21 Juni 2010

Hitzfeld keeps players grounded

Source : Fifa.com

Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is confident his players will not allow themselves to be carried away by their shock victory over European champions Spain.

The Swiss got their Group H campaign off to the best possible start when, against all the odds, they defeated Vicente del Bosque's men 1-0 in Durban on Wednesday. However, 61-year-old Hitzfeld is certain his players will not let that astonishing result go to their heads as they attempt to make the most of it by fighting their way into the last 16.

He said: "We have got a team which has a very strong character, and the players are very experienced. There are some young ones as well, but I think all the players realised just how sensational the win was, and they also know we cannot take it for granted that we will just simply blow away Chile.

"We know that is not possible, we know it is going to be a very hard game. I have read interviews given by the players and they are fully aware of that. Every single player knows that tomorrow will require another top performance on our part and that we cannot take anything for granted.

"Some teams win their first game and lose the second one, and vice-versa. At a World Cup, many, many teams will go the extra mile and excel in what they do. That's the beauty of football, isn't it? There are always surprises."

That said, Switzerland head into tomorrow's clash with Chile at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth knowing a repeat of that result would book their passage to the knockout phase of the competition. Hitzfeld freely admits he and his players arrived in South Africa prepared to fight for second place, but their heroics in Durban mean they have the chance to go one better.

Asked if he would settle for a draw against the South Americans, he said: "I'm a coach and before every match, I want to win, it doesn't matter who our opponent is. Of course, against Spain, you can dream, and then the dream became a reality.

"Against Chile, we have got different aspirations because they are a direct competitor to us in securing second position. But now we have the opportunity to take first position, and we have to seize that chance with both hands."
I'm a coach and before every match, I want to win, it doesn't matter who our opponent is.
Ottmar Hitzfeld, Switzerland coach

Chile launched their campaign with a 1-0 win over Honduras in Nelspruit, but Hitzfeld has seen earlier evidence of the threat they pose to Switzerland's dreams. He said: "I haven't just looked at the match against Honduras, I have also looked at how Chile performed in the South American qualifying group. They finished second to Brazil and with only one point fewer than Brazil."

The Swiss trained at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University this afternoon, where skipper Alex Frei was able to take part in the session after recovering from an ankle injury. However, defender Philippe Senderos is expected to miss the next two games with a similar problem, and his place is likely to be taken by Steve von Bergen.

Switzerland's FIFA World Cup™ adventure is the latest achievement for a vastly experienced coach who is one of the few to guide two different clubs to UEFA Champions League glory, and he is relishing the chance to continue to work on the biggest stage of all.

He said: "You gain wrinkles and you grow older because there is pressure, of course, on coaches. Many matches also means a lot of strain, a lot of pressure and a lot of nerves, but as I have grown older, I have become more relaxed, I have become calmer. But I still have ambitions to win matches and to be successful. You can't just put your feet up and rest on your laurels."

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