BLOEMFONTEIN - Switzerland limped out of
the World Cup on Friday after a campaign that began with shock
and promise but ultimately ended with a team crippled by
unusually high expectations.
A surprise 1-0 victory over European champions and Group H
rivals Spain seemed the perfect way to begin a World Cup
campaign and a place in the last 16 suddenly looked attainable
with games against Chile and minnows Honduras to come.
In reality, it was a false dawn. Ottmar Hitzfeld's Swiss
side had defended astutely against Spain but their unlikely
winner was a lucky sucker punch that rose their country's
ambitions way beyond the squad's means.
A disappointing 1-0 defeat to Chile, in which a distinct
lack of firepower became an increasing hindrance to the side,
followed with critics calling for a more attacking approach to
satisfy the needs of fans still sniffing a second round spot.
On Friday, the Swiss needed a victory by two goals to ensure
their progression in the tournament and they had the best
possible opportunity to do it against a Honduras side without a
point or goal from their first two matches.
It was not to be. With captain and record scorer Alex Frei
on the bench, the 28,042 fans at Bloemfontein's Free State
stadium saw a 0-0 stalemate in which an improved Honduras often
outplayed a nervous Swiss side bereft of ideas.
"We had great ambitions for this match. It was too much of a
burden for them and it got more during the game," Hitzfeld told
reporters after the result saw Spain and Chile advance from the
"We were lucky Honduras failed to finish their
counter-attack properly," he added.
Swiss media were baffled by their team's tournament slide.
For Hitzfeld, who led both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern
Munich to Champions League success as well as winning seven
Bundesliga titles in his coaching career, the slump was a bitter
pill to swallow.
"We are very disappointed, not just me, the players,
everybody," Hitzfeld said. "We failed to deliver because we had
too much pressure. We had to score twice."
Drawing was no doubt a disappointment but with only one goal
scored in three matches and another not looking likely against
Chile or Honduras, the Swiss team can have no complaints with
their early exit.
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