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Swiss beat Moldovans in World Cup qualifier

(Keystone)

The Swiss national football team beat Moldova 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying match on Saturday in the Moldovan capital, Chisinau.

The match was important for Switzerland, who needed the three points from the victory to keep alive their chances of qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa next year.

The underdogs Moldova started strong but the Swiss players slowly found their rhythm and enjoyed a few excellent scoring opportunities.

Benjamin Huggel's sharp header was deflected away by the Moldovan keeper Stanislav Namasco, while Blaise Nkufo chipped a pass from close range just over the bar.

Nkufo, who proved to be dangerous throughout the match, raced down the left side and found Alex Frei alone at top of penalty area in the 32nd minute.

The striker wasted no time in burying the ball confidently in the low corner to the right of Namasco.

In the 49th minute, Moldova showed it was going to keep up the fight when Swiss midfielder Gökhan Inler was forced to take down a surging Denis Kalinkov just outside the penalty area.

No equaliser

The resulting free kick was stopped by the wall, but Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio had to be quick to get his hands on the follow up shot.

The Swiss pressed at the other end of the pitch, and Nkufo's bad luck continued, heading the ball just inches wide of the net and stumbling on another occasion while in scoring range.

Tranquillo Barnetta decisively pushed the ball into shooting position from the left side in the 73rd minute and his attempt on goal was blocked by Namasco. Frei missed getting his foot on the rebound by a hair.

Moldova fought bravely for the equaliser in the dying minutes of the match, and nearly succeeded with good chances off of a series of corners.

But it was Switzerland's Gelson Fernandez with a header who took advantage of a corner in the last seconds of extra time to put the ball in the net.

Top of group

Switzerland now have ten points on three wins, one draw and one loss to pull even at the top of the group with Greece, who managed a 1-1 draw with Israel on Saturday. Israel now find themselves in third place.

In other action on Saturday, Latvia hammered Luxembourg 4-0, to pull into fourth position - two points ahead of the losing side.

Moldova, with only one draw in its first five matches, stay at the bottom.

A member of football's world governing body, Fifa, since 1994, Moldova first competed in the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup in France, without much success.

In eight games they suffered eight defeats and only managed two goals.

They enjoyed slightly greater success four years later, overcoming Azerbaijan and notching up three draws. They continued their improvement when they beat Austria and Belarus but ultimately fell short of qualifying for the European championships in 2004.

They finished bottom of their pool in the European preliminaries for the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

swissinfo with agencies

Switzerland's 2009 matches

March 28: Moldova - Switzerland (0-2)

April 1: Switzerland - Moldova

September 5: Switzerland - Greece

September 9: Latvia - Switzerland

October 10: Luxembourg - Switzerland

October 14: Switzerland - Israel

end of infobox


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