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First round defeat for Swiss

Swiss Bjoern Christen taken out by Czech Martin Prochazka (left) during their clash in Sweden

(Keystone)

The Swiss ice hockey team has kicked off its campaign at the world championships in Sweden with a resounding defeat.

Switzerland was solidly outclassed by the Czech Republic - who are the reigning championship titleholders and 1998 Olympic winners - 5 goals to nil.

Hopes of a strong start at the championships in Sweden were dashed in the seventh minute when Frantisek Kaberle pushed home the opening goal past a disorganised Swiss defense.

Three more Czech goals followed in the second period, leaving Switzerland with little hope.

A fifth goal in the final period against Switzerland dissolved any hopes of a late consolation goal.

In need of a win

The result, while not unexpected, is likely to confirm Swiss doomsayers. The team is hoping to use the championships to recover some national pride after its poor showing at the Winter Olympics in February.

Switzerland finished its Olympic campaign 11th.

But critics say the team has too many young players and is missing some of the country's best talent.

Swiss coach Ralph Krueger has all but replaced the Olympic team, dropping no less than nine of his Salt Lake City players for the Swedish event.

Three of those players are missing because of activities off the ice with Marcel Jenni and Reto von Arx still being punished for an all-night drinking spree during the Winter Games. Von Arx's club colleague Michel Riesen has subsequently withdrawn from the national side in a show of solidarity for his Davos teammate.

"I'm not disappointed (by their absence) at all," insists Krueger. "I don't want anyone in my team who doesn't want to be there and I haven't shed one tear for anyone who's not coming with us.

"It's a difficult situation playing for the national team at the end of a long season and we really need players who are motivated," Krueger adds. "We may not be as talented as we could be, but we have as much heart as it's possible to have and, in the end, that's the most important thing."

Motivation not enough

Switzerland's Canadian-born coach has a strong reputation for such positive thinking and has built up a successful second career in his adopted homeland, organising motivational business seminars.

His motivational talents, however, had little impact on the side's attempts to beat the Czechs. Switzerland had very few genuine scoring chances and those that presented themselves were missed.

The opening-round defeat, however, does not leave Switzerland high and dry at the worlds. Their chances of progressing to the intermediate round remain strong, since three of the four teams go through from each preliminary group. The Swiss should be able to do better than Japan, who they play in their third match on Monday.

Their next game is against Germany.

swissinfo with agencies


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