All those years of planning, and Switzerland’s journey in the European Championships is over. None of this is to say that they have played badly. Indeed, they were better team against the Czech Republic and were desperately, desperately unlucky to be knocked out tonight by a late, deflected goal in a match that they had dominated for long spells. It did look as if the Gods may be transpiring against Switzerland in some way. The storm clouds gathered over Basle this evening in a manner that reminded one of a black and white vampire film. You half expected the referee to come out dressed as Bela Lugosi.
Shortly into the match, a downpour started that rapidly assumed biblical proportions, and the pitch rapidly became unable to drain off the excess water, and things became thrillingly, brilliantly exciting. With standing water on the pitch and tackles bringing up a spray that cat on a surf board could probably ride, everything became less predictable. Switzerland adjusted to the new conditions, and it was out of them that their goal arrived, when Eren Derdioyk got away down the right hand side and got a low cross in that slowed down so perfectly in front of Hakan Yakin that he almost slipped before, thudding the ball in with his shin. It was a ridiculous goal in extraordinary conditions, but it counted all the same – the roof almost lifted off the stadium and Switzerland were off and running. At half-time Switzerland were good value for their slender lead.
It took about five minutes to become apparent that Turkey had received a better half-time team talk than Switzerland. The Turks defended more deeply, cutting out the danger posed by long balls being sent through the air in their direction. They matched the pace of the Swiss, and played a safety first game that soon saw them getting the vast majority of possession in the centre of the pitch. As they began to assume control, so the half-chances started to come, and twenty minutes into the second half, Turkey were level, a header from Semih beating the feeble flapping of Diego Benaglio in the Swiss goal. This scoreline favoured Turkey more than Switzerland, but they didn’t seem to want to go on and take any chances to win the game. The pendulum swung the other way, and Switzerland started to dominate play again. They poured forward in search of a critical goal and a great chance with nine minutes to play when Volanthen’s shot was saved by Volkan, who then got up to block Hakan Yakin’s follow-up.
In the dying seconds, the killer sucker punch. With the clock ticking over ninety minutes, Arda Turan got away on the right, and shot, which, from twenty yards out, took a horrible deflection off Valon Behrami, wrong-footing Benaglio and ending up in the top corner of the net. Turkey had the win – knocking out the host nation in the process. Turkey’s progress is hanging by a wire, even now. If they lose to the Czech Republic, they’re still out. For Switzerland, with two hearty and unlucky performances under their belt, it seems harsh that they should be knocked out with one match to spare. They deserved better this evening but, ultimately, lacked the fire power to score the goals that they needed to progress.