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Swiss to face Spain first at 2010 Fifa World Cup

Fifa Secretary General Jérôme Valcke (centre-right) and South African actress Charlize Theron lead through the World Cup 2010 draw

Fifa Secretary General Jérôme Valcke (centre-right) and South African actress Charlize Theron lead through the World Cup 2010 draw

(Keystone)

Switzerland's football squad will face defending Euro 2008 champions Spain in their first match at the 2010 Fifa World Cup in South Africa.

The game, which will take place in Durban on June 16, will be followed by matches against Chile on June 21 in Port Elizabeth and against Honduras on June 25 at Bloemfontein.

The draw took place on Friday evening at a 90-minute ceremony in Capetown.

"I got more and more nervous towards the end given the teams that were still in left for the draw," said Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld.

"But the result could be worse," he added.

Spain is indisputably the best team at the moment for Hitzeld, but the two other opponents in the Swiss group could be within reach.

"I'm optimistic that we can get through to the Round of 16," said Hitzfeld.

Captain Alex Frei, who followed the draw on television at home in Switzerland, agreed.

"We drew great teams. We will have to take one game after the other and the aim is to make to the last 16," said Frei.

Claude Ryf, youth coach of the Swiss Football Association, believes the team has its work cut out.

"Hitzfeld's biggest challenge is to improve the quality of the Swiss game. Otherwise the round of the last 16 or even the last eight is out of reach," he told swissinfo.ch.

Respect for Swiss

The Swiss opponents showed respect for Hitzfeld's squad.

"The match against Switzerland will be tough," said the Spanish coach Vincente Bosque.

Harold Mayne-Nicholls of Chile described the Swiss team for its "very good players".

For his part Reinaldo Rueda of Honduras pointed out that Switzerland survived a difficult qualifying group to secure a place in the World Cup in South Africa.

Switzerland came out ahead of Greece, Latvia, Israel, Luxembourg and Moldova in their Group B qualification round in October.

Switzerland have never won a major championship although the country's Under 17 team defeated Nigeria in November to become world champions.

Privileged

"We feel privileged and humbled that South Africa that has been given the singular honor of being the African host country," former South African President Mandela said in a video message to a draw ceremony that mixed glamour and sport with the sights and sounds of Africa.

The opening game, on June 11, will feature South Africa against Mexico at Johannesburg.

The United States will face England on June 12 at Rustenburg. Italy, winners of the 2006 World Cup, will play their first match against Paraguay on June 14 in Capetown.

South Africa was awarded the World Cup in 2004 but the initial euphoria has been dampened by concerns over rising stadium construction costs, building delays, rampant crime and lack of transportation.

President Jacob Zuma said the country was ready to host one of the best World Cups ever.

"We believe the world is going to be surprised," he said during the ceremony. "Because this cup that has come to Africa at the end of the tournament will remain here in Africa."

The country is also hoping for a tourism boom with some 500,000 tourists expected to descend upon South Africa and spend about $850 million (SFr850 million) during the month-long tournament.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

Groups for 2010 World Cup

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France.

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece.

Group C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia.

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana.

Group E: Holland, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon.

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia.

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal.

Group H: Spain, SWITZERLAND, Honduras, Chile.

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History of Swiss teams at World Cup

1934 - out in quarterfinal.

1938 - out in quaterfinal.

1950 - out after group matches.

1954 - out in quarterfinal.

1962 - out after group matches.

1966 - out after group matches.

1994 - qualified for Round of 16.

2006 - qualified for Round of 16.

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