Switzerland enters World Cup finals

15th October 2009, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland tied Israel Wednesday 0-0 in Basel.

Basel -- Switzerland entered the World Cup finals in South Africa and made German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld's dream come true on Wednesday with a 0-0 tie with Israel in Basel.

After finishing bottom of their group at home in the Euro 2008 finals, Switzerland almost lost hope of entering the next World Cup just after Hitzfeld became coach in 2008.

Switzerland lost 2-1 against low-ranking Luxembourg in Zurich, but recovered to win Group 2 by one point with 21 points, after beating their closest challengers Greece twice.

"It's another success for me and a dream being fulfilled; it's a present that Switzerland has given me," Hitzfeld said.

The 60-year-old German, who is training his team to play more aggressively, frequently jumped out of his dugout as the Swiss failed to score goals.

"We were really nervous and we had a lot to lose this evening, while the Israelis had nothing to lose," said striker Blaise Nkufo, who plays for Dutch club FC Twente.

"I think we were in a good position after the recent matches and we managed to keep a cool head."

But Israel, with little chance of reaching the playoffs, rarely managed to score on the balls Switzerland gave away in midfield to Liverpool's Yossi Benayoun.

Israel was reduced to ten men in the second half after Avihai Yadin received his second penalty card, leaving 65-year-old coach Dror Kashtan with little chance to win before his expected retirement.

But, apart from a first-half free kick by Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta that just missed the Israeli goalpost and a few scrambles in the area, Israel's keeper Dudu Aouate rarely had to make a save.

Hitzfeld, one of Europe's most successful club coaches, never coached his national team despite being requested for the job several times.

Instead the German, who grew up just across the border in southern Germany, came out of near retirement in 2008 to coach Switzerland.

"I'm rather proud of being the coach of the Swiss national team, also to be the coach here in Basel... I grew up just 15 minutes away from this stadium so it's a reminder of my youth."

AFP / Expatica

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