Switzerland: Yakin the key man for surprise qualifiers

Few neutrals would have expected Switzerland to emerge ahead of either Russia or the Republic of Ireland from their qualifying group. Winning it therefore gave some credence to manager Kobi Kuhn's assertion that his side did not simply profit from underperforming rivals and that Swiss football is on the up.

Hakan Yakin, an elegant midfielder of Turkish origin and the brother of defender Murat, could be the key to an unlikely advancement to the knock-out phase next summer. A tormentor of both Liverpool and Celtic in Europe for FC Basel over the last couple of seasons, he favours a withdrawn role tucked in behind a front pairing but is capable of scoring goals as well as making them.

Ahead of Hakan, a partnership of Stephane Chapuisat and Alexander Frei will go to Portugal with respective aims of bowing out in style and making a splash on the international stage. Chapuisat, 34, one of the icons of the Swiss game, now plays for Young Boys Berne but spent his best years at Borussia Dortmund, with whom he won the Champions League in 1997. He played for Switzerland at the 1994 World Cup and at Euro 96, where his side held Terry Venables' England to a 1-1 draw in the opening fixture.

No longer prolific, he still poses a threat when Yakin makes space or diverts defenders' attention. Frei, a decade younger, has struggled to score for his club side, Rennes, but has made amends for his country, averaging a goal every other game in qualifying and two against Russia.

Kuhn will need to choose between one of two main goalkeepers. Jorg Stiel has been favoured recently although Pascal Zuberbuhler will be in contention. A mostly resilient central defensive pairing of Murat Yakin and Patrick Muller have edged Stephane Henchoz out of the equation but the Liverpool man offers another option. This might become necessary if Kuhn is worried about the incumbents' form come the summer. Switzerland will be vulnerable to pace at the back and showed in their only qualifying defeat - 4-1 to Russia - that when things go wrong they tend to go badly wrong.

Kuhn usually protects his back line by deploying PSV Eindhoven's Johann Vogel in a midfield holding role, which allows attack-minded midfielders such as Hamburg's Raphael Wicky to push forward.

POSSIBLE FIRST-CHOICE LINE-UP (4-3-1-2): Stiel (Borussia Monchengladbach); Haas (West Brom), Muller (Lyon), M Yakin (FC Basle), Spycher (Grasshoppers); Vogel (PSV Eindhoven), Wicky (SV Hamburg), Huggel (FC Basle); H Yakin (FC Basle); Chapuisat (Young Boys), Frei (Rennes).

Coach: Kobi Kuhn.

Record v England: P18 W3 D4 L11 F15 A42.

Last three v England: England 3 Switzerland 1 (Wembley 1995, F); England 1 Switzerland 1 (Wembley 1996); Switzerland 1 England 1 (Berne 1998, F).

Recent record in EC finals: 1980 DNQ; 1984 DNQ; 1988 DNQ; 1992 DNQ; 1996 R1; 2000 DNQ.

Best performance in EC finals: 1996 R1.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there