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Latvia no soft option for the Swiss

Switzerland's hopes of a place in the ice hockey world championship quarterfinals remain very much alive, after they turned out a solid performance against Sweden on Saturday. They face Latvia in a crucial tie this afternoon.

Goaltender Reto Pavoni posted an outstanding 34-save performance, and the side came close to beating the Scandinavians for the first time at the championship since 1993. Only a late goal from Sweden's Kristian Hevelius, in reply to Switzerland's Thomas Ziegler, prevented the Swiss taking the honours.

The ice hockey world championship in St Petersburg has seen many surprises, few greater than the advance up the ranks of Latvia, unfancied by many in the lead-up to the competition. However, the Baltic nation's squad, all of whom have honed their skills outside of their home country, have taken big scalps.

Latvia's goaltender, Arturs Irbe, has been turning out similarly heroic performances to Pavoni. Hard on the heels of Saturday's 3-2 defeat of previously rated Russia, he saved 36 shots in Sunday's game against the USA, which ended 1-1.

Switzerland and Latvia meet at the Ice Palace in the first Group E game on Monday. The Latvians, for whom this game is the last in the round, stand at 5 points, and are third in the table.

The Swiss, with 4 points, standing in fourth place, have a game in hand. They face Belarus at the Ice Palace on Tuesday. In the other Group E game, Sweden meet the USA at the Yubileiny.

To be certain of a place in the quarterfinals, the Swiss need to be sure they don't drop below fourth place. However, with a disappointing Russian side licking its wounds on zero points at the foot of Group E, and with fifth-placed Belarus outscored in almost all their games, Switzerland's hopes look very much alive.

swissinfo with agencies


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