FC Thun coach Bernard Challandes was left "sorry and angry" after his side came within seconds of a shock win at US Città di Palermo, but the Swiss side have cause for hope.
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But for a Fabrizio Miccoli free-kick deep into added time, FC Thun would have woken up on Friday morning buzzing from a 2-1 win at US Città di Palermo in their UEFA Europa League third qualifying round opener.
As it was, they were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in Italy, and even though that would have looked more than acceptable before kick-off, Thun coach Bernard Challandes could not hide his disappointment. "We had the right tactics against Palermo," said the 59-year-old. "We were physically better than them. Credit to Miccoli; it was a great free-kick, but I am very sorry and angry at drawing."
Challandes' response tells you plenty about the new Thun coach's spirit. The one-time Switzerland Under-21 boss led FC Zürich to the title in 2009, and while his challenge on taking over at the modest club from the Bernese Oberland this summer was to avoid relegation, he is well aware that Thun have punched above their weight in Europe before.
Having finished second in the Swiss Super League in 2004/05, Thun famously battled their way past FC Dynamo Kyiv and Malmö FF to take a place in the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League group stage. That was a titanic achievement, but the good times did not last; Thun were relegated in 2008, winning promotion back to the top tier in 2009/10 under Murat Yakin, who moved on to FC Luzern this summer following a fifth-placed finish.
The former Switzerland defender's departure has not seemingly caused too much disturbance. Thun won their first two league games of the season and have a solid enough squad, with Mauro Lustrinelli – one of the stars of their 2005/06 UEFA Champions League run – back to partner Milaim Rama, the only other player in Challandes squad to have been capped at senior level.
Talent abounds elsewhere; midfielder Stephan Andrist is being groomed as a star of tomorrow and goalkeeper David Da Costa is well regarded. Paraguayan forward Dario Lezcano was on trial with FC Schalke 04 in the summer before leaving FC Wil 1900 for Thun.
The first Italian side to feature in Europe this season, Palermo must now regain their composure ahead of next week's decider at the newly-opened Arena Thun. New boss Stefano Pioli can only hope his side heed the warning from Thursday's near miss. "I'm sorry for the two goals we conceded, but I'm not worried," he said. "We need time to improve because this is a team that has many new players and new tactics."