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Dec 23 (Reuters) - Lazio coach Vladimir Petkovic will become Switzerland manager when Ottmar Hitzfeld retires from soccer after next year's World Cup finals, the Swiss FA (ASF) said on Monday.
"The successor to Ottmar Hitzfeld as Swiss national team coach is Vladimir Petkovic (50). The present coach of Lazio... signed a contract on Monday with the Swiss Football Association," the ASF said on its website (www.football.ch).
Sarajevo-born Petkovic's contract starts on July 1, 2014 and runs until the end of 2015 but it will be extended through Euro 2016 in France if Switzerland qualify for the tournament.
Petkovic will take over a national team that has blossomed under 64-year-old German Hitzfeld to the point where the Swiss are one of the seeds for the 2014 Brazil World Cup where they will play Ecuador, France and Honduras in Group E.
"I'm fully aware that on the one hand I have a hard act to follow, but on the other I'm taking on a really well-established team with good prospects," Petkovic said.
"This is all the more important since we won't have the chance to play an international match (after I take over as coach) before the start of the Euro qualifiers."
FIFA's August international date has been removed from the calendar from the 2014/15 season.
The draw for the Euro qualifiers will be made in February.
Petkovic, who calls himself Swiss and Croatian-Bosnian according to the ASF, played as a midfielder in several teams in the former Yugoslavia before emigrating to Switzerland in 1987 where he played for Sion, Bellinzona and Locarno.
He also worked at at Bellinzona as manager before coaching Young Boys, Turkish side Samsunspor and Sion. He joined Rome-based Lazio in Serie A last year and led them to an Italian Cup success in his first season in charge.
Hitzfeld, a seasoned coach who has worked at Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund and steered both clubs to the Champions League crown, has built a multi-ethnic Switzerland squad that should fit well with Petkovic since he took charge in 2008. (Reporting by Rex Gowar; Editing by Ken Ferris)