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Swiss youngsters kept in Czech

Switzerland's Daniel Gygax (right) fights for the ball with Martin Horak of the Czech Republic

(Keystone)

Switzerland's under-21 football team have been beaten 3-0 by the Czech Republic in their final warm-up match before next month's European Championships.

Bernard Challandes' young Swiss side made a bright start to Wednesday's game in Zurich with Stephan Keller, team captain Ricardo Cabanas and Daniel Gygax all having early chances to score.

But two swift goals either side of the break were enough to put the Czechs in firm control. With six minutes of the first half remaining, Lausanne midfielder Remo Meyer mistakenly headed a Czech free-kick into the Swiss goal, gifting the visitors with the lead.

Hopes for a quick Swiss reply faded just two minutes into the second half when FC Nurnberg forward David Jarolim dummied the home defence before setting up strike partner Thomas Jun for goal number two.

Missed penalty

Switzerland had a great chance to get back in contention in the 55th minute, but after being brought down in the box, Cabanas saw his penalty kick comfortably saved by the experienced Jaroslav Drobny.

It was Drobny who then literally handed the Swiss their next chance, but after handling outside the area with Gygax through on goal, the Czech keeper was inexplicably allowed to stay on the pitch by referee Dietmar Drabek.

"If I had scored from the penalty, the match could have become a lot more interesting," reckoned Cabanas afterwards. "We'd have been at 2-1 and that would have kept our morale up - maybe enough to get us back on level terms. But we don't have much to be ashamed of in losing to such strong opponents."

A goal from Sparta Prague defender Martin Horak, headed in following a corner, completed a tough night for the Swiss youngsters who now have just four weeks to go until the European finals kick off on home soil.

Disappointed

"Of course I'm a bit disappointed," Challandes admitted after the match. "We started well but then the Czechs piled on the pressure and we had difficulty holding onto the ball.

"I'm not going to get all dramatic though and start questioning everything we've done," insisted the coach. "We have a good team with plenty of character but this game has certainly taught us what to expect next month. We weren't efficient enough, our defensive play wasn't great and although we had goal-scoring chances there were no goals - and that's how tough it is at European Championship level."

Switzerland are set to begin their Championship campaign on May 17, against an England side tipped, like the Czechs, for possible title glory. Watching the game in Zurich, England's under-21 coach David Platt insisted though that his side wouldn't be underestimating the Swiss.

"It's going to be difficult playing the host nation in our opening game," Platt told swissinfo, "and I don't see that we have any easy teams in our group. If we are going to win the championships we're going to have to come through five very difficult games. It will be important for us to get off to a good start against Switzerland but, like I said, that won't be easy."

by Mark Ledsom, Zurich


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