Swiss suffer agony

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BLOEMFONTEIN, June 26- Goal-shy Switzerland suffered World Cup heartbreak on Friday when they crashed out of the tournament after a goalless stalemate against central American minnows Honduras.

The Swiss started the Group H clash knowing they needed to score twice to guarantee a berth in the knockout phase but they squandered a host of chances in chilly Bloemfontein.

"It took us a very long time to find our game and Honduras created chances before us," said Switzerland’s German coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, after seeing Spain and Chile taking the two qualifying spots in Group H.

"We then had chances of our own, but we didn’t deserve to qualify because we didn’t score.

"The disappointment tonight is very deep, because after our opening victory against Spain we had great hopes. Now we’ll go home and all we can do is concentrate on the future, on the Euro 2012 qualifiers."

Honduras coach Reinaldo Rueda said: "It was a very intense match. It opened up at the end. We lacked precision, we lacked maturity for the final pass and goalscoring.

"It was a dream to go to the next phase. We were unable to unleash that potential."

Switzerland, who dropped record goalscorer Alexander Frei, choosing instead to pair Blaise Nkufo with Eren Derdiyok up front, dominated possession in the first half but could not find the net despite creating clear openings.

Gokhan Inler dragged a left-footed strike wide from the edge of the penalty box after 10 minutes in front of a crowd of just over 28,000 in the Free State Stadium.

And minutes later Derdiyok was presented with a clear scoring chance following a pinpoint cross from the right by Tranquillo Barnetta, but headed wide.

At the start of the second half Hitzfeld threw on midfielder Hakan Yakin for Gelson Fernandes.

Honduras came close to breaking the deadlock when David Suazo missed the target after a cross from the right from Edgar Alvarez as the Swiss failed to settle in the early stages of the second period.

Switzerland’s Tranquillo Barnetta forced man-of-the-match Noel Valladares into a save from the edge of the box 15 minutes into the second half with Derdiyok also testing the Honduras goalkeeper but the central American team remained a threat on the break in the helter-skelter encounter.

Midway through the second period, Hitzfeld sent Frei on for Nkufo in a bid to find a way past their opponents, who came into the match rooted at the bottom of Group H after two defeats.

But Honduras continued to threaten as the game became stretched with Alvarez forcing Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio to tip over.

With time ebbing away Frei had a couple of half chances and Stephan Lichtsteiner drove over from the edge of the penalty box as Swiss frustration began to show.

Switzerland, who earlier in the tournament set a World Cup record for the number of minutes without conceding a goal, came into the match with just three goals in their past seven internationals and questions over their ability to score the goals they required.

The Swiss, who reached the last 16 in Germany in 2006 before losing on penalties to Ukraine, were left sprawled on the turf at the final whistle.

Honduras, in only their second World Cup, leave South Africa with no goals.

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