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Two-year deal

Hitzfeld signs up for Switzerland challenge

As widely rumoured since the beginning of the year, Ottmar Hitzfeld has agreed to take the reins of the Switzerland national team from 1 July 2008. The Bayern coach, who is leaving Munich at the end of the season, has put his name to a two-year deal covering the period until the end of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Swiss FA announced on Tuesday.

Hitzfeld succeeds current supremo Köbi Kuhn, set to vacate the position after the Euro 2008 tournament on home soil this summer, with the General asked to lead the Swiss to the global match-up in 2010. “It would be tremendous. The pressure and the level of expectation would also be intense in Switzerland, but it would be highly manageable,“ the 59-year-old was quoted as saying two weeks ago. Hitzfeld’s qualifying group opponents on the road to the first World Cup in Africa will be Greece, Israel, Moldova, Latvia and Luxembourg.

Back to the roots

The new position, Hitzfeld’s first engagement with a national association after almost 25 years at club level, represents a return to his coaching roots. He began his post-playing career in the shadow of the Alps, taking charge of SC Zug, FC Aarau and Grasshopper Zurich between 1983 and 1991. He then switched to the Bundesliga, with spells at Borussia Dortmund (1991-97) and Bayern (1998-2004, and February 2007 to the present).

Hitzfeld ranks as the most successful Bayern coach of all time with a roll of honour comprising five league titles, two DFB Cup wins, the Champions League and the World Club Cup. He added two further league titles and another Champions League triumph with Dortmund. Hitzfeld’s position at Germany’s most successful club will be filled by Jürgen Klinsmann, although the General is determined to leave with yet more trophies to add to his outstanding collection.

Positive reaction in Switzerland

The 59-year-old still has a house in Lörrach, his town of birth close to the Swiss border, where he often returned to rest and relax during his two and a half years away from coaching after 2004. Swiss media have responded to the appointment in overwhelmingly positive fashion. The Tages-Anzeiger spoke of a “fine solution,” while the headline in tabloid Blick hailed a “tireless fighter“.