Underdogs Switzerland ready to crash party

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The Independent Online

What of the "other" game in Group B tomorrow? There is a largely forgotten encounter a few hours before England play that may have an important bearing on the ultimate fate of Sven Goran Eriksson's team.

What of the "other" game in Group B tomorrow? There is a largely forgotten encounter a few hours before England play that may have an important bearing on the ultimate fate of Sven Goran Eriksson's team.

Neither Croatia nor Switzerland, who meet in Leiria 85 miles north of the capital, believe just getting this far is enough. Both know that maximum points from their first outing means the pressure will mount on the two group favourites.

Croatia's Otto Baric, 71 on 19 June, is the oldest coach in the competition. His team come into Euro 2004 on the back of three successive friendly wins and when Baric was asked yesterday if Croatia are as talented as the squad that came third in the World Cup six years ago, he said: "How you judge talent? I have players who can read the game as well as any before them. I can only say they are different."

Switzerland, led to the knockout phase of the 1994 World Cup by Roy Hodgson, have never won a match in the European finals but Baric, who will be without his suspended defender Igor Tudor and the injured goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, is well aware that in the veteran Stéphane Chapuisat, retiring at the end of the tournament, the Yakin brothers and Alexander Frei, the Swiss have a number of players who pose a threat, while Stéphane Henchoz provides a sound defensive base

Croatia are the most nomadic squad in Portugal, drawing only one of their 23 players, Hadjuk Split's Mato Neretljak, from their domestic league. Switzerland, by contrast, have developed a spirit of unity even if recent results have been patchy. Their coach, Jakob Kuhn, says his side will go all out for victory. "I think, to stay in the tournament, we have to win this game," he said. "It is the most crucial match. In my dreams, maybe we could win the Championship but it's not realistic. Our aim is to play three good matches and see."

Henchoz, one of four players retained from Switzerland's Euro '96 squad, says confidence is high. "We have no pressure on us at all because no one expects us to get into the quarter-finals," he said. "The pressure's all on them, even on Croatia. We can play with freedom."

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