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Sports

Hitzfeld Set to Coach Switzerland

Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld won't have any worries about unemployment when he steps down at Bayern Munich this summer. But will he and Switzlerland be a marriage made in heaven or a high-profile bust?

Hitzfeld

Hitzfeld has won the Bundesliga six times

Hitzfeld signed a two-year contract to coach this year's European Championship co-host, after he was unanimously confirmed by both the Swiss Football League and the Swiss Soccer Federation.

He'll be taking over from Jakob "Koebi" Kuhn, the popular Swiss skipper who's voluntarily stepping down after the Euro 2008.

Hitzfeld was born near the German border with Switzerland, and his new post represents something of a professional homecoming. His first coaching job was with Swiss club Zug, and he spent a very productive three years at Grasshoppers Zurich, where he won four trophies.

"The pressure and the expectations will be high, but it will also be possible to keep an overview," Hitzfield told reporters in the run-up to his appointment.

Hitzfeld's first task is to ensure the Swiss qualify for the 2010 World Cup -- a manageable job since Switzerland have a relatively weak group.

Impressive resume, mediocre current form

Fußball Deutschland Bayern München Trainer Ottmar Hitzfeld

But his current stint with Bayern hasn't been as successful

Having won the Champions League with both Dortmund and Bayern Munich, Hitzfeld has an unparalleled record among active coaches. But he's never headed a national side, and success with Switzerland is anything but assured.

His second stint at the helm of Bayern, which began a year ago, has seen mixed results. Munich only finished fourth in the Bundesliga last season and haven't dominated the field this season either -- despite spending a club-record amount on transfers during the summer.

Early this year, Hitzfeld agreed to step down as Bayern's coach after the 2007-2008 campaign. The move was portrayed as voluntary to the media, but many soccer experts believed his contract would not have been extended, had he wanted to stay.

And Switzerland, though a respectable European side, are hardly a soccer powerhouse, raising questions as to whether a 59-year-old coach will have enough innovative energy to take them to a higher level.

Still, European national teams have profited in the past from older German coaches -- in 2004, Otto Rehhagel led rank outsiders Greece to an astonishing European championship.

Swiss fans will hope that Hitzfeld can replicate something of that unlikely success.

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