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"It is a date I will never forget," said Ludovic Magnin, recalling Switzerland's infamous play-off against Turkey for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Istanbul. Events that night in November 2005 need no recounting to Swiss football fans and it is likely the same will apply should the 'Nati' prevail against Turkey again in Wednesday's Group A encounter in Basel.
A victory for the UEFA EURO 2008™ co-hosts would rekindle their hopes of progress from the group stage and Magnin is ready to do his bit by taking over the captain's armband in place of the injured Alexander Frei. The 29-year-old left-back played down his role, pointing out to reporters that Frei remains with the group yet this renowned joker certainly appeared more focused than ever in training on the eve of the Turkey game, when team-mates only too evidently looked to him for words of advice.
"Of course, I will wear the armband on the pitch, but Alex is still there and we are captains on the same level," Magnin said of his role. Frei responded: "Ludo is old enough. He has done his job as a vice-captain extraordinarily well. I will exercise the necessary influence from outside of the pitch. But I won't take my role too seriously. It's not about Alex Frei, it's about the team and Ludo is the team's captain now."
Known for his dashes up the left, Magnin's technique has occasionally come under question but never his desire and this was certainly apparent when he spoke to reporters on the eve of the Turkey game. Reflecting on the twin blows suffered by Switzerland on the opening day, when any personal satisfaction at claiming his 50th cap vanished in the face of the loss of first Frei and then three points in the 1-0 reverse against the Czech Republic, Magnin looked for the positives and said: "When something like this happens the team is brought closer together. The opening game showed we are able to perform on the highest level."
The VfB Stuttgart defender will doubtless underline the point to his colleagues in the build-up to Wednesday's match. After all, by his own admission, he provides a vocal presence in the squad. "My mouth is never shut," he joked. "I admit that in front of all of Switzerland. It must be hard for my wife!"
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