Saturday, June 7, 2008

Swiss Roll on their Big Night

Switzerland 0-1 Czech Republic (Sverkos 70') 41,000 Stade de Suisse/Wankdorf Stadion, Berne

So the home side is up against it. Actually, it's not too surprising given it is a) Switzerland and b) the tournament's opening game, which is rarely thrilling. Add to that the Czech Republic's quality and you could have had a Swiss banking on his own country to lose.

From a neutral's perspective, it's often quite secretly delightful to see the host nation come a cropper in its first outing, its Montgolfier of hubris punctured, the tidal wave of national fervour turned back, but it is a bad thing we should all agree, if the host is eliminated too early. That sense of loss infects the tournament as a whole.

I did actually meet one Swiss in Interlaken tonight with Czech flags painted on both cheeks, cheering Karel Bruckner's men. Why? She said it was too boring to go with the flow so she chose to be different...

Interlaken's fan fest was tinged with a lot of orange but was mostly red and white. It emptied like a Swiss river flowing from the Jungfrau after the final whistle, which made me feel a bit sorry for all the Portuguese fans heading in the opposite direction. And it's cold here tonight.

The Swiss deserved a little more than nul points tonight, especially after Petr Cech dirtied his gloves more than once, Alexander Frei worked so hard he ended the game on crutches and Johan Volanthen banged the crossbar from a rebound when it looked easier to score.

Tranquillo Barnetta was the author of the initial shot but deep in injury time when the Swiss were desperate for the ball he took his eye off Vaclav Serkos and was anything but tranquillo in bodychecking the goalscorer, leaving him winded and handing the Czechs possession.

The only handkerchief I saw at the Wankdorf was being used by a girl to blow her nose. It's more disappointment than despair after the first game.

The Swiss have really got to motor now, against Turkey on Wednesday and Portugal on Sunday.
While the twin hosts are not the strongest to have ever hosted a tournament, Austria were expected to be much the worse of the two.

Now the Swiss have flunked their first kick, Austria, until tomorrow at least, have a psychological advantage in the penalty shoot-out of co-hosting Euro 2008.

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