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Swiss bow out with heads held high

SoccerNews in European Championships 15 Jun 2008

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Switzerland departed Euro 2008 with their heads held high after beating a second-string Portugal side 2-0 here on Sunday.

Man-of-the-match Hakan Yakin's second-half double provided the Swiss supporters with a measure of consolation after narrow defeats by the Czech Republic and Turkey had ensured their side would not go beyond the first round.

Already sure of top spot in group A, Portugal boss Luiz Felipe Scolari took the opportunity to rest most of the players who will be back here on Thursday to contest a quarter-final against Germany, Austria or Poland.

Portugal still showed enough flashes of the quality that has made them one of the tournament favourites to have put the match beyond reach before Hakan latched on to Eren Derdiyok's flick to fire the 71st-minute opener through the legs of Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo.

Then, with seven minutes left, Tranquillo Barnetta was pulled down by Fernando Meira and Hakan slotted in the penalty to make sure Swiss coach Jakob Kuhn's international career ended with a victory.

“I'm very pleased that we were able to give this gift to the fans,” Kuhn said. “But of course there is a bit of sadness because we deserved to take at least a point from both of our first two games and it now looks as if that would have been enough to qualify us for the quarter-finals.”

Ricardo, centreback Pepe and full-backer Paulo Ferreira were the only survivors from the Portuguese side that started the 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in midweek.

Scolari said afterwards he regretted not changing his entire line-up to ensure there was no risk of key players getting injured or picking up yellow cars.

“They played normally and we had a few opportunities but we did not score the goal we wanted and later on we saw the consequences of that,” Scolari said.

“I could not have imagined (the match finishing) this way. I should have been more careful and replaced 11 rather than eight.”

In the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Deco, Ricardo Quaresma seized the opportunity to show that Portugal's reserves of skill run deep with an outrageous piece of trickery to create his side's first chance, in the 8th minute.

Shaping to cross from the left of the area, the Porto winger swung his right boot around the back of his left leg to deliver the ball, with astonishing accuracy, to the near post. Sadly, Helder Postiga's finishing was not of the same standard and the striker's header comfortably cleared the bar.

Pascal Zuberbuhler was making his last international appearance in the Swiss goal and he was given the opportunity to demonstrate his reflexes remain sharp at the age of 37 when he turned Nani's freekick onto the bar after it had taken a late deflection off Pepe.

A long-range effort from Gokhan Inler and a Hakan Yakin header from the midfielder's corner gave Ricardo some work to do before the break.

But Portugal were finding chances easier to come by and Postiga should have scored after Nani had caught Inler in possession on the left.

Advancing into the box, the Manchester United winger cut the ball back for the former Tottenham striker, who attempted to place the ball in the corner of the net but saw his tame shot blocked by Philippe Senderos on the six-yard line.

Portugal's domination continued into the early stages of the second half, Nani striking the base of the post after being given a clear run at goal by Miguel Veloso's angled throughout ball before Quaresma's swerving shot produced another good save from Zuberbuhler.

It was to be the co-hosts who finished stronger, however. Inler was unfortunate when his 25-yard drive shaved the outside of Ricardo's right-hand post but Hakan's coolness in front of goal ensured the Swiss were rewarded for their efforts.

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