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Soccer-Retiring Switzerland coach not ready to quietly slip away


By Mike Collett-White

SAO PAULO, June 30 (Reuters) - Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is confident that Tuesday's round of 16 match against Argentina will not be his last in charge of the national team.

Since the 65-year-old German has already announced he will step down at the end of this World Cup, that can only mean one thing.

"I'm certainly looking forward to this huge sporting challenge, and of course with the Swiss national team we have thought together about how to go on, and (those thoughts) have included the quarter-finals," he told reporters on Monday at Corinthians arena, where the game will be played.

"So I don't think it's going to be my last match," he added.

Switzerland have not been into the last eight of a World Cup since 1954, when they were playing on home soil.

To do so 60 years on, they will have to beat one of the favourites for the tournament, including Lionel Messi who has been in blistering form for his team.

Questions at the pre-match press conference inevitably centred on how the Swiss can stop the forward, who has scored four of his team's six goals at the tournament so far.

"I think any defence will have problems when facing Messi, and problems are there to be solved. I trust my people, I trust my defence, not just the defence but the entire team. The entire team will have to perform and I am optimistic.

"How to stop Messi? Well, we'll show you tomorrow how to do it."

Hitzfeld, who has been in charge of Switzerland since 2008, said there was a sense of anticipation in the dressing room ahead of one of the biggest games of his managerial career.

"This is a huge challenge for all of us ... We feel the tension among the players. In training today we felt this kind of tension, because it is something really special to play against a team like Argentina."

The coach believed that his players would have to perform at the best of their ability to stand a chance.

"We can only come to grips with Argentina if every player delivers a special performance and we deliver a team performance, and I am positive that we will do so tomorrow."

For captain Gokhan Inler, one of the keys to the match will be striker Xherdan Shaqiri, who scored a hat-trick against Honduras to ensure Switzerland progressed from the group stage and has been nicknamed the "Alpine Messi".

"The midfield will feed him, and he plays really well up front. The good thing is he cannot be figured out that easily. We need to have him free.

"If (we win), we will write history. We will have taken a huge step forward. We go into the match with respect, but without fear." (Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Justin Palmer)

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