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Soccer-World-Hitzfeld bows out with Switzerland after 45-year career

Reuters

By Brian Homewood

BERNE, April 29 (Reuters) - Ottmar Hitzfeld, one of Europe's most successful coaches at club level, will bow out in Brazil after a 45-year career which has brought him seven Bundesliga titles, two Champions League winners' medals and one extraordinary defeat.

Hitzfeld will be leading Switzerland to the World Cup for the second time, having also been in charge of a bitter-sweet campaign in South Africa four years ago.

On that occasion, the Swiss started with a spectacular upset against Spain, beating the eventual champions 1-0, yet failed to score another goal and went out in the group stage after a dismal goalless draw against Honduras.

"I would like to live without this pressure, I've had it for a long time and it's been great, but now it's time to bow out and this World Cup, which is a highlight, is the right time," said Hitzfeld, who turned down a two-year contract extension.

The 65-year-old German led Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles, Bayern Munich to five and also won the Champions League once with each. He is one of only four coaches to win Europe's top club trophy with two teams.

But Hitzfeld will also be remembered for the 2-1 loss to Manchester United in the 1999 Champions League final, when his team dominated the game but lost to two goals in the astonishing final minutes.

Hitzfeld was born near Basel, on the other side of the Swiss border, and speaks the local Swiss dialect. A former striker, he spent a considerable part of his playing career in Switzerland and also began his coaching career there, in 1983.

Perhaps not surprisingly for a former maths teacher, Hitzfeld prepares for matches with geometric precision although he can also think on his feet and conjure up a solution when things do not go according to plan.

He does not tolerate indiscipline. During his early days at Bayern he showed Mario Basler the door following a nocturnal escapade and also fined a number of top players for various misdemeanours.

However, Hitzfeld is not just a disciplinarian. His management of players is generally considered excellent, so much so that former Daimler-Chrysler chief Juergen Schrempp once described him as a role model for German business leaders.

But he decided late last year that enough was enough.

"After 30 years in the strength-sapping world of football, the time has come for me to stop," he said. "I can live without football, there are more important things in life and my wife will be happy about this." (Reporting By Brian Homewood; editing by Robert Woodward and Mike Collett)

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