Kuhn plots 'revolution' for Eriksson's downfall

Click to follow
The Independent Online

He is the Jim Smith of Switzerland and he is preparing to pit his considerable wits against England in Coimbra on Thursday. Jakob "Kobi" Kuhn, stocky and good-humoured, has a little more hair than Portsmouth's raddled old assistant manager, but at 61 could do a passable imitation in his outsize baseball cap, T-shirt and shorts.

He is the Jim Smith of Switzerland and he is preparing to pit his considerable wits against England in Coimbra on Thursday. Jakob "Kobi" Kuhn, stocky and good-humoured, has a little more hair than Portsmouth's raddled old assistant manager, but at 61 could do a passable imitation in his outsize baseball cap, T-shirt and shorts.

At home he is hugely popular and, almost regardless of what happens to the Swiss underdogs in this tournament, is likely to remain so after uniting a squad traditionally divided along ethnic lines. So beginning with a goalless draw against a more fancied Croatia after being reduced to 10 men has gone down well.

Standing at the training ground in a golf complex 80 miles north-west of Lisbon, and reflecting first on Monday's match, he indulges and amuses the media in at least three languages: French, German and Franglais. "I'm very satisfied, it was a great performance from all the team. On the bus home there was loud music, not my style, 90s music, but we had reason to feel good."

When the music stopped there was just time to catch the last 30 minutes of England's epic evening. "It didn't seem France were able to score even one goal. For the equaliser I thought the English goalkeeper was at fault, not in the right position. Now England are under pressure. All the experts in Europe were saying they'll be in the quarter-final, not little Switzerland. It must be a good time to play against them now. Losing a match like that was cruel. England didn't deserve to lose it.

"I hope our team spirit can make us a good opponent for them. We won't change because it's England. We will play our normal game. But it will be a very difficult game because they have excellent players in Owen, Rooney, Lampard, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes."

A worry for the Swiss is that their most gifted player, the PSV Eindhoven midfielder Johann Vogel, will miss the game after collecting two yellow cards against Croatia. Marseille's Fabio Celestini, who scored the winning goal in Switzerland's important 2-1 qualifying group victory over the Republic of Ireland in Dublin - the match that sealed Mick McCarthy's fate - is the likely deputy.

Often handicapped by a shortage of goals, the Swiss have an exciting young striker in Alexander Frei, the third highest scorer in the French League this season despite playing for a mid-table club, Rennes; but his regular partner Stéphane Chapuisat, like Vogel a survivor from the 1-1 draw with England at Euro 96, appears not so much over the hill as down the other side of an Alpine mountain.

The goalkeeper-captain, Jorg Stiel, has emerged as one of the characters of the opening matches, a flamboyant long-haired figure who prefers South American style goalkeeping to the more mundane European stuff. In front of him, Liverpool's Stephane Henchoz would dearly love more than the seven minutes he was allowed as a substitute on Monday when he meets up with club-mates Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen in Coimbra.

"I didn't see much of Michael [against France]," he said. Who did? "A player like him he is a goalscorer, and I think that he will want to prove that in the next game." There was sympathy, too, for Gerrard's howler that led to the cruelly late penalty winner. "Steven is the Liverpool captain and that is not for nothing. It's because he is a strong guy, and he knows that this kind of thing can happen. It's just a shame it was the last minute." And what would victory over England mean for Switzerland? "It would be a revolution," smiled Kuhn, the not-quite-bald eagle of Zurich.

Comments