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Swiss settle for Frei strike

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

By Marco Keller

[1] Switzerland maintained their hopes of qualifying for next year's FIFA World Cup finals as an Alexander Frei goal two minutes from time earned a narrow home win against Cyprus.

Game in hand

[2] Although Jakob Kuhn's team remained fourth in Group 4, they climbed to nine points from five games, level on points with the Republic of Ireland and one point behind France and Israel having played a game fewer. The Swiss will be confident of collecting three more points away to the section's bottom side, the Faroe Islands, on 4 June. Cyprus, level with the Faroese on one point, also travel to the bottom team next, on 17 August.

Cabanas chance

[3] Having seen his team grind out a goalless draw in Paris on Saturday night, Kuhn kept faith with the same starting lineup, with Frei used as a lone striker. The policy might have borne early fruit as Ricardo Cabanas had an early chance, but thereafter the visitors quickly grew in confidence and striker Michael Konstantinou had three opportunities inside ten minutes, only to be denied by goalkeeper Pascal Zuberb├╝hler on each occasion.

Swiss misses

[4] Switzerland rallied and Frei might have found the net twice in quick succession, forcing a save from goalkeeper Nikos Panayotou with a 31st-minute header, shooting wide six minutes later then having an effort ruled out for offside. Kuhn then opted to introduce forward Johan Vonlanthen for midfield player Reto Ziegler five minutes before the interval and the switch to 4-4-2 led to a number of Swiss chances in the opening stages of the second period, with Philipp Degen, Frei and Johann Lonfat all going close.

Magnin influence

[5] Lonfat was then withdrawn in favour of playmaker Hakan Yakin, before Kuhn made his final change with ten minutes to go, introducing Ludovic Magnin for Christophe Spycer. Despite the earlier attacking substitutions it was the Werder Bremen left-back who created the only goal of the game in the 88th minute, collecting a Cabanas pass, easing past two opponents and producing a perfect cross that Frei nodded in for his 17th goal in 34 international appearances. Things went from bad to worse for Cyprus, who finished the match with ten men following Panayotou's dismissal for a foul on the on-rushing Vonlanthen.

Alexandro Garpozis of Cyprus (left) tries to get away from Switzerland's Daniel Gygax