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Thursday, February 19, 2004 

Morocco 2-1 Switzerland

UEFA EURO 2004™ finalists Switzerland suffered defeat at the hands of the African Cup of Nations finalists at the Moulay Abdellah stadium in Rabat.

The match was nearly cancelled after Morocco asked to field a reserve side having played in Saturday's Cup of Nations final where they lost to Tunisia. Two goals in the space of three second-half minutes, however, from Ahmed Ajdou and Houcine Aiajour, paved the way for victory, with Alexander Frei scoring a consolation goal in the final minute.

Having guided his side to a first major international tournament since EURO '96™, Jakob Kuhn was keen for his team to face a meaningful test. The Switzerland coach made only one change from the side that defeated the Republic of Ireland to clinch a place in Portugal, with Stéphane Henchoz returning to the side at centre-back in place of Murat Yakin.

Morocco started brightly and went close to opening the scoring on three occasions in the first five minutes after the midfield players combined for a series of dangerous crosses. Frei first threatened for the visitors in the 12th minute, but they enjoyed few opportunities during the first half.

Kuhn bolstered his midfield at the break, bringing on Ricardo Cabanas for Benjamin Huggel. The switch paid dividends as his team proved harder to break down in the centre and opened up more attacking channels. Frei almost took advantage of the increased possession seven minutes after the restart, meeting Stéphane Chapuisat's cross with a spectacular overhead kick that goalkeeper Lamyaghi Nadir had to be at his best to save.

The effort galvanised the Swiss team, and Frei and Hakan Yakin exchanged passes in the 65th minute before the ball was played into the stride of Chapuisat as he raced into the box. The striker had time and space to pick his spot but failed to connect cleanly and the ball flew wide.

The miss proved costly as Ajdou received the ball with his back to goal in the 78th minute and turned wonderfully to guide a left-foot shot beyond the grasp of goalkeeper Jörg Stiel. Three minutes later Aiajour kept his composure to knock in from close range for the second following a goalmouth scramble.

Although Frei halved the arrears from distance late on, Switzerland were unable to find a second and Kuhn's charges will need to improve in the summer, where they are pooled in Group B alongside holders France, Croatia and England.

Source: Uefa.com


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