WORLD CUP : Swiss favourites, but Togo aim to surprise


Switzerland embodies order, discipline and planning. Togo has come to symbolise turmoil. Yet, there are more similarities than one might expect between the two squads, which face each other in a crucial World Cup match in Group G on Monday.

Swiss coach Koebi Kuhn and Togo coach Otto Pfister are longtime friends. Pfister’s wife is Swiss; he has a home in the Swiss city of Zurich; and he knows the Swiss tactical style. Many of the Togolese squad have played or currently play in the Swiss league.

Switzerland, which reached the World Cup after a 12-year absence and held France to a 0-0 draw in its opener, is looking for a victory to ease its way into the second round. “It’s quite rare for us to be seen as the favourite, but the team can deal with it,” Kuhn said.

Togo is fighting for survival after losing 2-1 to South Korea. “For Togo it’s the last chance. We are an outsider, that’s clear, “ Pfister commented. Togo has one advantage compared to its match against South Korea. Its management upheavals, which saw Pfister storm out for three days and return just before the match, have subsided.

Its big disadvantage is that veteran captain Jean-Paul Abalo is serving a one-match suspension for a red card. Defender Ludovic Assemoassa also is out because of an injury.

Swiss defender Ludovic Magnin is expected to be fit after suffering a few bruises and sprains against France, but defender Valon Behrami looks doubtful because of a groin strain. Switzerland’s biggest enemy may well be the heat of the afternoon match. But, as usual, they are prepared. Team doctor Rudolf Roder said he is considering giving the players “cooling vests” even before the game, not just during the break, as he did in the early evening match against France.

Kuhn said he wanted a faster game than against France. “We always aim for that... but the climate may not allow us to give you fireworks for 90 minutes,” he said. — AP

Tunisia v Spain

Stuttgart: Spain appeared to have vented 56 years of World Cup frustration in its impressive victory to open group play. The “Red Fury” now look to continue their dominant ways on Monday and clinch a spot in the round of 16 as they play Tunisia in a Group H match.

Luis Aragones’ team played almost flawless soccer in a 4-0 win over Ukraine on Wednesday. The win and stellar play raised hopes for a soccer nation used to disappointment and underachievement.

“We have to keep going and go into the game against Tunisia in the same way we did against Ukraine, and for sure things will keep going well for us,” said the 22-year-old Torres.

His thoughts echoed Aragones, who is trying to make sure his team keeps

its focus on finishing first

in the group so it can play the runner-up from Group G in the second round.

While Spain was impressive, Tunisia was fortunate to steal a point on Wednesday in its 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia. “It will be difficult (against Spain),” midfielder Mehdi Nafti said on Thursday. “The opposition is of a higher caliber than Saudi Arabia. But first of all we have to take a look at ourselves. It’s up to us to show a different face to the one we showed.” — AP

S Arabia v Ukraine

HAMBURG: It was hard to tell the bigger surprise of the first two matches in Group H at the World Cup: Saudi Arabia getting a point or Ukraine’s complete collapse.

The two teams, in various stages of regrouping, try to enhance their chances of reaching the knockout round on Monday when they play at Hamburg, Germany.

Saudi Arabia settled for its point in a 2-2 draw with Tunisia on Wednesday.

Ukraine, making its World Cup debut, absorbed such an embarrassment in a 4-0 rout administered by group favorite Spain on Wednesday. After being the first European team to qualify for the World Cup, Oleh Blokhin’s squad was severely outplayed and outhustled by the Spaniards.

“I can promise you there won’t be a performance like that again,” Blokhin said. “If anyone repeats a performance like the one I saw against Spain, they will have no place on the national team.

Ukraine’s defense will have at least one new starter with Vladyslav Vashchuk sitting out this match due to a red card he received in the 47th minute against Spain. Ukraine midfielder Oleg Gussov is questionable for this match with an injured left knee. — AFP