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Swiss close in on World Cup with football win

(Keystone)

Switzerland moved one step closer to securing a spot in the World Cup tournament with a solid 3-0 win over Luxembourg on Saturday.

The victory helps the Swiss lay the ghost of a humiliating 1-2 defeat to the even smaller nation last year and further bolsters their position as point-leaders in their World Cup qualifying group.

The Swiss had hoped to earn a slot for the 2010 tournament as early as a few hours after the win before 5,000 Swiss fans in Luxembourg.

If Greece and Latvia had tied in their match later on Saturday, the Swiss would have had enough points to advance as Group 2 winners to the final rounds in South Africa. Instead, Greece won 5-2.

Switzerland will now qualify automatically for the World Cup unless they lose to Israel on Wednesday and Greece beat Luxembourg. Even if they come second in the group, they will have a chance via play-offs.

Attack

From the first second the Swiss seemed determined to seek revenge for last year's embarrassing loss.

Put out the fires immediately and attack: That was more or less the advice of Switzerland's coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, but one player took the order particularly to heart.

Geneva-born Philippe Senderos, who plays with London-based Arsenal, gave the group leaders a solid confidence boost by heading the ball past Luxembourg's keeper twice early on to give Switzerland a 2-0 lead.

Both goals came from standard plays. First, Alex Frei crossed the ball from the right. For the second, it was Tranquillo Barnetta who set up the play from the left.

A fine exception

The quick start led the Swiss to a few moments of missed opportunities with poor passes that should not have happened.

But Benjamin Huggel put the Swiss further ahead with another header 22 minutes into the game to make it 3-0.

Hitzfeld celebrated after the game, saying "mission accomplished". But he tempered the victory with a cautious look forward toward Switzerland's match against Israel in Basel on Wednesday, the last of the World Cup qualifying matches.

"We still haven't qualified," he said. "We still have an extremely complicated match to contend with. Israel are far stronger in attack than Luxembourg."

swissinfo.ch and agencies

Saturday World Cup matches

Group 1
Denmark vs. Sweden
Portugal vs. Hungary

Group 2
Greece 5, Latvia 2
Israel vs. Moldova
Luxembourg 0, Switzerland 3

Group 3
Czech Republic vs. Poland
Slovakia vs. Slovenia

Group 4
Finland 2, Wales 1
Liechtenstein vs. Azerbaijan
Russia 0, Germany 1

Group 5
Armenia 1, Spain 2
Belgium vs. Turkey
Estonia 0, Bosnia-Herzegovina 2

Group 6
Belarus 4, Kazakhstan 0
Ukraine 1, England 0

Group 7
Austria vs. Lithuania
France vs. Faeroe Islands
Serbia vs. Romania

Group 8
Cyprus vs. Bulgaria
Ireland vs. Italy
Montenegro vs. Georgia

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