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World cup 2006 Switzerland, hard cheese for Yakin

By Lulu
May 25 2006

Hakan Yakin not in the team! Switzerland's national football coach, Köbi Kuhn, has left former regular Hakan Yakin out of his 23-man squad for next month's football World Cup in Germany. The controversial decision is likely to cause widespread media coverage because Yakin had shown strong performances in the last few games of the season for his club, Young Boys of Bern. And especially because Kuhn announced that last weeks Young Boys game vs. Basel would be Yakin’s last chance to get in the squad - Bern won 4-2 and Yakin was man of the match...

However, the 29-year-old midfield player, who has played 44 times for Switzerland and scored 14 goals, missed much of the past season with a groin injury and there had been doubts about his form. But the main reason for not selecting Yakin was his "special character, who could affect the good spirit in the team" according to Kuhn. "Yakin is a talented player but we have a lot of other talented players to choose from," he told a news conference after naming his squad. "I watched his last couple of games and could see how much he improved under the pressure, but I also have to think of the life of the team and I think there are some question marks over him in that regard."


On standby

Kuhn, who has not been able to select Yakin in the last five national games because of injury, has included him on a list of five standby players he can call on in the event of late injury. The other four are Eldin Jakupovic (played with Thun in the champions league, now keeper of Lokomotive Moscow), Pirmin Schwegler (just leaving Young Boys and joining Leverkusen), Stephan Lichtsteiner (OSC Lille) and Tottenham’s Reto Ziegler, who had an quite appealing start in the premiere league but was not regular for Wigan Athletic where he was on loan last season.


Confidence in the youth

The popular trainer has put emphasis on youth in his squad, which has an average age of 24.8. Seven players have fewer than five caps.
Arsenal's 19-year-old defender Johan Djourou is the youngest in the squad, with Basel goalkeeper Pascal Zuberbühler the oldest at 35. Some very young players will have to take the responsibility. So could 20 years old Tranquillo Barnetta, who played a fantastic season with Leverkusen, become the brain of the offensive and one of the "climber" of the tournament. Together with 29 year old captain Johann Vogel (more in the defensive midfield) he will form the heart of the swiss team. 21 years old Phillippe Senderos will keep the inner defense together with Lyons Patrick Müller or with his even younger club-mate Djourou. Stéphane Henchoz was not selected although playing a great season with Wigan in their very first year in the highest English football league. Lazios 21 years old right back Valon Behrami (rather than Dortmund’s Phillip Degen) will complete the defense together with Stuttgart’s Ludovic Magnin on the left side.


Zubi - an endless story

Zuberbühler has been given the number one shirt despite media criticism for "blunders" between the posts, but it is well possible that he looses his place in the national squad after the world cup just as his job at FC Basel.
Kuhn said his decision did not necessarily mean that "Zubi", as Basel fans affectionately know him, would start in Switzerland's opening match against France. "I know several coaches have 2 announced their number one goalkeeper, but that is not how I do things," he said.


Tactics

"I will name my team on the day of the match as usual. It's interesting to know that France have chosen Barthez over Coupet in goal but it's not going to change our tactics drastically." Kuhn is putting his faith’ in several players who have been plagued by injury this season, including top scorer Alex Frei, Cologne striker Marco Streller and midfield player Raphaël Wicky of Hamburg. All three are to train this week with the Swiss under-21 team, which play Belgium on Thursday, before joining the senior squad the following Monday. Whatever players Köbi Kuhn may choose, sure is that he will play with a classic 4-4-2, which was often enough very useful in the qualification, or with a strengthen midfield and Frei as single striker; but this 4-5-1 was a system which only functioned well with Hakan Yakin as "pulled back" attacker. Cabanas has yet to grow into that position.

Switzerland have been drawn against 1998 world champions France (which Switzerland drew twice in the qualification), 2002 semi-finalist South Korea and African newcomer Togo in Group G of the tournament.




Squad:

Goalkeepers: 1-Pascal Zuberbühler (Basel), 21-Fabio Coltorti (Grasshoppers Zurich), 12-Diego Benaglio (Nacional Madeira)

Defenders: 2-Johan Djourou (Arsenal), 3-Ludovic Magnin (Stuttgart), 4-Philippe Senderos (Arsenal), 13-Stéphane Grichting (Auxerre), 17-Christoph Spycher (Eintracht Frankfurt), 19-Valon Behrami (Lazio), 20-Patrick Müller (Olympique Lyon), 23-Philipp Degen (Borussia Dortmund)

Midfield: 5-Xavier Margairaz (Zürich), 6-Johann Vogel (AC Milan), 7-Ricardo Cabanas (Cologne), 8-Raphaël Wicky (Hamburg), 10-Daniel Gygax (Lille), 14-David Degen (Basel), 15-Blerim Dzemaili (Zurich), 16-Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen)

Forwards: 9-Alex Frei (Rennes), 11-Marco Streller (Cologne), 18-Mauro Lustrinelli (Sparta Prague), 22-Johan Vonlanthen (NAC Breda)

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