Swiss give coach Koebi Kuhn victory send-off
The team’s 2-0 victory over Portugal on Sunday marks the Swiss coach's retirement from the football scene.
BASLE - An era for Swiss football came to an end Sunday evening with the 2-0 victory over Portugal.
The co-hosts had already effectively bowed out of Euro 2008 after two defeats, and Sunday evening's match in Basle's St. Jakob-Park stadium took on the nature of a farewell benefit for coach Koebi Kuhn.
Portugal, already qualified, had the luxury of fielding some of the reserves. Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari making eight changes from the side that had beaten Czech Republic 3-1 to achieve qualification for the quarter-finals, and there was no Cristiano Ronaldo or Deco.
Yet the Swiss were determined to bow out on a high note, and their first victory at a European Championships after three tournaments will be some consolation for the coach and fans.
After hugging his staff on the final whistle, Kuhn slowly walked onto the pitch to thank his players who unfurled a banner with the words "Merci Koebi" with which they walked around the ground to a standing ovation.
"I didn't know the banner was planned. It was really emotional because many of the players have been with me for a long time - some 12 years, others five, six, seven," Kuhn said.
"I can only thank the players for this honest thank-you from them because there have been some wonderful times even if it there were difficult moments as well.
Former Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld will now take charge of the Nati, as the national team is known.
"Ottmar takes over a decent side. The team is young, very young in parts but there is also experience and can improve, I am sure. I wish Ottmar all the best."
Hitzfeld will be hoping to match the achievements of 64-year-old Kuhn who led the Swiss to three successive tournaments - Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008 on home soil.
It made him the most successful national team coach in the country's football history.
For some Swiss commentators, Kuhn's departure has come two years too late after their Euro 2008 flop.
The co-hosts had to taste bitter defeat here: after two years of friendlies, the tournament on home soil ended after just four days with unlucky defeats to the Czech Republic and Turkey.
It has been a difficult Euro 2008 for Kuhn whose wife Alice was placed in an induced coma after she fell ill following an epileptic attack five days before the start of the tournament.
He was relieved to hear this week that his wife had been woken from the induced coma, and consoled by the supportive attitude of his players and staff, he told Blick newspaper published Sunday.
"For example one came to me and said, 'trainer I don't know know what one says in a situation like this but I am praying for your wife.'
"Other players came and said, 'coach, we need you but you look after yourself.' That gave me incredible strength. I also have a great staff," he said.
Kuhn was an outstanding player for Switzerland who appeared at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups as well as twice reaching the European Cup semi-finals with FC Zurich.
He became the first Swiss coach since 1989 to become national team trainer when he took over from Argentinian Enzo Trossero in 2001.
Kuhn has never been the sort of coach to rant and rave, but neither has he been shy of taking unpopular measures such as showing big-name players Ciriaco Sforza and former captain Johann Vogel the door.
"He always gave the players a lot of freedom and trust. We want to pay him back for this trust with three points in the last game," defender Patrick Mueller said.
That mission at least has been accomplished.
text by dpa / Expatica
photos by Reto Stauffer, Flickr contributor timeyres and google
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