Kuhn drinks from Wenger cup as Swiss seek big night

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The Independent Football

As England's new manager Fabio Capello introduces his players to a stringent new footballing culture, his counterpart in tonight's friendly against Switzerland, Jakob "Kobi" Kuhn, is adopting a more liberal approach – which may have been formed by the painful memories of a previous visit to these shores in 1966.

Kuhn was regarded as one of the best players in a Switzerland team that arrived to contest that year's World Cup finals, but when he and team-mate Werner Leimgruber broke a curfew at their training venue after an evening's drinking, they were left out of the side for their first, crucial group match against eventual finalists West Germany, which was lost 5-0.

Reports that both were sent back home are untrue, although the story goes that both of their wives were flown over to England to get them back on the straight and narrow for the next two group matches.

Presumably Kuhn, who has said he will step down after Switzerland have co-hosted the European Championships with Austria this summer, felt that such harshness was counter-productive. At any rate, judging by his side's performance in recent years – qualification for Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup finals, where they advanced from the group stages but lost on a penalty shoot-out to Ukraine – Kuhn has judged it right.

"He lets the players have their freedom," said one Swiss observer yesterday. "He is more like Arsène Wenger in his attitude. He is not a guy who wants to control when the players turn their lights off in the evening. He has a lot of respect from the players, and from the Swiss public."

Kuhn's captain tonight, the Arsenal central defender, Philippe Senderos, made the point that this will be a more than usually important friendly for both sides.

"There will be more pressure than usual on England," Senderos said, "because they play at home, in front of their own crowd, and they didn't qualify, they have something to prove.

"But we've got something to prove too because we are the hosts for Euro 2008 and definitely want to prepare well. It's going to be massive game. But if we come to Wembley with the same mentality as Croatia did – nothing to lose and really wanting to play – we are going to put England under pressure and give them problems."

With his extensive experience in the Premier League, Senderos is familiar with the challenges that are likely to face him tonight in the form of England's likely striking partnership of Wayne Rooney and Joe Cole. Michael Owen could also feature at some stage and Senderos is mindful of the Newcastle man's threat despite his recent struggles. "Owen is always a very dangerous player," he said. "You always have to keep him in the corner of your eye because he can make the difference at any time."

Senderos was also complimentary about another England player who will not be appearing tonight, David Beckham, who trained alongside him and his Arsenal colleagues last month.

"He looked really good and he was fighting for every ball," Senderos recalled. "And he really had the hunger to prepare well for this game. But it's not really in his hands if he gets picked or not."

Both Kuhn and Senderos expressed surprise and regret that England would not be coming to the ball in the summer. "I think everybody will miss the big mother of football, England," said Kuhn. If the big mother wants to make a point tonight against the Euro 2008 hosts, she will be aided by the fact that the visitors will not be at full strength – such talents as Borussia Dortmund's Alex Frei and Johan Djourou of Arsenal missing through injury. A win would hardly qualify as the mother of all victories.

Switzerland (probable): (4-2-3-1): Benaglio (Wolfsburg); Lichtsteiner (Lille), Eggiman (Karlsruher), Senderos (Arsenal), Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt); Fernandes (Manchester City), Inler (Udinese); Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen), Gygax (Metz), Yakin (Young Boys); Nkufo (Twente Enschede).

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