Swiss win their first point at the World Cup

Swiss midfielder Cabanas (left) and Zidane fighting for the ball Keystone

Switzerland opened their World Cup account with a point after battling their way to a tense goalless draw in their World Cup opening game against France in Stuttgart on Tuesday.

This content was published on June 13, 2006 minutes

The result against their most difficult group opponents puts the Swiss in joint second place behind South Korea, who beat Togo 2-1 in an earlier match.

The match was a tactical battle, played at a low tempo in hot temperatures in front of a 52,000 capacity crowd at the Gottlieb-Daimler stadium.

Coach Köbi Kuhn picked a familiar side, with Marco Streller partnering Alex Frei in attack and Patrick Müller shaking off a minor injury to marshal the Swiss defence.

Switzerland started nervously, giving the ball away far too often to allow the more creative French to probe their defence with a series of precise attacks. Thierry Henry let the Swiss off the hook in the sixth minute as he headed over the bar from close range.

But the Swiss came closest to taking the lead against the run of play after half an hour of play when Tranquillo Barnetta's free-kick evaded everyone and hit the inside of the French post.

Frei pounced on the loose ball but could only hook his shot over the bar from point blank range with the goal at his mercy.

France felt they should have had a penalty minutes later as Henry's shot clearly struck Müller's hand inside the penalty area, but the referee ruled that it was accidental contact.

Frank Ribéry also came dangerously close to scoring for the French and Switzerland ended the first half knowing they had to improve to stand a chance of wining the crucial match.

Higher pace

The Swiss upped the tempo after the restart with Barnetta breaking free but electing to pass when a shot would have been better.

Striker Daniel Gygax nearly broke the deadlock minutes after coming on for Streller, but he weakly directed his far post header straight at French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.

France continued to threaten with Patrick Vieira, Henry and Zidane just failing to find the target, but Switzerland's youngsters seemed to have more energy in the closing stages.

Swiss hearts were in mouths as Vikash Dhorasoo found space in their penalty area in the dying seconds but the French substitute lashed his shot wide.

But it was Frei who came within a whisker of grabbing a dramatic, if unlikely, victory deep into injury time as he dived headfirst at full stretch to glance a Ludovic Magnin cross just the wrong side of the post.

However, the striker touched the ball with his hand, taking it away from the well positioned Johan Djourou. Frei was cautioned for this misdemeanour, joining four other Swiss and three French players in the referee's book.

Swiss satisfied

Swiss coach Köbi Kuhn said he was pleased with the draw.

"It makes no sense to speculate whether we won a point or failed to pick up three points. But we definitely want to win our next match against Togo."

Thousands of Swiss fans had travelled to Stuttgart, which is not far from the Swiss border, to cheer on their team.

For his part the French manager, Raymond Domenech, admitted that he had hoped for victory against the Swiss squad.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Stuttgart

Key facts

Shots: Switzerland 7, France 9
Shots on target: Switzerland 4, France 3
Possession: Switzerland 49%, France 51%
Yellow cards: Ludovic Magnin, Marco Streller, Philipp Degen, Ricardo Cabanas, Alex Frei (Switzerland); Eric Abidal, Zinedine Zidane, Willy Sagnol (France)

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In brief

Last year Switzerland and France drew 0-0 and 1-1 respectively in two qualifying matches for the 2006 World Cup.

Switzerland next play Togo in Dortmund next Monday then South Korea in Hannover on June 23.

The top two teams from each group qualify for the first knockout stage of the competition.

The match against France was the first time Switzerland have ended a World Cup finals game without conceding a goal.

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