Old favourites left at home

CHAMPIONSHIP COUNTDOWN: No 8 Switzerland
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The Independent Online
When Switzerland became the first country to qualify for Euro 96, the hills were alive with the sound of celebrations. It was the first time they had made the finals and, following on from their promising 1994 World Cup, the mood was optimistic.

Seven months on, this has all but evaporated and the Swiss come to Wembley next week with few of their countrymen expecting anything more than a quick return home. The problems began almost as soon as they had qualified as Roy Hodgson, the coach, accepted an offer from Internazionale. The Londoner, known as King Roy in Switzerland, offered to combine the two jobs until after Euro 96 - but the Swiss FA opted to appoint Artur Jorge instead.

Jorge came with the right credentials. A multi-lingual Portuguese, he would have the same neutral perspective on internecine Swiss rivalry as Hodgson. He had coached Porto to the European Cup and had a brief, successful spell with his own national team. Yet he soon upset supporters and media, changing Hodgson's long-established 4-4-2 to 3-5-2. A defeat to Austria and a draw with Luxembourg followed and the final straw came at the weekend when he dropped Adrian Knup and Alain Sutter.

Knup is not a prolific striker at domestic level but for Switzerland he has scored a remarkable 26 goals in 45 appearances, one of them at Wembley in November. Sutter, while he has been struggled to match his form of USA 94, is a Swiss favourite. He has been playing for the national side for a decade, having made his debut at 17.

"It was nothing to do with personalities," said Jorge, which usually suggests that is precisely what it was about. The Swiss media had their own conspiracy theory. With Bobby Robson gone to Barcelona, the Porto job is vacant - Jorge, so the theory goes, is aiming to make such a disaster of Euro 96 that the Swiss FA sacks him, thus enabling him to return to Porto.

The omission of Knup and Sutter certainly appears strange when the number of players already absent with injury are considered. The Argentine-born player of the year Nestor Subiat, Turkish-born midfielder Murat Yakin and left-back Pascal Thuler are out while Alain Geiger, the long-serving captain, and Stephane Chapuisat are still recovering from injury.

A fit Geiger is crucial to the side. Although he is slowing down, his experience, and Stephane Henchoz's intimidating presence, form a solid defensive heart. The flanks are less secure. Marc Hottiger is suspended for the opening game against England while Yvan Quentin lacks concentration and class.

Much will depend on the German-based pair Ciriaco Sforza, the playmaker, and Chapuisat. If the latter fails to regain form after his knee ligament operation the onus will be on Kubilay Turkyilmaz, the one-time conqueror of Manchester United with Galatasaray. That Old Trafford memory, and Switzerland's 4-1 win over Romania in the last World Cup, will remind England not to take them lightly.

SQUAD

Goalkeepers

Stefan Lehmann Sion

Marco Pascolo Servette

Joel Corminboeuf Neuchatel Xamax

Defenders

Marc Hottiger Everton

Stephane Henchoz Hamburg

Yvan Quentin Sion

Ramon Vega Grasshopper

Raphael Wicky Sion

Alain Geiger Grasshopper

Sebastien Jeanneret Neuchatel Xamax

Regis Rothenbuhler Neuchatel Xamax

Midfielders

Ciriaco Sforza Bayern Munich

Sebastien Fournier Sion

Christophe Ohrel St Etienne

Marcel Koller Grasshopper

Alexander Comisetti Grasshopper

Christophe Bonvin Sion

Johann Vogel Grasshopper

Forwards

Marco Grassi Monaco

Stephane Chapuisat Borussia Dortmund

Kubilay Turkyilmaz Grasshopper

David Sesa Servette

Player to watch

Ciriaco Sforza

(Bayern Munich)

Tipped for great things from the moment he made his debut for Grasshopper Zurich at 16. Now 26, he has been an international for five years. Began as a sweeper but now plays the holding role, dictating the play with his passing and occasionally pushing forward himself. Useful at set-pieces. Parents were Italian immigrants.

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