The Swiss press are in agreement that the nation’s Under-21s did the country proud despite their 2-0 loss to Spain on Saturday in the Uefa European Football Championship.
Switzerland entered the final match in Aarhus, Denmark without having conceded a goal in the tournament. However, the Spanish lived up to expectations, outplaying and outgunning the Swiss.
Ander Herrera put the Spanish side in the lead in the 41st minute in the match.
Didac Vila placed a cross onto the head of a charging Herrara who slipped between the two Swiss centre backs at the near post and pushed the ball past Swiss keeper Yann Sommer.
In the second half, the young Spaniards took near total control of the match, playing tic-tac-toe with the ball, rarely allowing the Swiss to mount a
But it was Spain's second and final goal which stunned the Swiss in the 81st minute. With a free kick from 45 metres out, Thiago Alcantara surprised Sommer who had abandoned his line by drilling a hard shot over the Swiss keeper's head into the corner of the net.
It was Spain’s third title at this level, adding to the world and European crowns already in their possession.
By qualifying for the final Switzerland qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.
Following the match, the Swiss side received a letter from this year's Swiss president, Micheline Calmy-Rey. She highlighted the predominance of players in the starting 11 with immigrant backgrounds:
"The team, its coach and many volunteers showed the world what is possible when you stand up for one another and work together instead of marginalising people. The U-21 players carried the colours of Switzerland into the world spreading a message of tolerance and diversity."
The solid and successful play of the young Swiss players during the entire tournament in Denmark was the focus of commentaries in Switzerland’s Sunday newspapers, not the loss in the final.
The NZZ am Sonntag said the U-21s showed that a small football nation can make it into the final of a tournament. “That’s exceptional because a tournament requires qualities that unlike tactics, technique or perseverance cannot be trained, but can only flourish on a fertile breeding ground of experience. Planning, anticipation and psychological skills are catchwords. The coach Pierluigi Tami, his staff and the players performed exceptionally well in this regard.”
However, the NZZ cautioned Swiss football fans not to have too high hopes that the success of the U-21 squad will soon translate into success for the national team. “The technical and tactical level of the European Championship was indeed high but it’s still a long way from the elite level.”
“Young, dynamic, successful. That’s what we would all like to be,” said the Sonntags Blick in its commentary. “These multicultural high fliers aren’t aware of the typical Swiss restraint. They take ambitious aim at their goals. They want to win. Always and everywhere…They lost in the final but that doesn’t matter. We’re looking forward to your appearance in the ‘big’ national team and at the Olympic Games.”
On a par
The SonntagsZeitung said Switzerland only failed to meet the biggest challenge of all; defeating Spain in the final: “It’s a shame they didn’t accomplish the feat and this hurts the players the most. But they needn’t be ashamed to have missed their goal of winning the championship. Despite their second place finish the Swiss proved something in Denmark: that they can play on a par with the big nations – on the condition that everything comes together at the right time.”
The French-language paper, Le Matin Dimanche, also reminded readers that Spain had been heavy favourites going into the match. “The Swiss approached the final without conceding a goal. They could taste victory. But they forgot they were up against 11 Spaniards who proved to be superior. The Swiss do not have to hang their heads. They were beaten by a much stronger side.”
Le Matin Dimanche recalled that Saturday’s match was the third time in nine years that the Swiss had made it into the final of such a tournament (U-17 European Championship in 2002, U-19 worlds in 2009 and U-21 European Championship this year). “They won the first two, but were defeated on Saturday against world football’s most potent weapon.”
The Swiss team did not concede a goal on their way to the final of the 2011 Uefa U-21 European Football Championship.
June 11: vs Denmark 1-0
June 14: vs Iceland 2-0
June 18: vs Belarus 3-0
June 22: vs Czech Republic
June 25: vs Spain 0-2end of infobox