Must-win match for Switzerland, Turkey
The pressure will be on both Switzerland and Turkey when they meet on Wednesday in the European Championship, their first match since an ugly brawl three years ago in Istanbul.
Both teams will be looking for a win after opening the tournament with losses, with another defeat ending almost any hope of advancing to the quarterfinals. It is also a grudge match of sorts for two sides – and groups of fans – that may still have a lot of bad blood.
"It's going to be an intense atmosphere," Switzerland defender Johan Djourou said. "Fighting shouldn't happen in football. Hopefully it won't happen in Switzerland."
Switzerland met Turkey over two legs in November 2005 to determine which team would advance to the World Cup in Germany. They drew 4-4 on aggregate, but the Swiss advanced on away goals.
After the final whistle, the Swiss team raced from the field apparently to escape angry fans. A scuffle between players from both sides ensued in the tunnel on the way to the locker room, drawing in coaches and Turkish security guards into the fighting. Switzerland defender Stephane Grichting was hospitalised with a groin injury.
The fight led to a rash of suspensions, with FIFA president Sepp Blatter even threatening at one point to ban Turkey from the 2010 World Cup. Blatter, a Swiss native, backed down. Turkey also complained about its treatment in Switzerland, where it said the home fans whistled during the Turkish national anthem.
In an interview last month, Turkey coach Fatih Terim said that he was sorry about what happened. He added that the episode was now history and should not affect how Turkey is treated in Basel.
"What happens in football, stays in football," Terim said.
He has since made friendly gestures to Switzerland coach Koebi Kuhn, whose wife is in the hospital, and captain Alexander Frei, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a ruptured left knee ligament.
Turkey's players have largely avoided the subject and the reaction in Switzerland has been subdued.
"Obviously, we can't forget what happened," Switzerland midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta said. "But we are thinking about playing football and winning this match."
Swiss authorities said they expected thousands of Turkey supporters to come to Basel from other parts of Switzerland and neighboring Germany. But no extraordinary security measures are believed necessary.
"We are always vigilant," Swiss police spokesman Guido Balmer said. "The network of security services we have from different countries is working very well."
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