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In Hitzfeld, Swiss football has a German 'General'

In Hitzfeld, Swiss football has a German 'General'

As Germany's "General," Ottmar Hitzfeld built a trophy room to rival any other coach's in world football: seven Bundesliga titles, two European club championships and a collection of cup wins.
To cap his legendary career, the former Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund coach known for his discipline and authority will be hoping to guide little Switzerland to an improbable World Cup.
It will be his toughest challenge.
Hitzfeld saw his talented but young team drubbed in a home friendly against Uruguay earlier this month, and remarked afterward that he "wanted to see where we stood internationally, who can keep up with the high tempo, who can win challenges, hold the ball and play good passes under pressure."
Based on the evidence of the 3-1 loss, the Swiss are full of youthful exuberance if short on the 61-year-old German's trademarks of defensive stability, strong tackling and tactical astuteness.
Switzerland will need marked improvement in all areas to progress deep into the World Cup, which starts for the Swiss on June 16 in Durban against European champion Spain.
"Exclaiming with joy or complaining doesn't help," Hitzfeld said in South Africa last year. "Sometimes the supposedly weak groups turn out to be very difficult and the supposedly strong ones are easier to take control of."
Switzerland also meets Chile and Honduras in group play.
Counting in Switzerland's favor is Hitzfeld's history of guiding teams to improbable upsets. He steered Dortmund to a 3-1 victory in the 1997 Champions League final over a Juventus team loaded with stars such as Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps and Alessandro del Piero.
He reshaped a Bayern team wracked by internal fighting and narrowly missed out on a second title two years later. But Hitzfeld guided Bayern past Valencia in 2001 to become the first manager since Ernst Happel to win European club championships with two different clubs.
No German team has achieved similar success since.
To get there, Hitzfeld exerted his authority over a Bayern squad of superstars by dropping Mario Basler and disciplining Lothar Matthaeus, Bixente Lizarazu, Mehmet Scholl and Giovane Elber when they broke his rules. His flexibility was in tactics, where he often employed a revolutionary 3-4-3 alignment or fielded attacking wing-backs.
Hitzfeld, who grew up just across the border from the Swiss city of Basel, is under contract through the 2012 European Championship and has sought to cultivate a long-term strategy for football development in Switzerland.
As his nickname would imply, he has become the most dominant voice in Swiss football, helping former players Torsten Fink and Ciriaco Sforza become the coaches of Swiss clubs FC Basel and Grasshoppers, and convincing national team regulars such as Alex Frei, Ludovic Magnin, Hakan Yakin and Johan Vonlanthen to return to the Swiss league to get regular matches before the World Cup.
Long touted as a future Germany coach, it may be difficult for Hitzfeld to leave _ even if Switzerland manages only a respectable showing.
After being dumped out at home with former coach Koebi Kuhn in the first round of the 2008 European Championship, simply advancing to the second round at the World Cup might be enough to satisfy the bosses at the Swiss football association. And with young talent emerging from Switzerland's World Cup-winning under-17 team Hitzfeld may find ample reason to extend his stay.
He also would have no problem facing his native Germany in a later stage of the tournament.
"If we get the Germans, it's about one thing _ beating them," Hitzfeld said. "That would be a dream."


Updated : 2021-06-23 17:15 GMT+08:00