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Swiss lose in disappointing Nigeria friendly

(Keystone)

Switzerland have lost 1-0 against Nigeria in a friendly match ahead of next year's European football championship.

Tuesday's defeat in Zurich – their fifth in ten games this year as part of preparations for Euro 2008 - leaves question marks for the Swiss side 200 days before the tournament kicks off in Basel.

The Swiss, who were missing a number of key players through injury including Alexander Frei, Marco Streller and Philippe Senderos, went into the game hoping to improve on their lacklustre performance against the United States in October, which they also lost 1-0.

The Nigerian defender Taye Taïwo scored 11 minutes from the end with a powerful 20-metre drive just inside Diego Benaglio's right-hand post.

Overall, the Swiss failed to impose their neat passing game in their first-ever match against the technical and physical Super Eagles.

Both sides had only a few half-chances in front of goal in a disappointing match that failed to light up the cold November night, with many final passes going astray in front of goal.

"We played well for an hour and had some chances before collapsing. Afterwards the players lacked strength and not having quite a few first-choice names was felt," said Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn.

Nigeria, 19th in the Fifa world rankings compared with Switzerland's 41st position, were also without their stars, Martins, Kanu and Mikel.

Lacklustre performances

Switzerland have played nine other friendly matches this year: Germany (lost 3-1); Colombia (lost 3-1); Jamaica (won 2-0); Netherlands (won 2-1); Chile (won 2-1); Japan (lost 3-4); Austria (won 3-1); Argentina (1-1) and United States (lost 0-1).

On the whole, the side has not managed to rediscover the kind of form it demonstrated during the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Apart from the games against Argentina and the Netherlands, most performances disappointed.

Following the Nigeria match, the Swiss trainer will draw up a shortlist of 27 or 28 players for next summer's tournament from the current squad of 40.

The Swiss have another four international friendly matches scheduled for the remaining six months, including one against England at Wembley in February, Germany in March, Liechtenstein in May and another to be decided.

Switzerland and Austria qualified automatically as hosts for Euro 2008, and were joined by Germany, holders Greece, the Czech Republic and Romania last month.

On Saturday, Poland, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Croatia also progressed, leaving nine sides jostling for the four remaining places when the qualifying campaign concludes on Wednesday night.

Switzerland's co-hosts Austria are due to end their own difficult year of friendlies on Wednesday when they take on Tunisia in Vienna.

The Austrians are in even poorer form than the Swiss, having won just once - against a 10-man Ivory Coast side - in 11 matches this year.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley

Key facts

Result: Switzerland 0 – 1 Nigeria (0-0).
Goal: Taye Taïwo (79).
Attendance at the Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich: 12,700.

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Euro 2008

Co-hosts Switzerland and Austria have qualified automatically for the Euro 2008 tournament, which takes place from June 7-29, 2008.

The winners and runners-up in the seven qualifying groups will also go through. The composition of the four groups of the Euro 2008 tournament will be decided on December 2.

15 of the 31 Euro 2008 matches will be played in Switzerland, including the opening match in Basel on June 7. Austria hosts 16 games and stages the final in Vienna on June 29.

A total of 1.05 million tickets have been issued. Up to 5.4 million football fans are expected to follow the tournament in Switzerland, including 1.4 from abroad.

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Teams

Switzerland: Benaglio; Philipp Degen (9. Lichtsteiner), Djourou (81. Grichting), Eggimann, Magnin (76. Spycher); Fernandes, Inler; Gygax, Yakin (76. Ziegler), Barnetta (46. David Degen); Nkufo.

Nigeria: Ejide; Ifeyani, Nwaneri, Shittu, Taiwo (87. Afolabi); Etuhu, Ayila (70. Olofinjana), Tico; Uche (78. Nsofor), Odemwingie; Makinwa, (68. Manasseh).

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