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Swiss coach loses neutrality

June 11, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

Sooner or later, controversy was going to come to the fore -- the competence of referees being the very stuff of which soccer tournament disputes are made.

On Tuesday, it arrived at Euro 2008, and from an unlikely source.

Switzerland Coach Jakob "Kobi" Kuhn, a 64-year-old, white-haired Jack Lemmon look-alike who was once one of his country's greatest players, questioned the impartiality of at least one referee at the European Championship that his country is co-hosting with Austria.

Asked ahead of Wednesday's game against Turkey in Basle why the Swiss had not been able to find the back of the net in their 1-0 opening-game loss to the Czech Republic, Kuhn had his answer ready.

"I believe we've got the ability to score," he said. "You need a bit of luck, which we did not have against the Czech Republic, and you need a neutral referee of course.

"We would have scored if the referee had been neutral."

Kuhn's target was Italian referee Roberto Rosetti, who twice failed to award Switzerland penalty kicks after Czech defenders handled the ball.

Replays suggested that Rosetti had been correct in his calls.

The comments probably will get Kuhn hauled onto the carpet and are not going to endear him to Wednesday's match officials, but the Turks, needing to rebound from a loss to Portugal, were going to be a handful in any event.

Turkish Coach Fatih Terim made clear the game's significance.

"It is . . . perhaps the last chance for them and for us," he said. "Everyone knows how important this match is going to be."

Wednesday's other game pits the Czechs against the Portuguese in Geneva, with Portugal almost certain to secure first place in Group A if it wins.

On Tuesday, goals were not in short supply in Group D. Spain trounced Russia, 4-1, in the rain at Innsbruck, Austria, behind three goals from Valencia striker David Villa and another on a header by Cesc Fabregas.

In Salzburg, Sweden shut out defending champion Greece, 2-0, with goals by forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic and defender Petter Hansson.

All 16 teams have played their first match and with seven of them poised to be eliminated, the officiating is likely to come under even greater scrutiny.

--

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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