We had to qualify despite yellow card risk: Swiss coach

Switzerland's coach insisted he was right to field a full-strength side against Costa Rica, even though two experienced defenders will miss the last 16 clash against Sweden with bookings.

We had to qualify despite yellow card risk: Swiss coach
Swiss forward Josip Drmic (L) celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against Costa Rica. Photo: AFP

Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner and Fabian Schär — who have almost 150 caps between them — are ruled out of the match on July 3rd after both picked up a second yellow card for the tournament on Wednesday.

But coach Vladimir Petkovic said his main goal was to qualify for the knockout stage and worry about the repercussions afterwards.

“It's the main objective (qualifying for the last 16), we had to make sure we delivered,” Petkovic told reporters after an entertaining 2-2 draw gave Switzerland the point they needed to guarantee their progress at this World Cup.

The game saw a frenzied end with Switzerland twice taking the lead, the second time in the 88th minute, only for a 93rd minute own goal by unfortunate keeper Yann Sommer from a Bryan Ruiz penalty to make it end all square.

The Swiss qualified for the knockout stage with five points from three games and behind group winners Brazil. 

“Before the game… I said this was a time when I wanted to field my best players,” he added.

“We have 23 players in our squad. It's too bad for those two players but it's too late to correct that.”

Heading into the game Switzerland had four key players on yellow cards.

As well as Lichtsteiner and Schär, midfielder Valon Behrami and playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri were also at risk of a suspension.

Petkovic substituted Behrami and Shaqiri in the second half to avoid further absences for the Sweden game, which will be played in St Petersburg.

Lichtsteiner and Shaqiri had only narrowly avoided being suspended for the Costa Rica game because of their controversial “double eagle” celebrations in the win against Serbia.

The threat of a possible two-match suspension was lifted prior to the Costa Rica match and the players were fined instead.

Petkovic added that the game had proved difficult for his players to approach as all three results could have still seen them qualify for the last 16.

If Switzerland beat Sweden it will be the first time a Swiss side has qualified for the quarter-finals since 1954.

Petkovic would not be drawn on what he thought of his team's next opponents, who also qualified for the last 16 on Wednesday, beating Mexico 3-0 to top Group F.

Costa Rica coach Oscar Ramirez said his team's disappointing showing, the Swiss draw was their only point of the tournament, was just to their tough group.

“We have played against number two and number six in the FIFA rankings,” he said.


‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame

A Swiss super fan who has shot to fame after images of him watching Switzerland’s win over France went viral told the media he was unaware of his viral fame - but that he was overwhelmed with the world’s attention.

‘Overwhelmed’: Unaware Swiss super fan stunned about viral fame
Image: Twitter.

Like most Swiss football fans, Luca Loutenbach’s Monday evening – highlighted by a surprise upset win over the current World Champions and tournament favourite France – went about as well as you could have expected. 

But while his side were putting on the pressure through late goals to push the game into extra time, Loutenbach’s image was being shared across the world. 

Two pictures of Loutenbach, juxtaposed from before and after Switzerland scored an equaliser in the 90th minute to send the game to extra time, were widely shared. 

The images were even shared by Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London, who congratulated Switzerland and said the images summed up the beauty of football. 

On Tuesday, Loutenbach spoke with Swiss tabloid Blick to tell the story. He said he had no idea about the images as his phone had no reception in Romania – and only found out after the game. 

“I didn’t have a network during the game. But some fans around me were connected to the internet and quickly realized what was happening. What an incredible buzz!” said the man from the canton of Jura. 

While Switzerland have made it further than they have in their history in the tournament, Loutenbach is far from a bandwagon fan. He told Blick he’s seen around 50 national team games before. 

“It’s the most beautiful day in the history of Swiss football, let’s not be afraid of saying it. It is the accomplishment of the immense work of the ASF (Federation), of (coach) Petkovic and of the whole team” he said.