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Penalty fury fires up Swiss

SoccerNews in European Championships 8 Jun 2008

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Switzerland will head into Wednesday's make-or-break clash with Turkey fired up by a belief that poor refereeing robbed them of victory against the Czech Republic.

The Euro 2008 co-hosts dominated the tournament's opening match but went down to a 1-0 defeat after being denied what head coach Jakob Kuhn insisted were two clear penalties.

Kuhn had refrained from criticising referee Roberto Rosetti after the match but was still fuming on Sunday over the Italian official's failure to award spot-kicks in connection with two incidents where the ball struck the arm of Czech defenders.

“Yesterday (Saturday) I said make your own judgement on that,” Kuhn said. “But having watched the replays for me it is clear, we should have had two penalties.

“And three of our players were given yellow cards, our opponents none. I think that answers your question about the referee.”

Kuhn's outburst is unlikely to go down well with UEFA, which has called on players and managers to make respect for referee's decisions one of the themes of the tournament.

The governing body has also expressed concern over the fact that one of the 'penalty' incidents was replayed repeatedly on a big screen in the stadium, increasing the frustration of the home crowd.

Saturday's defeat has left the Swiss knowing they must beat Turkey in Basel on Wednesday to retain a realistic chance of progressing from a group that also includes Portugal, who beat the Turks 2-0 in their opener.

That task has been made harder by the loss of captain and leading scorer Alexander Frei, who limped out of Saturday's match and the tournament with a knee ligament injury.

But Kuhn insisted his squad could cope without Frei and said they had been encouraged by the quality of their display against the Czechs.

“I've not noticed any depression in the squad,” Kuhn added. “They were down obviously after the match but today the mood is already much better.

“They know now what they have to do. That can and will be a liberating factor. The team showed on Saturday they can play without fear, against the sixth ranked side in the world.

“We did not get the reward we deserved but on Wednesday you will see a Swiss team playing as if it was a final.”

Frei has been ruled out of action for six weeks as a result of the ligament tear that saw him depart the tournament in tears.

The Borussia Dortmund striker will however remain with the squad as they battle for survival.

Kuhn said: “He has told us he wants to stay with the squad and if he had not said that himself I would have begged him to stay. Alex is a leader and he remains a leader.”

Frei will however be badly missed on the pitch. With an impressive record of 35 goals in 60 internationals, he is the leading scorer in Switzerland's history.

“It's a big blow to us,” acknowledged Lyon defender Patrick Muller. “Alex brings a lot to the team. But it is important that he is staying with us. That will give us a little bit of extra strength for the next two matches. We will be fighting for him.”

Frei's loss has been compounded by concerns over the form and fitness of his regular strike partner, Marco Streller.

Streller, 26, was left nursing a groin strain after Saturday's match which is to be assessed by the team's medical staff on Monday, although Kuhn stressed the injury would not prevent the FC Basel striker from starting on Wednesday.

Streller is expected to be partnered in attack by Hakan Yakin, who came on as a substitute for Frei on Saturday and missed Switzerland's best chance, a free header from eight yards that he directed wide.

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