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World Cup dream ends in Basel

The sending-off of goalscorer Hakan Yakin (right) proved too much for Switzerland

(Keystone)

The Swiss football team's hopes of qualifying for next year's World Cup finals were effectively ended at the weekend, following a 2-1 home defeat against Yugoslavia.

Under the guidance of new coach Kübi Kuhn, Switzerland had looked more than capable of causing an upset in the early stages of the match. After surviving a scare in the 17th minute, when Yugoslav striker Mladen Krstajic had a goal disallowed for offside, the Swiss were able to secure a deserved lead.

Veteran forward Kubilay Türkyilmaz latched onto a long ball in the 24th minute, before skilfully passing to Basel striker Hakan Yakin who flicked in from short range.

But after sustained pressure in the minutes that followed, Yugoslavia were able to equalise with a goal that Bruno Berner will surely not want to see again. Under no apparent pressure, the young Grasshoppers defender gave the ball away to Mateja Kezman, who instantly set up Savo Milosevic.

The Parma striker calmly slid the ball past Marco Pascolo in the Swiss goal to send the sides into the break on level terms.

The second half seemed just as evenly balanced until the 70th minute when a brief moment of Swiss ecstasy rapidly transformed into one of horror.

The delight came when Hakan Yakin appeared to score his second goal of the night to put Switzerland back in the lead. But the referee rightly judged that the Swiss striker had pushed the ball into the net with his hand, a move that earned Yakin an instant sending-off.

What followed seemed almost inevitable, although it took Yugoslavia another 11 minutes to make the most of their one-man advantage. A high cross from substitute Ljubino Drulovic was to make the difference with Krstajic heading in an almost identical ball to the one ruled offside in the first half.

With both teams knowing that only a win would be enough to keep their World Cup dreams alive, the match finished with frantic defending at both ends of the pitch. But with just ten men at their disposal, the Swiss team's passion never looked like being turned into anything more concrete. When the 90 minutes were up, so too were Switzerland's hopes.

by Mark Ledsom, Basel

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