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Swiss at low ebb after negative 2007

Published on 05/12/2007

- A string of dismal results have left the Swiss national team's preparations in tatters ahead of their joint hosting of Euro 2008 with neighbours Austria.

The tournament kicks off June 7 but if Switzerland continue to play as they have in their recent friendlies they may fail to get beyond of the group stage.

The air of pessimism already beginning to gather around the team was magnified on November 20 after a 1-0 defeat by an under-strength Nigerian national side in Zurich.

It was the fifth loss in 10 games this year as part of preparations for Euro 2008.

The Swiss, who were wearing their new official Euro 2008 strip for the first time, were missing a number of key players through injury including Alexander Frei, Marco Streller and Philippe Senderos, but nevertheless went into the game hoping to improve on their lackluster performance against the United States in October, which they also lost 1-0.

After the Nigeria game Swiss coach Koebi Kuhn claimed that the team were lacking fitness and he admitted that he still had "a lot of work to do."

Arsenal central defender Johan Djourou spoke for all the players when he said that "we would have liked to have ended the year on a good note."

Switzerland have played nine other friendly matches this year: Germany (lost 3-1), Colombia (lost 3-1), Jamaica (won 2-0), Netherlands (won 2-1), Chile (won 2-1), Japan (lost 4-3), Austria (won 3-1); Argentina (1-1) and United States (lost 1-0).

The gloom was all the more intense following the high expectations resulting from the Swiss team’s showing at last year’s World Cup in Germany, where the team made the round of 16 before losing on penalties to Ukraine.

In that tournament, "La Nati" as the Swiss call their team, made a strong showing for a country not noted for its footballing prowess, and all seemed set fair for their hosting of Euro 2008.

It may be scant consolation for the team and their supporters that Euro co-hosts Austria are even worse offwith just one win in 11 matches this year.

Following the Nigeria match, Kuhn must look to 2008 and the run up to June.
"2007 has been a negative year, that’s clear", said Khun, "Each player knows very well in what areas he must improve."

The coach is now expected to draw up a shortlist of 27 or 28 players for next summer’s tournament from the current squad of 40. The final squad will be made up of 23 players.

He can only hope that automatic qualification, often a curse for the hosts of major tournaments, has blunted the team’s competitive edge and that they will get back to their old ways once the tournament kicks off in earnest.

DPA 2007