Visitors programme article

Posted : 4th August 2022 at 22:13:37

Linfield will tonight welcome Fussballclub Zurich who are the champions of Switzerland. They are more commonly abbreviated to FC Zurich or FCZ and on Monday past, the Club celebrated its 126th anniversary. One of the founding members of FC Zurich, Joan Gamper also founded FC Barcelona.

FC Zurich play at Stadion Letzigrund which they share with fellow Swiss Super League outfit Grasshoppers who are Switzerland’s most successful club with 27 titles. Despite ground sharing, the clubs are rivals. Built and opened in 2007, it is a multi-sports stadium with a running track around the pitch and a capacity of 26,100. The Club have had a steady average attendance of in and around 10,000 at their home matches over the last 15 years, although that rose to 13,400 last season, in part due to the team’s performance on the pitch which led to their first League title in 13 years.

They are managed by 56-year-old German, Franco Foda, who most notably managed the Austrian National Team from January 2018 until March of this year. He is no stranger to Windsor Park, having twice visited previously, defeating the Northern Ireland National Team on both occasions in late 2018. He left his position in March, after Austria’s 2022 FIFA World Cup play-off defeat to Wales in Cardiff. Foda took over at FC Zurich in June, replacing Andre Breitenreiter who took over as manager of Hoffenheim.

He took over a team that had won the ten-team Swiss Super League by 14 points last season. To put that into context – third-place BSC Young Boys picked up some impressive results in the UEFA Champions League group stage last season, beating Manchester United at home and drawing at Old Trafford, and drawing with Atalanta – yet they finished a distant 16 points off FC Zurich.

However, it hasn’t been the best of starts for Foda. A 4-0 defeat to BSC Young Boys on the opening day of the season was followed up by a goalless draw at home to Luzern who finished ninth last season. This was in between both legs of FC Zurich’s UEFA Champions League 2nd Round Qualifier against Qarabag, which they lost 3-2 away, before conceding in extra time at home to lose 5-4 on aggregate, bringing an end to their first Champions League campaign in eleven years.

One man for Linfield to be wary of is Wilfried Gnonto. The 18-year-old forward is tipped to have a bright future ahead of him and was handed a senior International debut by Italy manager Roberto Mancini when he came on against Germany, as he assisted a goal in the 1-1 Nations League draw in June. He has since made a further three appearances for Italy. Remarkably, he then became Italy’s youngest goal scorer of all time when he scored in a 5-2 defeat to Germany a few weeks later. He has recently been linked with a move back to Serie A for a reported €10-15M. Gnonto joined from Inter Milan’s Academy in 2020.

Spanish left back Adria Guerrero is also an influential figure for the Swiss champions. The 24-year-old defender signed from Valencia last year where he’d impressed in the B team, having previously came through the ranks of the Barcelona Academy ‘La Masia’. There is plenty of International experience in the FC Zurich squad, with another notable name being 36-year-old former Napoli midfielder Blerim Dzemaii, who has 10 goals in 69 caps for Switzerland.
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