Nat'l team wraps up World Cup campaign tonight

National team wraps up W

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October 14, 2009 00:43
3 minute read.

 
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Baring any miracles, Israel's frustrating 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign will finally come to an end on Wednesday night. Israel faces Switzerland in Basel, and will be playing for pride just as much as points. The national team will need to win and for Greece to fail to defeat lowly Luxembourg in Athens to move into second position in Group 2 and qualify for the playoffs. Any other combination of results will officially postpone the dream of playing in a first World Cup since 1970 for another four years. Morale is understandably low in the Israel squad and even coach Dror Kashtan, who in all likelihood will be guiding the team in an official match for the last time on Wednesday, has lost virtually all hope. "We are aware of the importance of this match for Switzerland. But we are coming to play our soccer and we want to win because we are professionals and need ranking points ahead of the Euro 2012 qualifying draw," Kashtan said. "Switzerland needs just one point to book its place in South Africa and we are expecting a tough match." Switzerland hopes to ride the return of defender Philippe Senderos all the way to the World Cup. Out of favor at Arsenal, the 24-year-old Senderos headed in two goals in Saturday's 3-0 win over Luxembourg despite only playing because first choice center back Stephane Grichting was suspended. His reward from Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld is a place aside the restored Grichting against the Israelis at a sold-out St. Jakob Park, with Steve von Bergen relegated to the bench. "One shouldn't hold back a player who has had success," Hitzfeld said Tuesday. "The quality of his heading is an attacking weapon which can be decisive again." Hitzfeld had his own temporary loss of faith in Senderos, whom he dropped after a shaky display against Italy in a scoreless friendly match in August. But the coach said Senderos has "recovered well." "He doesn't play for his club but I'm not forgetting that he has a real winning attitude," Hitzfeld said. The former Bayern Munich coach will give goalkeeper Diego Benaglio every chance to recover from stomach flu and maintain a 100 percent appearance record in the 10-match qualifying campaign. Marco Woelfli stands by as a replacement. Switzerland captain Alex Frei and midfielder Benjamin Huggel, who also scored Saturday, caught the same bug but the FC Basel teammates both trained Tuesday and should start. Frei said the Swiss would not sit back and play for a draw. "We always want to make a difference and not simply wait," said Switzerland's record scorer with 40 goals in 71 international appearances. Switzerland will play in its fourth straight major tournament final with a repeat of the 2-2 draw it got in Tel Aviv to begin qualifying in September 2008. Israel leveled in injury time on a goal from Ben Sahar that night, but its campaign went from bad to worse after that, leaving Greece with the seemingly straightforward task of beating Luxembourg to reach the playoffs. Greece coach Otto Rehhagel has lost forward Georgios Samaras and defender Giourkas Seitaridis through suspension. However, defenders Sotiris Kyrgiakos and Avraam Papadopoulos are available to help shore up a defense that was unconvincing during last Saturday's 5-2 victory over Latvia, when forward Fanis Gekas scored four times. "Luxembourg is good in counterattacking," Rehhagel said. "It plays a 9-1 system, with nine defenders, and we must be careful not to fall into their trap. We must play cleverly." Luxembourg already has pulled off one shock in the group - a 2-1 win in Switzerland last year. However, no one in the Israeli camp is expecting any favors on Wednesday, and striker Roberto Colautti, who is hoping to start alongside Elyaniv Barda in Basel, is happy to settle for a point in Switzerland. "There were high expectations from us at the start of the campaign, but we disappointed and failed to qualify," the Argentinian-born scorer said. "We are facing a strong team, but we must play for our pride and end the campaign in the best way possible." AP contributed to this report.

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