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Swiss prepare for last stand at Euro 2004

Alex Frei (left) and Jörg Stiel train together on Friday swissinfo.ch

Switzerland will need a minor miracle on Monday if they are to qualify for the quarter-finals of the European football championships in Portugal.

This content was published on June 18, 2004 - 19:41

The team have to beat France in their final group match and hope that the match between Croatia and England doesn't end in a draw.

Switzerland held Croatia to a 0-0 draw in their opening game last Sunday, but were beaten 3-0 by England in their second group match.

Thursday’s defeat appeared to have left some mental scars on the national side when swissinfo caught up with the players at their hotel.

“It’s true we had some trouble sleeping,” said defender Patrick Müller. “But we know we still have a small chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.”

“When we arrived in Portugal, we thought the first two games would be the most important, but in the end it’s all going to boil down to the match against France."

Tall order

Switzerland are currently languishing at the bottom of the Group B table and only stand a chance of progressing if they can beat France.

But victory itself will not be enough. Their place in the quarter-finals will only be secured if Croatia or England win the other group match. A draw would spell the end of Switzerland’s Euro 2004 dream.

The Swiss team trained for an hour on Friday and were cautiously optimistic in the late afternoon sunshine.

“We're almost as good as our opponents,” striker Alex Frei told swissinfo. “We're improving, but that might not be enough.”

“To beat France, we'll need to score and hope for some help from the Almighty.”

Last chance

A win against the French – European championship titleholders and World Cup champions in 1998 – would be nothing less than a miracle.

But though France have not suffered a defeat in their last 19 international matches, “Les Bleus” are nonetheless under pressure at Euro 2004.

In their previous group matches, the French snatched victory from the jaws of defeat when they beat England 2-1 in injury time and later could only hold Croatia to a 2-2 draw.

“Huge expectations have been placed on the French team,” said Bernard Challandes, coach of the Swiss youth team. “They are under pressure and this has caused them all sorts of worries against England and Croatia.”

Assessing opponents

Challandes has been checking out Switzerland’s opponents during the championships for Swiss manager Köbi Kuhn.

In their last 32 matches against France, Switzerland have won 12 times and emerged victorious from two of their last four encounters.

For their part, the French need at least a draw if they are to progress in the tournament, but Kuhn believes his team could still cause an upset.

“The smaller team have managed to beat the big guns before,” he said, “and France have some experience of this.”

swissinfo, Mathias Froidevaux and Doris Lucini in Portugal

Key facts

How Group B looks after two matches:
France - 4 points
England - 3 points
Croatia - 2 points
Switzerland - 1 point

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In brief

Switzerland face France on Monday in Coimbra.

The French have not lost any of their last 19 international matches.

Switzerland and France last played each other in August 2003, when the French won 2-0.

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