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Swiss team skating on thin ice

Swiss coach Ralph Krueger says his team faces an uphill battle to reach the quarter-finals of the world championships Keystone Archive

Switzerland ice hockey coach Ralph Krueger has told swissinfo his team are going to have to "scrap, bite and claw" their way through the second round of the world championships if they're to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

This content was published on May 3, 2001 - 11:52

The national trainer was full of praise for his players' battling performance during Tuesday's 3-1 defeat to reigning champions the Czech Republic, but he admitted that Switzerland now face an almighty challenge, going into the second round without a single point.

"Our preliminary group was difficult - the most difficult, even, given the way Germany are playing," Krueger insisted. "The defeat against Germany is a nightmare if you spend too much time thinking about it. Now we've got to fight, but there's a lot of grit in this team."

Already trailing Germany and the Czech Republic by three points, Switzerland will have to be at their most gritty in their next two matches against Canada and Russia.

"We need to steal two, maybe three points from those games," Krueger calculated, knowing that his team should have little difficulty in winning their final second round match against surprise qualifiers Italy.

"Even with just four points I think we can make it. We've had a bad break with our first round - now we've got to make things work in the second."

Tuesday's performance against the Czech Republic should certainly help inspire the next stage of the campaign, with the scoreline in Nuremburg far from a fair reflection of the closeness of the match.

At the halfway stage, the Swiss team were level at 1-1 with the Olympic gold medallists, and had two good chances to surge ahead in an impressive second period. First Flavien Conne struck the Czech goalframe, then Thomas Ziegler had a goal disallowed after it was judged that Alain Demuth had prematurely entered the opponent's goal crease.

The Czechs came out clearly the strongest in the final period, though, taking the lead just five minutes after the restart. But it wasn't until the dying seconds of the match that they made certain of victory, Robert Reichel firing into an empty Swiss goal as Krueger threw everyone forward in search of that elusive point.

Preparations for the second round begin in earnest on Thursday with the Swiss coach having given his players a day off on Wednesday. On the one hand that reflects the confidence Krueger has in his team. On the other it's almost certainly a reminder that even greater exertions could still be required.

by Mark Ledsom, Nuremburg

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