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Switzerland "back in the running"

Swiss players rejoice at their victory over Greece

(Keystone)

After Switzerland's disastrous start to the 2010 football World Cup qualifying round, their victory over Greece on Wednesday has raised hopes again.

"Liberation" is the word used by several of the Swiss newspapers to describe Switzerland's unexpected victory. Others speak of "rehabilitation".

The German-language Tages-Anzeiger quotes Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld as saying the team "swam free" in Piraeus harbour.

"What a victory! Luxembourg was far away," says Blick, referring to the lowest point in the team's fortunes, when it was beaten by tiny Luxembourg last month.

It's a measure of just how heavily the defeat by Luxembourg still weighs. At that point Switzerland had just one point, and lay second to bottom of its group.

Its success in Athens has now put it firmly in third place. Greece still head the table, followed by Israel. But there is only one point between each of the top three teams.

Euphoria

Some of the papers are positively euphoric. "Thanks to this 2:1 victory over Greece no-one can write us off any more – and we may come out top of the group!" declares the German-language tabloid Blick.

Greece had not lost any of its qualifying matches before Wednesday, nor ceded a single goal.

But even if Blick refers to the opponents as "fiery Hellenes," in general the papers are not impressed by the Greeks. The French-language Le Temps says they didn't show "much genius", the German-language Der Bund describes them as a "no-risk" team.

Although some of the papers are a little lukewarm about the way the match unfolded, the determination of the Swiss team comes in for much praise.

"To go on improving after such a lousy start to the World Cup qualifying round shows real strength of character," Blick says. The Tages-Anzeiger writes warmly of their "readiness to develop their skills at last".

"The team got through the test of nerves," says the Basler Zeitung.

Inspiration

Hitzfeld is for many the hero of the hour. The Tages-Anzeiger says he is always "at his strongest when the pressure is greatest". It says the team had learned a lot in the past five weeks, and taken his lessons on board.

Striker Blaise Nkufo, who scored the decisive second goal – as he did against Latvia on Saturday – has now scored four times in four matches. The Tages-Anzeiger thinks this also has to do with the coach.

"[Nkufo] has a relationship of trust with Ottmar Hitzfeld, and nothing is more important for this most sensitive of all the players in the national team," it says.

The papers appear confident that the worst is over. Several quote Hitzfeld's remark that Switzerland is "back in the running".

As the French-language Tribune de Genève puts it: "Switzerland will not have to spend the winter agonizing".

The next match is against minnow Moldova, which has so far won just point. It is scheduled for March 28 next year.

The return match against Greece, this time to be played at home, will be on September 5.

swissinfo, Julia Slater

QUALIFYING GROUP TWO

(after 4 games)

1. Greece 9 points

2. Israel 8

3. Switzerland 7

4. Latvia 4

5. Luxembourg 4

6. Moldova 1

end of infobox

SWITZERLAND'S 2009 MATCHES

March 28: Moldova - Switzerland

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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