It may not have been apparent from the outside but captain Alexander Frei admitted tension levels were rising in the Switzerland camp ahead of the co-hosts' UEFA EURO 2008™ opener against the Czech Republic.
'Getting more nervous'
Both during training at Basel's St. Jakob-Park and at the eve-of-game press conference that followed, Frei cut a relaxed figure. Yet the BV Borussia Dortmund striker admitted that he was not as calm as he might have appeared: "It's true – slowly but surely I am getting more nervous and tense now that the match has come near." At the same time, however, he described himself as being "full of joy and expectation" at the thought of Switzerland finally playing their first competitive match since they succumbed on penalties to Ukraine in the round of 16 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. After two years of friendlies, Frei thinks "it is about time that the Swiss national team is unleashed. We will show the world that we are in form".
Playing in front of an impassioned home crowd in the intimate St. Jakob-Park could have a positive effect. Unfancied host teams have gone far before – remember Korea Republic's run to the 2002 World Cup semi-finals – but Frei was unwilling to make any predictions. "So far, I feel great about playing at home but I can only really answer that question after the match. Should we lose 3-0, I will feel terrible about it. However, if you win 3-0 at home, it's fantastic, of course." It should help Swiss prospects that the 28-year-old appears to be hitting peak form just in time for the tournament. After suffering a serious hip injury in May 2007, he got back into his stride in the springtime, scoring six goals in the last eight Bundesliga games of the season, and he has continued to shine since, striking twice against Liechtenstein last Friday to become Switzerland's record scorer with 35 goals.
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