Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Swiss star steeled for rerun of battle of Istanbul

SoccerNews in European Championships 11 Jun 2008


Switzerland star Tranquillo Barnetta is steeling himself for a “hard-fought and aggressive” clash with Turkey as the two countries go head-to-head for the first time since their last match ended in a notorious brawl.

Wednesday's make-or-break group C clash at St-Jakob Park takes place against a backdrop of bitter memories of the 'battle of Istanbul' that erupted after Switzerland had edged out the Turks in a play-off to claim their place in the 2006 World Cup finals.

With both sides having lost their opening matches in the group, neither can afford another defeat here. But while anticipating a ferociously contested encounter, Barnetta believes the match will be played in the right spirit.

“Of course we haven't forgotten that match and what happened there, but this is a different game, even if it is a sort of final again.”

A similar message was being sent out from the Turkish camp. “We have forgotten about what happened,” said the Fenerbahce midfielder Ugur Boral. “We are going to play a group game against the host nation — that's all.”

The reality however is that both squads contain survivors of the melee that broke out at the end of the second leg of the play-off, which saw players and officials on both sides laying into each other after the Swiss had clinched qualification on the away goals rule after having their 2-0 first leg advantage overturned by a 4-2 defeat in Turkey.

The ensuing FIFA investigation held Turkey primarily responsible for the post-match violence with three of their players and an assistant coach receiving bans while the national team was obliged to play six home matches outside the country.

The Swiss had one player and their physiotherapist suspended but there is a lingering sense of resentment in Turkey that their opponents got off lightly thanks to the influence of their compatriot, the FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

Both teams still have the same coaches with Jakob 'Kobi' Kuhn in charge of the Euro 2008 co-hosts and Fatih Terim at the helm of Turkey.

Both coaches have been anxious to play down the inevitable “Istanbul II' pre-match hype. “For us it is just another game, one we have to win,” said Fatih. “I want everything to run perfectly – and peacefully.”

The Turkish coach was fortunate to escape sanction in Istanbul for what appeared to be a highly provocative role in the incidents that followed that match.

But since arriving in Switzerland he has struck a conciliatory tone, acknowledging that the Swiss were unlucky to lose their opening match (1-0 to the Czech Republic) while offering support and sympathy to Kuhn, who has had to cope with his wife being hospitalised following an epileptic seizure last week.

After a 2-0 defeat by Portugal in their opening group A match, the Turks cannot afford to be generous on the pitch however.

Switzerland's hopes have been hit by the loss of captain and leading goalscorer Alex Frei to a knee injury, which means that his place will be taken by experienced playmaker Hakan Yakin, who could have opted to play for Turkey, his parents' homeland.

Barnetta admits Frei's touch in front of goal — 35 in 60 internationals — will be missed, but believes the Swiss can compensate by getting more men forward from midfield.

“Turkey play an attacking game which is good for us,” said the Bayer Leverkusen midfielder.

“Portugal had a lot of space against them so we need to keep it tight at the back and be quick to attack when when we win the ball. We need an absolute determination to score.”


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