Thursday, November 17, 2005

Swiss advance to soccer world cup despite loss

In a foul-filled but highly entertaining game, Switzerland lost the return match to Turkey 4-2. Nevertheless, they advanced based on more goals scored away from home (they won 2-0 at home last week).

Apart from advancing, the story of the match is what transpired after the final whistle:
Turkey could be banned from the 2010 World Cup after Fifa launched an investigation into the violence that followed their play-off with Switzerland in Istanbul last night.

After Switzerland edged through on away goals to qualify for next summer's finals, the visiting players had to run from the field to escape a hail of missiles hurled by home supporters. A scuffle then ensued between players and coaching staff in the players' tunnel, with Swiss defender Stephane Grichting needing hospital treatment after being kicked in the stomach.

Today Fifa president [and Swiss citizen] Sepp Blatter responded, threatening potential sanctions against Turkey. "I've never seen anything like it," he said. "That makes me angry. Something is wrong in football if that can happen. Anything can happen - from nothing at all to the suspension of the Turkish federation or even a ban on participation in the next World Cup.

"I can tell you this, not as a Swiss, but as the president of Fifa, that we will act here and we will act tough," added Blatter, who revealed any inquiry would have to be completed before the draw for the finals on December 9.

"This was anti-fair play. The Turks had the chance after the [first-leg] defeat to act as a good host and show that a revenge foul is not done in football. It [the inquiry] will show whether we will investigate against Switzerland too. At the moment we're questioning both sides because, of course, the Swiss want to justify themselves after what has happened."

Swiss midfielder Johann Lonfat went as far as claim that Turkish police were involved in violent incidents in the tunnel, telling L'Equipe: "There were some Swiss players beaten by Turkish players and by police who were supposed to provide security. Grichting received some blows. He was covered in blood. He went to hospital, shocked. [Johann] Vogel and [Benjamin] Huggel were hit as well. We were attacked. It was unbelievable.

"And I'm not talking about the pressure we sustained during the stay. We expected an electric atmosphere, an overheated atmosphere, but not that. This went beyond the limits of intimidation. I was told: 'We're going to slit your throat.'"

Regarding Grichting's injury, Swiss team spokesman Pierre Benoit added: "Everything is not OK, he has had to have a catheter put in and he will need seven to 10 days [to recover]." As for Huggel, caught by television cameras appearing to kick out at Turkey's assistant coach Mehmet Ozdilek, Benoit said: "We haven't seen the pictures yet, so we're not making any statement. In principle, however, we believe Huggel was defending himself after he and Tranquillo Barnetta came under attack."

Tensions had been mounting since the first match on Saturday in Bern, which the Swiss won 2-0. Afterwards, the Turkish team complained of poor treatment, while coach Fatih Terim said Swiss striker Alexander Frei swore at him and made an obscene gesture.

In return, the Swiss claimed they were subjected to hostile treatment when they arrived in Istanbul on Monday, including being held up for several hours in passport control. Fans taunted the players and reportedly threw eggs and rocks at the team bus as it left the airport.

After the second game, Terim's ire was reserved instead for the officials. "I say well done to them [Switzerland] but I have never seen two such immoral referees."
I saw about 20 minutes of the game. The referees were poor, but I felt they favored Turkey. As far as the Swiss player kicking a Turkish coach, it happened, and was caused by poor sportsmanship. I hope the player is properly punished.

The Turks did a horrendous job with security. Bottles and rocks were flying all around the Swiss team. An appropriate sanction would be to have the Turkish team play the next several home qualifiying matches in an empty stadium.