Stars of other sports looking forward to Euro 2008

June 3rd, 2008 - 7:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Hamburg, June 3 (DPA) Switzerland have a better chance than co-hosts Austria of making a mark on the pitch at the European Championships which kick-off Saturday. That at least is the view of Switzerland’s biggest sports star, the men’s World No.1 tennis player Roger Federer.

Austria’s former Formula One world champion Niki Lauda tends to agree with him, but says no matter how the Austrian team performs the country will be perfect hosts for the June 7-29 tourney.

Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher will meanwhile be rooting for Germany but also has soft spots for Switzerland, his country of residence, and Italy, home of his Ferrari team.

In interviews with Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), all three have given their views on Euro 2008 which begins Saturday with two matches in Switzerland.

Federer, an avid football player and great fan of FC Basel, said: “When I was a child I dreamt of being a professional football player. Luckily I became a professional tennis player, but I love football.”

The world’s best tennis player thinks Switzerland have a better chance than neighbouring Austria of putting on a good performance in the tournament.

“I think so, we have better chances than the Austrians because in recent times we have always played a little bit better,” he said.

“But still, one should never underestimate a home side. I would be glad if both teams played well.”

Lauda meanwhile says the Austrian national team would have to get to the second round to get home fans excited and prove wrong the pessimists who have predicted an embarrassing flop on the pitch.

No matter how the team performs, Austrians will be excellent co-hosts of the tournament, he said.

“Austria is well-known for that,” the three-time Formula 1 world champion said. “It is a pleasant country. It has everything you need, from mountains for skiing to lakes in summer.

“Vienna is perfect as a cultural capital, the same goes for Salzburg. The Salzburg festival, also very distinguished, and at the same time skiing, a sports scene, are all well connected,” Lauda said.

Schumacher, a keen footballer, meanwhile hopes Germany will lift the trophy at Euro 2008.

“My heart beats for the German team but I also have two other teams to support,” he said with reference to Switzerland and Italy.

Schumacher is keen to see matches in Austria and Switzerland, where he has been living with his wife Corinna and their two children since 1996.

“Of course I’ll go along to the stadium every now and then if I can find the time. But evenings with friends in front of the telly are always very good as well,” he said.

He expects the Swiss to play “a good tournament” while for him the favourites are the familiar faces - apart from England who failed to qualify. “I can’t tip them this time around,” he quipped.

Meanwhile Swiss expert Stephane Chapuisat, the former international who is a Euro 2008 ambassador for his country, told DPA that much would depend on Switzerland’s opening game against Czech Republic in Basel on Saturday.

“It’s clear to me that when Switzerland win the open game that a great deal is possible,” said the former Borussia Dortmund striker who won 103 caps for Switzerland.

“I can see Germany doing well, and my tip is for a final between Germany and Italy,” he added.

“But, of course, I am hoping for a surprise from Switzerland.”

Austrian playing great Hans Krankl has similar hopes for his country but is less optimistic.

“Realistically speaking, we don’t look good. If we survive the group phase it would be a huge success for Austria,” the former centre forward said.

Krankl, who scored the winner in Austria’s 3-2 victory against Germany at Cordoba, Argentina in the 1978 World Cup, also enjoyed a spell at Barcelona and as a result would also like Spain to do well.

“I am sentimental about Spain. They have such a great team and always are out. I hope that this time they’ll get their act together,” he said.

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