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 A tormentor of both Liverpool and Celtic in Europe for FC Basel over the last couple of seasons, he favours a withdrawn role tucked in behind a front pairing but is capable of scoring goals as well as making them.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.

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

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue