Craig Brown: Yakin could be the Swiss knife in England's heart

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The Independent Online

After the immeasurable hype of the match against France, the best remedy for the subsequent anticlimax is surely a quick return to action. The more illustrious the opposition the better, so a match against unfancied Switzerland in an athletics stadium in Coimbra, with arguably the least atmosphere of all, is a dangerous proposition for Sven Goran Eriksson and his unfairly wounded England men.

After the immeasurable hype of the match against France, the best remedy for the subsequent anticlimax is surely a quick return to action. The more illustrious the opposition the better, so a match against unfancied Switzerland in an athletics stadium in Coimbra, with arguably the least atmosphere of all, is a dangerous proposition for Sven Goran Eriksson and his unfairly wounded England men.

Memories of the opening fixture of Euro 96, when Kubilay Turkyilmaz's penalty earned a 1-1 draw against England at Wembley, and the acknowledgement that they recently won a qualifying group involving the Republic of Ireland and Russia, should be warning enough against any complacency.

The England manager will, I am sure, tell his players to ignore Switzerland's four straight defeats prior to the tournament.

The England scout, David Platt, who watched the Swiss draw 0-0 with Croatia, must have filed a report of an inept display to support the video evidence which the England players will study. Why coach Jakob Kuhn could congratulate his players after a very unimpressive performance escapes me, but he did say: "We have no need to fear England."

Of the Swiss five yellow cards only the first was for physical contact. Johann Vogel of PSV, one of four remaining players from Euro 96, the others being Stéphane Henchoz, Stéphane Chapuisat and Raphael Wicky, received his initial caution for an aggressive tackle, prior to being dismissed for time wasting. Vogel's experience will be missed against England and the Swiss will find it difficult to replace his expertise as midfield anchor man in their flexible 4-3-1-2 system.

Kuhn normally deploys Vogel in the centre of his midfield three, with Hakan Yakin, now of VfB Stuttgart, the fulcrum of his side, and highly controversial both on and off the field. He is one England will have to watch in open play and in the air at set pieces, not to mention his free-kick prowess.

The Liverpool squad members will remember Yakin from his Champions' League displays against them for FC Basle. But an assignment of entirely different magnitude confronts him tonight.

The Swiss have traditionally been at the resourceful forefront of innovative development in the game over the years. Coaching courses, almost without exception, when discussing tactical nuances, refer to Karl Rappan, an Austrian, who, knowing the limitations of the then Swiss players, devised the "Swiss Bolt" or "Verrou" system, later to be refined by the Italians into their version, the "Cattenaccio".

England will be hoping that the modern equivalent of the Verrou, combined with Sunday's faltering offside trap, will be found wanting tonight and that keeper Jorge Stiel, who has just regained his place in the Borussia Mönchengladback team does not enjoy the luck he experienced against Croatia.

It is difficult for me not to forget Euro 96. Scotland's opponents were England and Switzerland, and the current championship's poignancy was accentuated when David Beckham did a Gary McAllister and missed a vital penalty. Gary did the same against England at Wembley. When such misfortune strikes a good guy, who captains his country with conviction, the support of his peer group is essential. The Scotland players were unanimous in their forgiveness for Gary and in fact chanted, "Garymac, Garymac" as he joined the squad for the post-match meal. I'm certain David will have received no less favour.

Selection is one vital management responsibility as Eriksson knows full well. How difficult it will be for him to leave out Ledley King out after his stirling work against France? Will Paul Scholes be risked with Croatia looming? Should Emile Heskey have been brought on against France rather than a midfield or defence player? Yes, team management is easy, but only when your team are winning.

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