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Ice hockey team notch up opening win

Switzerland celebrate a goal against Latvia

Switzerland's national ice hockey team opened their account at the world championship in Russia with a 2-1 win against Latvia in the preliminary round.

This content was published on April 28, 2007 - 16:41

After a goalless first third, the Swiss fell behind to a strike from Latvia's Lauris Darzins but came through thanks to Adrian Wichser and Sandy Jeannin scores.

Latvian Darzins squeezed his shot through a ruck of defenders to put the Swiss on the back foot. But Wichser sent the puck into the roof of the net after cutting in from the right and Jeannin sealed the three points thanks to a mistake from the Latvian keeper.

The win sets Switzerland up nicely for their bid to reach through to at least the quarter-final stage.

They next take on Italy in Group A on April 30 and then play Sweden on May 2. Barring a catastrophe (defeat against Italy) they will come up against Russia, Finland and either Ukraine or Denmark in the qualification round.

The team was handicapped by the absence of several key forwards, notably "enfants terribles" Reto von Arx and Michel Riesen from Davos who have fallen out with coach Ralph Krueger.

Patrick Fischer is recovering from a bad injury but other players, such as SC Bern's Marco Bührer and Patrick Bärtschi, have more questionable motives for not going to Moscow.

Trainer unfazed

Martin Plüss (Frölunda, Sweden), Marcel Jenni (Kloten) and Thomas Ziegler (Bern) simply said that they have personal reasons for not attending the tournament.

It takes more than that to upset Krueger. "I'm not going to talk about those who are not here. I'm dealing with those who are here," he said.

The Canadian-German, who has been the head of the national side for ten years, is a trainer to be reckoned with.

He knows that the team have to make their presence felt against other teams on the Russian ice, despite the lack of attacking punch.

Krueger is also well aware that there's a fine line between success and failure.

"I think that as a whole, Switzerland have done not badly in recent years," he said.

The event takes place a year after the Swiss shone at the Turin Olympic Games achieving sixth place, with notable successes against Canada and the Czech Republic.

swissinfo, Jonathan Hirsch and agencies

In brief

The ice hockey world championship is taking place from April 27 to May 7 in Moscow. Sixteen teams are taking part. They are divided into groups of four.

For the first time, each match will end with a winner. If at the end of the game, the two teams are level, a maximum of five extra minutes will be played, with one goal being the decider. If no goal is scored, there is a penalty shoot-out.

The winner of a game scores three points. The winner of a match that ends level after 60 minutes is awarded two points and the loser one.

The first three teams of each group in the preliminary round go through to the qualification round. There they then play in two groups of six teams. The top four of each group then go forward to the quarter-finals.

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