Danish setting augurs well for Swiss family Frei

Switzerland's Fabian Frei told UEFA.com he does not remember much about how his father conquered Europe nine years ago, but that he is determined to do likewise in Denmark.

Fabian Frei is a key component of Switzerland's fluid midfield
Fabian Frei is a key component of Switzerland's fluid midfield ©Getty Images

Fabian Frei was spending more time in the classroom than on the football pitch when his father Markus led Switzerland to a European title nine years ago in Denmark, but the promising midfielder is now close to emulating his dad's achievement in the same country.

Frei was a fledgling schoolboy footballer when his father steered a Swiss Under-17 side featuring Philippe Senderos and Tranquillo Barnetta to victory against France in 2002 to claim the nation's first continental triumph. Fast forward to 2011 and Frei is two matches away from adding another notable chapter to Switzerland's – and his family's – footballing history.

"Of course I know my father won the European Championship but I was too young [to remember] – I had to go to school and then to training," said the 22-year-old, who has not had too much paternal advice on handling tournaments. "He hasn't told me anything special. He only advised me to play like I normally do and everything will be fine."

Dad certainly appears to know best with his son taking an integral role in the march of Pierluigi Tami's men to the semi-finals in Jutland. Ever-present in the group stage, Frei's fourth international goal at U21 level laid the foundations for the 2-0 Group A defeat of Iceland. That cool first-minute finish preceded a smart pass for Innocent Emeghara to wrap up the points, as Frei continues to shine as one of three attacking midfielders servicing a lone frontrunner.

"If there is the chance I will obviously try to score a goal or serve an assist to my team-mates," said Frei, who made his league debut with FC Basel 1893 as an 18-year-old, winning the Swiss double in 2008 before spending the last two seasons on loan at FC St Gallen. "But individual performance is not important to me. What matters is to fight with your team and always try to win."

That single-mindedness served Swiss football well in 2009 with the country stunning hosts Nigeria to lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Four members of that squad have been drafted into Tami's selection in Denmark, and Frei conceded that their surprise triumph two years ago had breathed a new air of self-belief into the Alpine nation.

"That was a huge step for us. Now we know everything is possible," he told UEFA.com. "Before that tournament, no one thought Switzerland could become world champions. Now the story repeats itself: no one predicted we would win this tournament. After the Under-17 triumph there is a new mentality in Switzerland. We are more ambitious. Everyone in our country knows we can reach our goals."