Switzerland and Turkey meet in must-win Euro match
Three years after an ugly bawl, the teams of Switzerland and Turkey will meet on Wednesday to decide who will advance to the quarter-finals.11 June 2008
FEUSISBERG - The pressure will be on both Switzerland and Turkey when they meet Wednesday in the European Championship, their first match since an ugly brawl three years ago in Istanbul.
Switzerland will be without captain Alexander Frei, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a ruptured left knee ligament. Turkey coach Fatih Terim announced Tuesday that his captain, Emre Belozoglu, also would not play because of a leg injury.
Both teams will be looking for a win after opening the tournament with losses, with another defeat ending almost any hope of advancing to the quarter-finals. It is also a grudge match of sorts for two sides - and groups of fans - that may still have a lot of bad blood.
"It's going to be an intense atmosphere," Switzerland defender Johan Djourou said. "Fighting shouldn't happen in football. Hopefully it won't happen in Switzerland."
Switzerland met Turkey over two legs in November 2005 to determine which team would advance to the World Cup in Germany. They drew 4-4 on aggregate, but the Swiss advanced on away goals.
After the final whistle, the Swiss team raced from the field apparently to escape angry fans. A scuffle between players from both sides ensued in the tunnel on the way to the locker room, drawing in coaches and Turkish security guards into the fighting. Switzerland defender Stephane Grichting was hospitalised with a groin injury.
The fight led to a rash of suspensions, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter even threatening at one point to ban Turkey from the 2010 World Cup. Blatter, a Swiss native, backed down. Turkey also complained about its treatment in Switzerland, where it said the home fans whistled during the Turkish national anthem.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Terim said in May that he was sorry about what happened. He added that the episode was now history and should not affect how Turkey is treated in Basel.
"What happens in football, stays in football," Terim said.
He has since made friendly gestures to Switzerland coach Koebi Kuhn, whose wife is in the hospital, and the 28-year-old Frei after his injury.
Turkey's players have largely avoided the subject and the reaction in Switzerland has been subdued.
"Obviously, we can't forget what happened," Switzerland midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta said. "But we are thinking about playing football and winning this match."
Kuhn said the episode was over.
"As in everyday life, football evolves very quickly," he said Tuesday. "I don't think there's any point commenting on things that happened way back in the past."
Swiss authorities said they expected thousands of Turkey supporters to come to Basel from other parts of Switzerland and neighbouring Germany. But no extraordinary security measures are believed necessary.
"We are always vigilant," Swiss police spokesman Guido Balmer said. "The network of security services we have from different countries is working very well."
Switzerland will be without the 28-year-old Frei, but striker Marco Streller is expected to play despite re-aggravating a groin injury in the 1-0 loss to the Czech Republic. Should Streller fail to recover, Switzerland would be left with 19-year-old Eren Derdiyok and creative forward Hakan Yakin as the only attacking options.
That is not good news for a team that has failed to score in its last 223 minutes of competitive play, going back to the World Cup in 2006. As co-host, Switzerland qualified automatically for the European Championship and played only friendly matches in two years of preparation.
"We have to score more goals and give up less goals," said Barnetta, who scored twice in Switzerland's 2-1 upset of the Netherlands in August without Frei.
"That shows we can give a strong performance without Alex," Barnetta said.
Turkey, meanwhile, is vulnerable in the back. Central defenders Gokhan Zan and Servet Cetin were injured for the team's 2-0 loss to Portugal, and both are doubts for Wednesday. Midfielder Hamit Altintop is also below full fitness, and it's unclear if he can last the full 90 minutes.
Terim said Emre would definitely miss the match because he had an edema, a swelling caused by a buildup of fluid. The 27-year-old Newcastle player is also a doubt for Turkey's final match against the Czech Republic on Sunday.
With all the injuries, Terim will have to find a formula for success.
"Our second game will be almost a final," Terim said.
[AP / Expatica]