Back to reality for Basel after rude awakening

FC Basel face a trip back to the harsh realities of the shrinking Swiss Super League following their rude awakening in the Champions League against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Having visited Old Trafford, the Allianz Arena and Benfica's Stadium of Light during their European campaign, Basel's 7-0 defeat has left them with the prospect of trips to Thun, Sion and the vast empty expanses of Zurich's Letzigrund.

Last Saturday's 2-0 win over Grasshoppers in front of 7,000 fans in Zurich, where the running track around the pitch makes the stadium feel even emptier, is an example of what they face.

With a 12-point lead over their nearest challengers, Basel are expected to win the Swiss Super League for the sixth time in nine seasons as they remain the big fish in a small pond.

Too strong for their own country, Tuesday's defeat, their heaviest in Europe, showed they are still out of their depth at the very top of international level.

Basel's Champions League campaign, where they qualified from the group stage with two memorable performances against Manchester United and then beat Bayern Munich at home, had been a rare bright spot for Swiss football.

Now, commentators are wondering whether they have simply added to Swiss woes.

Heiko Vogel, promoted to his first senior coaching job after Thorsten Fink left for Hamburg SV last season, was hopeful the high points - including 3-3 at Old Trafford and 1-1 away to Benfica in Lisbon - would still be remembered.

VOGEL SUFFERING

"We have achieved a lot, the team has achieved lot and we shouldn't forget this, I don't want our campaign to be reduced to this result," the German said before describing his suffering during Tuesday's match.

"I stood looking constantly at the clock, wondering when it would all end." he said.

Switzerland could certainly have done with a boost.

The national side failed to qualify for Euro 2012, finishing below Montenegro in their qualifying group, and Basel were their only remaining representatives in club competition this season.

The country had briefly earned a direct place in the Champions League group stage but, from next season, their champions will again have to negotiate two qualifying rounds.

The Swiss FA was threatened with suspension in December after Sion, banned from fielding players they signed during the summer, defied FIFA statutes by taking their case to the civil courts.

FIFA were only placated when Sion were deducted 36 points, leaving them hopelessly adrift at the bottom of the table.

In January, Neuchatel Xamax were kicked out of the league for a series of administrative irregularities under Russian-born owner Bulat Chagaev, who was in charge for only eight months.

Two weeks ago, Servette Geneva filed for bankruptcy and since then their participation in the league has been decided on a week-by-week basis. Last week, a Geneva court gave the club extra time following an rescue offer from Canadian businessman Hugh Quennec.

Should that fail and Servette be expelled, the league would be left with seven teams plus Sion.

Vogel was adamant that, despite Tuesday's humiliation, Basel were a credit to their country.

"Just to have got this far is a great achievement and I think that overall we have done Swiss football a lot of good," he said.


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