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Swiss juniors back on track

Ricardo Cabanas, Alexander Frei and Daniel Gygax after the second goal for the Swiss team

(Keystone)

Switzerland's under-21 football team have got their European Championship campaign back on track with an impressive 2-0 win over Portugal.

Bernard Challandes' young side had their work cut out for them against the talented Portuguese who saw three great goalscoring chances rebound off the Swiss woodwork.

But following almost relentless pressure in the first half, the Swiss were able to forge ahead in the second.

The decisive moment owed as much to the visitors' carelessness as it did to Swiss industry, with St Gallen midfielder Reto Zanni being clumsily bundled over in the Portuguese area to gift Switzerland a penalty in the 60th minute.

Swiss captain Ricardo Cabanas smashed the ball in from the spot to make it 1-0 and prompt some more fierce attacking from the Portuguese.

Portuguese carelessness

Within 15 minutes though Switzerland had doubled their lead.

This time Cabanas was the provider, floating in a well-weighted free-kick for senior team colleague Alex Frei to head home.

In the 17 minutes that followed, Portugal sought desperately for a way back, and even managed to strike the crossbar once more in the dying moments, but the Swiss defence and Beney in particular kept them at bay.

"We were definitely more lucky than we were against England," Swiss defender Stephan Keller told swissinfo after helping his side bounce back from their 2-1 defeat to the English on Friday.

"The Portuguese must have watched the video of us against England and seen how we let in that first early goal," Keller added, "because they certainly came at us strongly from the very beginning. But our luck was in and I thought overall we delivered a nice performance."

Vocal visitors

Although supposedly playing with home advantage, the Swiss team also had to overcome some vociferous support from Switzerland's large Portuguese community who more than did their part in making Monday's match a colourful sell-out.

In the end though, the final whistle was to see the chants of the Switzerland supporters drowning out the noise of their rivals as the Swiss youngsters completed a well-deserved lap of honour.

Having now won their first match in their first ever European Championship finals, Switzerland have the chance of a semi-final place firmly in their own hands.

Currently joint second with England in the group A table, Switzerland can guarantee themselves a place in the final four by beating defending champions Italy on Wednesday.

"It's in our own hands, but we have to be realistic," Keller warns. "The Italian side are packed with players who are used to playing difficult games like this, week in and week out. But we'll be fighting to the end - we want to make it to the semis."

by Mark Ledsom, Zurich


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