Leiria: Ten-man Switzerland battled to a goalless draw with a disappointing Croatia side in an ugly opening Euro 2004 group B clash on Sunday. The result was frustrating for both sides as they had set out to claim victory knowing their next games are against the group favourites France and England.
Switzerland were reduced to 10 men when Johann Vogel was sent off four minutes into the second half for a second bookable offence.
Vogel had been shown his first yellow card after only four minutes for a foul on Niko Kovac and was dismissed when for another infringement in a melee of players just after the break.
The PSV Eindhoven man’s yellow card was the sixth in a game that became increasingly disrupted by stoppages, several of them for simulation.
There was very little flowing football from either side with the Croatians seemingly intent on breaking up the rhythm of the game and trying to snatch a goal on the counter-attack.
This produced several ugly individual clashes and plenty of theatrical gestures as the card count rose steadily — eight yellow cards and one red in all.
Swiss ’keeper Joerg Stiel was cautioned for dissent and Benjamin Huggel for a foul while Dado Prso, for diving, joined Nenad Bjelica, substitute Milan Rapaic and captain Boris Zivkovic who were booked for fouls and Ivica Mornar for diving.
Ivica Mornar was the next player to go into the book for diving in the area bringing the number of yellow cards to seven and red’s to one after just 53 minutes of the match.
Tomislav Sokota had a good chance to finally draw blood when fed by Niko Kovas his shot sailed over the bar.
The Swiss put together their best move of the match in the 77th minute ending with Benjamin Huggel’s rasping shot from 30 metres out being bundled away for a corner in unorthodox fashion by Croatia keeper Butina.
Both had started brightly as Mornar’s sweetly struck free kick was well-taken by Swiss goalkeeper Stiel and then three minutes later Swiss playmaker Hakan Yakin forced Butina into a save with a shot from outside the area.
However the physical side soon took over with Vogel being booked for a foul on Croatia’s Niko Kovac and Dario Simic was fortunate his elbow on Alexander Frei by the touchline went unnoticed by the officials.
The Swiss took advantage of a mistake in the Croat defence on the quarter hour mark which let in Frei and though the 24-year-old’s cross shot was only parried by Butina Robert Kovac managed to bundle the ball away to safety. Croatia then missed an opportunity to break the deadlock.
Switzerland: Joerg Stiel; Bernt Haas, Patrick Mueller, Murat Yakin, Christoph Spycher; Raphael Wicky (Stephane Henchoz 83), Johann Vogel, Benjamin Huggel; Hakan Yakin (Daniel Gygax 87); Stephane Chapuisat (Fabio Celestini 55), Alexander Frei.
Croatia: Tomislav Butina; Dario Simic (Darijo Srna 61), Robert Kovac, Josip Simunic, Boris Zivkovic; Ivica Mornar, Niko Kovac, Nenad Bjelica (Giovanni Rosso 74), Ivica Olic (Milan Rapaic 46); Dado Prso, Tomislav Sokota.
Referee: Lucillo Batista (Portugal).