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Switzerland Euro 2024 coach played for Ronaldo and against Zinedine Zidane but ‘match of his life’ was against Celtic

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Switzerland’s Murat Yakin was one of his country’s most valuable players when they competed in Euro 2004.

The centre-back featured in all three of Switzerland’s group games as they played in only the second European Championship in their national history.

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Yakin scored four goals in 49 appearances for the Swiss national teamCredit: Getty

Now Yakin is returning to the competition 20 years later for Euro 2024 – but this time he will be playing a different role entirely.

The 49-year-old took on the role of manager of the Swiss national team in August 2021 and he has since guided them to the quarter finals of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, where they were dismantled 6-1 by Portugal, and now another European Championship.

He has a respectable record with the side since taking over, having won 15, drawn ten and lost eight since taking the reins.

Switzerland will be looking to build on the success of Euro 2020, where they defeated tournament favourites France on penalties in a stunning round-of-16 match, before eventually falling to a strong Spain team in the quarter-finals.

But first they will have to overcome a group that contains hosts Germany, as well as Scotland and Hungary.

Switzerland will certainly fancy their chances with their side boasting talented individuals including Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji, Bayern Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka and former Liverpool winger Xherdan Shaqiri.

Their road to the tournament proved fairly smooth sailing in the end, as they won four, drew five and lost one in a qualification group which contained Romania, Israel, Belarus, Kosovo and Andorra.

Finishing second behind only Romania, they also boasted the top scorer from their group with Burnley forward Zeki Amdouni scoring six.

Switzerland stunned everyone by beating France at Euro 2020

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Switzerland stunned everyone by beating France at Euro 2020Credit: Getty

Speaking to UEFA, Yakin expressed a strong sense of optimism about the breadth of experience and talent across his squad.

“Expectations are, of course, always high,” he said. “We have top players in top leagues. I think that in the end, we will do what we know. They are very adaptable and therefore the progress is there.

“We have a lot of experience in our team with players that have over 100 caps. We also have younger players that we have integrated for this tournament, and during the qualifiers which is even better, so that we don’t get surprised if something happens and the team gets a little tight or limited in some areas.

“I think we have a great mix there.”

Yakin will be up against it as he tries to steer a similarly successful campaign this year

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Yakin will be up against it as he tries to steer a similarly successful campaign this yearCredit: Getty

Before taking charge of the Swiss national team, Yakin had a 14-year playing career of his own, playing for VfB Stuttgart, Fenerbahce and Basel.

He experienced moderate success, including winning three Swiss Super League titles and two Swiss Cups with Basel, and was individually recognised as Swiss Young Player of the Year in 1994.

But one of Yakin’s biggest claims to fame is his involvement in the 2003 FIFA ‘Match Against Poverty’, a friendly fixture held annually until 2015 which was designed to raise funds for the United Nations Development Programme.

The 2003 edition of the match saw a side headed up by Ronaldo Nazario go head-to-head with the team captained by Zinedine Zidane in a fixture which ended up raising around 650,000 Euros.

Zidane and Ronaldo were teammates at Real Madrid at the time

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Zidane and Ronaldo were teammates at Real Madrid at the timeCredit: AFP
Zidane had Beckham and Davor Suker amongst those on his team

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Zidane had Beckham and Davor Suker amongst those on his teamCredit: Getty

Yakin was part of Ronaldo’s side, alongside the likes of Roberto Carlos and Rivaldo, and they eventually emerged with a 4-3 win – despite being up against players including David Beckham and Samuel Eto’o.

But despite the star-studded lineup Yakin encountered on that day, there is another match that stands out for him as his most memorable.

The former defender was part of the Basel team that reached the second group stage of the Champions League in the 2002/03 season – and they did so in thrilling fashion.

Their third qualifying round saw them come up against Scottish Premier League champions Celtic in a two-legged tie played across Celtic Park and St Jakob Park.

But Yakin values his Champions League memory above any other minutes he played during his career

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But Yakin values his Champions League memory above any other minutes he played during his careerCredit: Getty

All hope looked lost for Basel after the first leg, with the Scottish side coming away with a 3-1 advantage.

But the second leg back in Switzerland was to be a game that Yakin would come to treasure above all others.

Basel fought back to win the game 2-0, with Yakin scoring their second, gaining a result which secured their place in the next round thanks to the away goals rule.

It was this match which Yakin chose to feature as his contribution to the book “The Match of my Life: 50 Swiss Football Stars and their Best 90 Minutes”.

And the Swiss coach will be hoping for a few more memorable matches as his looks to lead his country further than they have ever gone before at this summer’s tournament.

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