Sat, 04 Jun 1994


By Richard Pedler

JAKARTA (JP): In the words of team captain Alain Geiger, "Switzerland is not exactly a football-crazy country," and the richest citizens in Europe consider the players' demands for US$30,000 USA'94 qualifying bonuses "greedy."

But with the simultaneous discovery of four "world-class" players, all with Bundesliga clubs, coach Roy Hodgson has been able to take Switzerland to their first major finals for 28 years.

Baby-face striker Stephane Chapuisat and top scorer Adrian Knup (with 21 goals in 31 games) head the attack, supported from midfield by the flowing locks of Alain Sutter, and the stylish Ciriaco Sforza, who is to retire from international football at twenty-four to take up Italian citizenship, his parents' birthplace.

On their way to America the Swiss embarrassed Italy in Cagliari, 2-0 up with seven minutes to go before sloppy defending left them with only a draw. Their once customary inferiority complex vanished as the English boss organized his multi-lingual, multi-racial team into a solid core of nine regulars (including five naturalized Swiss) beaten only once in 16 matches.

Sexless Swiss?

Back in 1966, Switzerland's last campaign ended in three successive defeats. Two players were dropped for breaking curfew for a night on the town.

Whether Hodgson's "No Sex Please, I'm British" attitude will go down as well as his tactical acumen is another matter. He has banned players' wives and girlfriends from the team hotel starting on Tuesday, when they warm up against Bolivia in Montreal, and ending with the Swiss World Cup bid.

The mixture of seasoned veterans and youthful stars may not take kindly to enforced celibacy in the Land of Opportunity when fellow World Cup coach Carlos Parreira hopes his Brazilian squad will "release tension" on rest-days with "the pleasures of shopping or sex." So it will be no surprise if the Sambas' USA'94 interest lasts longer.

In a 1-3-4-2 tactical style, versatile libero and captain Alain Geiger has now accumulated 90 caps. Three years older, another veteran in the side is moustached midfield orchestrator and dead-ball specialist Georges Bregy (36).

Thomas Bickel, an experienced schemer back from a year of international retirement, Beat Sutter and Andy Egli complete the over-thirty club.

No fear

As top scorers in their qualifying group, the Swiss have no fears going into their opening match with the hosts. In Switzerland's first world cup appearance since 1966, Hodgson expects his players "to make the most of this unique opportunity to prove themselves at the highest level," and Chapuisat, recently off-form at Borussia Dortmund, promises "the World Cup has been my only motivation, so when we meet the Americans, I'll be at my sharpest."

On Monday: At Last, The Hosts