Football minnows FC Thun are set to begin what promises to be a lucrative adventure with their first match in their European Champions League campaign.This content was published on September 14, 2005 - 10:48
Former Grasshoppers Zurich player Adi Noventa says FC Thun should enjoy the trip, which kicks off on Wednesday against mighty Arsenal, while it lasts.
For many observers, the Bernese Oberland side have already scored a victory after qualifying for the lucrative tournament by beating Ukraine's Dynamo Kiev and Swedish side Malmö in the qualifying rounds.
But Noventa, a former striker, who scored against England's Tottenham Hotspur in Grasshoppers' 1973/4 Uefa Cup run, does not think the Swiss team has the strength or depth to progress to the knock-out stages of the competition.
"Thun will lose both their matches against Arsenal, and the only question is by how big a margin," he said. "They may have beaten Dynamo Kiev and Malmö, but Arsenal are in a different world.
"They will be too strong. Arsenal can field a second XI and still beat Thun.
"Thun will be under no illusions about this – they know the reality and the facts. They should just enjoy the adventure, and try to keep the score down as much as possible."
Noventa knows a thing or two about European football after helping mastermind European matches against England's Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest when he was assistant coach at Grasshoppers.
He was full of praise for Thun, only the third Swiss team behind Grasshoppers and FC Basel to take on the might of Europe.
"Thun is known more for its mountains and tourism than for its football," he said. "But it is wonderful for Switzerland that a club with such a small budget and a modest attitude can do so well.
"They are winners before it even starts because they have already earned a lot of money to buy new players."
Thun will also face former European champions Ajax from the Netherlands and Czech Republic side Sparta Prague in Group B. They will qualify for the knockout stages of the competition if they finish first or second in the group, after playing each opponent home and away.
Their European adventure will not end if they only manage a third-placed finish, as they will join the Uefa Cup competition.
Despite practically writing off Thun's chances, Noventa believes that their status as rank underdogs provides them with their only glimmer of hope.
"When Grasshoppers faced Tottenham we were under the delusion that we could win, but they beat us 9-2 on aggregate," he said. "The fact that they [Thun] have no chance gives them their only chance of pulling off an upset.
"Each match will be like a Cup final for Thun and every point they win will be a victory."
swissinfo, Matthew Allen
FC Thun only qualified for the Swiss Super League in 2002.
The club, with an annual budget of SFr5 million ($3.96 million), stands to make an estimated SFr7.5 million if they qualify to the Champions League knockout stages.
Arsenal's stadium, Highbury, has a capacity of 38,500 compared with Thun's population of 41,000.
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