Switzerland and Croatia played out a dull, scrappy 0-0 draw in their opening Group B match in Leiria.

In a drab encounter, neither side did enough to suggest that they will pose much of a threat to the group favourites France and England.

The first-half was littered with fouls and free-kicks and neither side was able to develop any attacking momentum, so regularly was the action punctuated by the referee’s whistle.

Chances were few and far between but those that there were fell mostly to Croatia and but for some wasteful finishing Otto Baric’s team could and should have been ahead at the interval.

With the midfield congested and with Switzerland in particular lacking the width to really penetrate their opponents defence, the best opportunities stemmed from set-pieces.

Croatia could have gone ahead on 36 minutes when a deep corner found Niko Kovac unmarked but with the keeper out of position, the midfielder headed over.

An interesting sub-plot in what was a scrappy first period involved Mornar and Spycher who spent most of the half fouling each other. Indeed it was from one of their skirmishes that the best chance of the half came.

Mornar was once again brought down by the Swiss left-back and from the resulting free-kick, Croatia sprang the offside trap to leave Simic unmarked 10 yards out. His header was parried away by Stiel but the rebound fell invitingly for Olic who headed over from close range when it looked easier to score.

Switzerland offered little as an attacking force and with Hakan Yakin, their principal creative force, a peripheral figure, the game looked Croatia’s for the taking.

Baric introduced Rapaic for Olic at half-time and in keeping with the tone of the match, his first contribution was to earn a booking for a needless handball. A more significant caution occurred on 50 minutes when Voggel was sent off for a second bookable offence for foolishly kicking the ball away after the referee’s whistle had blown for a free-kick.

If the crowd thought this might open the match up, they were to be sorely disappointed as Croatia, bereft of attacking ideas, failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage.

Indeed as the game progressed, it was Switzerland who looked the team most likely to break the deadlock. Huggel brought a save from bbbb and Yakin saw his goal bound shot blocked.

With time running out Croatia’s attacks became increasingly fitful and Switzerland looked comfortable holding on for the point.

Only time will tell whether this result will have a bearing on the outcome of the group, but on this evidence, neither France nor England have anything to fear.

Group B
Switzerland 0-0 Croatia

Red card: Johann Voggel 50 (Switzerland)
Halftime: 0-0
Attendance: 24,090

Switzerland (4-3-1-2): 1-Joerg Stiel; 2-Bernt Haas, 20-Patrick Mueller, 5-Murat Yakin, 17-Christoph Spycher; 8-Raphael Wicky (4-Stephane Henchoz 83), 6-Johann Vogel, 18-Benjamin Huggel; 10-Hakan Yakin (15-Daniel Gygax 87); 11-Stephane Chapuisat (16-Fabio Celestini 55), 9-Alexander Frei.

Croatia (4-4-2): 12-Tomislav Butina; 13-Dario Simic (8-Darijo Srna 61), 21-Robert Kovac, 3-Josip Simunic, 6-Boris Zivkovic; 19-Ivica Mornar, 10-Niko Kovac, 22-Nenad Bjelica (20-Giovanni Rosso 74), 18-Ivica Olic (7-Milan Rapaic 46); 9-Dado Prso, 11-Tomislav Sokota.

Referee: Lucillo Batista (Portugal)