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France have won all three games so far in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship and are overwhelming favourites to take the crown for a second time. Yet coach Raymond Domenech admits his team are feeling the pressure as they prepare for today's semi-final against Switzerland.
'Increased the pressure'
Domenech was referring more about off-field diversions and his side's move to Basel. Swiss defender Stephan Keller warned France that they will find it much harder now they are in "the real part" of Switzerland and Domenech agreed, saying of the move: "That has increased the pressure on us as we have left the paradise of Vevey [near Lausanne] for central Basel."
On the form they have displayed so far France are the favourites to repeat their victory of 1988. They have also been able to rest their players and just about every member of their likely starting lineup in the Saint Jakob stadium will have taken part in only two fixtures.
They face the tournament's surprise package for a place in the final but Domenech feels it would be madness to underestimate a side which advanced from a group at the expense of Portugal and England. "I said before the tournament that Switzerland are a team that can shock the world," he said. "They have posed problems for every team they have faced. Against Italy they showed that they are a solid team and they will command a lot of respect from us."
FC Nantes Atlantique defender Sylvain Armand is carrying an injury and his participation is in doubt, but otherwise France should be at full strength. Ludovic Magnin, who missed Wednesday's game with Italy through injury, should be fit to play for a Swiss team who are by no means overawed by the occasion. "We respect France but we must not only respect them," said Switzerland coach Bernard Challandes. "We must confront them and we must make sure that we have no regrets after the game if we were to lose, say, by one goal."
Challandes will again be working on his motivational techniques aimed at inspiring another against-the-odds performance from his team. Before the Italy game he arranged for a 12-year-old boy who is suffering growth problems to spend the day with the squad. The youngster described it as the most beautiful day of his life and the coach urged his team to make it the most beautiful day of their lives. They did just that but it would be even more special for them if they were to defeat France.
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