What's a big compliment in Nigeria

Vladimir Petkovic: «A big compliment to my players»

Updated

Switzerland conceded a 5-6 defeat against England after a penalty shoot-out. Players and coaches speak of fatigue and a lack of luck.

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It was a long season, the season that has now ended. Due to the new Nations League, it lasted until mid-June. You can see that the Swiss national players are walking on their gums after their defeat in the game for third place in the Nations League against England. On the pitch they just managed to save themselves in the penalty shoot-out, Xherdan Shaqiri limps through the mixed zone with a bandaged calf, and Fabian Schär is angry that he has to stop twice to give interviews.

Only one person is actually happy after the narrow defeat against England. Noah Okafor, who is allowed to play for the Swiss senior national team for the first time in the 113th minute. He is the first national player born after the turn of the millennium. And he is one thing above all: proud. He uses this word three times around half an hour after the end of the game. It is an honor for him to represent the country in which he was born and grew up.

With that, all speculation about the lightning-fast offensive player is over. Because right up to the end of the day, Nigeria, his father's country of origin, had been working hard on Okafor. “Both sides have signaled their interest,” confirms the 19-year-old. He admits that this discussion ended with his first international match under competitive conditions, which makes it easier for him. He made the decision in favor of Switzerland together with his family.

Drmic's Missed Penalty. (Video: SRF)

Okafor is one of those exciting talents who can give the Swiss offensive in the future what striker Haris Seferovic was missing in the two games of the Final Four: "The necessary audacity." His captain Granit Xhaka thinks: “We are not far from the top teams. Little is missing, sometimes a little luck. " Although the Swiss are very lucky this afternoon. The English meet aluminum three times, while goalie Yann Sommer unpacks four big saves and saves himself and his teammates in the penalty shoot-out. Because he can't parry any of the shots there, he has to balance out later: "It's a shame we have to go home with two defeats, but a penalty shoot-out is a lottery."

Nevertheless, coach Vladimir Petkovic finds comforting words: “I have to compliment my players on how they fought and tried everything despite being tired. We deserved more. " The somewhat angry Fabian Schär also draws a positive conclusion from this Nations League campaign: "We mustn't forget that we qualified for the tournament of the four best teams."

A tournament that obviously demanded the Swiss's last nerves, but also energy reserves. “In the end I was physically exhausted, but it was the same for everyone. It was a long season, ”says Schär. That's why he and his teammates are now looking forward to the holidays. While Shaqiri can relax for about a month and heal his calf injury, Schär does not yet know when the preparation for the season will start. "I'll get in touch," says the central defender. What he does not say: The reason for the uncertainty is probably that a change within the Premier League is in the room. So it is quite possible that the already long season will continue for the Eastern Swiss. At least at the negotiating table.