The three playoff winners will become the last three of the 13 European qualifiers for Germany 2006. The host country qualifies automatically.

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