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Swiss qualify for football World Cup 2006

(Keystone)

Switzerland have reached the finals of the 2006 football World Cup, despite losing 4-2 in a titanic battle against Turkey in Istanbul on Wednesday.

The challenging game tested the Swiss team to the limit, but in the end they retained the upper hand due to two crucial away goals. But tensions were high during and after the game.

Both teams were competing for one of the last places in the football World Cup, which is due to take place in Germany.

Switzerland won the first leg 2-0 at home on Saturday, meaning Turkey needed to notch up a 3-0 victory to go through.

News of the qualification was welcomed by Swiss President Samuel Schmid, who called it a magnificent result stemming from "extraordinary performances".

However, Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn told Swiss television that it had been a nerve-wracking game.

"After the two Swiss goals [the Turkish team] reacted each time with goals," he said. "We could have had it in the bag much earlier."

Referring to the high emotions than ran throughout the match – and were present at Istanbul airport where Turkish fans chanted abuse at the Swiss team upon their arrival - Kuhn said that there should be "no lap of honour" nor show of joy.

Turkish and Swiss players scuffled in the tunnel on the way to the locker room following the match.

Reserve player Stéphane Grichting was taken to hospital with what were reported to be serious injuries following a kick to the abdomen. Kuhn described the incident as "a real scandal".

The game also saw tempers flare with at least eight yellow cards being awarded, three of them to Switzerland.

Good start

Switzerland made a sensational start to the match as striker Alexander Frei stunned the 43,000-strong Istanbul crowd by scoring from a penalty in the first minute.

But Turkey came back strongly with two goals from Tuncay Sanli - an equaliser in the 24th minute and a second goal 14 minutes later.

And a penalty taken by Turkey's Necati Ates shortly after the start of the second half brought the score to 3-1 and the teams level on aggregate, but the Swiss still leading on away goals.

After a nail-biting 30 minutes in which the Swiss team missed several chances, substitute Marco Streller apparently ended Turkey's hopes of qualifying with a goal in the 84th minute.

However, the game took another twist as Tuncay completed a hat-trick five minutes later to make the score 4-2.

Long wait

Although the aggregate score was 4-4, the two away goals were enough to ensure that Kuhn's team qualified, taking the Swiss to their first finals since the United States in 1994. This will be the eighth time they will go to the World Cup.

Wednesday's result means that Switzerland finishes second in its group after France. The squad only lost one of their eleven group matches, winning four and drawing six games.

But they failed to qualify automatically for the tournament because they only managed a goalless draw in a match against Ireland in Dublin.

In total, 32 teams from around the world will take part in the tournament.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Turkey - Switzerland game:
Goals: Frei 1; Sanli 24, 38; Ates 52; Streller 84; Sanli 89.
Turkey: Demirel, Hamit Altintop, Alpay, Seyhan, Emre (Basturk 82), Penbe, Selcuk Sahin, Sanli, Akin (Metin 70), Ates (Tekke 81), Sukur.
Switzerland: Zuberbühler, Degen (Behrami, 46), Müller, Senderos, Spycher, Gygax (Streller, 31; Huggel, 87), Vogel, Wicky, Barnetta, Cabanas, Frei.

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In brief

The 32 teams who have qualified for the World Cup 2006:

Germany (host), Portugal, England, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, Poland, Sweden, Serbia-Montenegro, Ukraine, Spain, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Tunisia, Togo.

Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia.

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