View of the Swiss visitors gets lost in translation
Midfielder Xhaka bullish about facing what he sees as technically inferior opposition
Granit Xhaka: “Technically we are better and so we will find the solution that works for us.” Photograph: Georgios Kefalas/EPA
Ireland’s rather miserable competitive record over the past 20 years against the Swiss suggests Mick McCarthy’s side might just be overdue a slice of good fortune against the top seeds in this European Championship qualifying group.
It is clearly too much to hope for, though, that Vladimir Petkovic’s side game plan for Thursday evening might go as badly for the visitors as Wednesday’s pre-match press conference at the Aviva.
The coach and two players, Fabian Schär and Granit Xhaka, turned up for an event at which most of those present were steadily reduced to a state of helpless bewilderment by the translation or, sometimes, lack of it.
In its way, it may have provided a sense of the sort of mayhem that gripped the Swiss during the final 10 minutes of their 3-3 draw against Denmark back in March when they threw away what had looked an unassailable lead.
McCarthy had rattled off a detailed account of that earlier in the day and it would something like a dream come true if the visitors were gripped by a case of chaotic miscommunication come kick-off time on this occasion.
Neither Petkovic nor Xhaka seemed overly concerned by the possibility, it must be said. The Arsenal midfielder suggested that the Irish players were bigger than the Swiss ones and perhaps even physically stronger but “technically,” he said, “we are better and so we will find the solution that works for us”.
His coach was a little more diplomatic here but had sounded pretty bullish on Monday when he described the trip to Dublin as “one we can look forward to optimistically. We are better than them,” he had continued, “and we need to show it”.
Between this and US vice-president Mike Pence, it is almost as if the standard guide to small talk and general chit chat for overseas visitors to the Emerald Isle has gotten lost somewhere along the way.
For generations it had been understood that the polite thing for them to do to do was allow us to feel superior by asking something stupid about Guinness, not come over all superior themselves.
Sadly, our case here was not helped by the fact that the translator, who probably spoke fewer languages than any of the official party and clearly demonstrated that he knew very little about their football, was struggling from the off.
Between bouts of looking pretty angry, the federation’s press officer stepped in to offer assistance on a couple of occasions and Schär, when asked to, simply answered the final question in English that was probably better than that possessed by a few of the Irish reporters present.
For us, it all brought back memories of the Trapattoni era when every pronouncement had to be parsed and fiercely different interpretations could go close to prompting punch ups.
Happy times, eh. Well, happier than they were the last two times these guys came to town for a qualifier, in any case.