Swiss test looming for Greece

Greece’s fourth game in the World Cup qualifying group tonight is its toughest to date, as it is facing Switzerland at the Karaiskaki Stadium in Neo Faliron (9.30 p.m., on Mega). The national soccer team has the maximum points from three games and hopes to add another win that will open an eight-point gap from the Swiss, one of its rivals for a ticket to the 2010 World Cup finals. Greece coach Otto Rehhagel urged caution for the game with «wounded» Switzerland and called on fans to fill the stands of the Karaiskaki Stadium. «Switzerland will appear like a wounded tiger, so our concentration must be high. I expect them to come here to win. They have many good players who play abroad and an experienced coach. We have to be ready and focused for all 90 minutes of the game,» said Rehhagel during a press conference on Monday. «After an hour of good soccer against Moldova, we scored three goals, but one hour will not be enough on Wednesday against Switzerland, which is our main opponent in World Cup qualifying play,» added the German, stressing that a win over Switzerland would not guarantee qualification. On the status of Giourkas Seitaridis and Giorgos Karagounis, who are injured, Rehhagel said: «It’s good we have no new injuries. We still have to see what happens with Seitaridis and I hope he plays. On Karagounis, we will watch him over the two training sessions before the match and decide whether we will have him with us. He has spent a long time out of action and we will see what state he is in.» Karagounis trained with the rest of the team in both sessions and is likely to play tonight. Asked to send a message to fans, Rehhagel said: «Dear sports fans, if you want Greece to qualify, you should come and support us against Switzerland on Wednesday. This is like theater. We want the people’s support.» «We have to excuse fans for not coming to the game with Moldova. There are three big clubs in Greece. Panathinaikos will play with Werder Bremen in the Champions League and many people will go to that game. Another thing is the expensive tickets, which makes it hard for people,» said Greece’s coach. «Greece has got experienced players, a tough defense and a coach whom we in Germany call a canny fox,» said Switzerland coach Ottmar Hitzfeld during a press conference yesterday. «Never in my career have I spoken of losing before games. I field my team trying to get as good a result as possible and we always play to win. My philosophy is to always respect the opponent and, depending on the conditions in the game, to get as much as I can. In each match, I feel pressure because I want it, and the same goes for Wednesday too,» said the German coach. The Swiss team will be deprived of one of their central defenders, Johan Djourou. This means that Hitzfeld is likely to field a pair of central defenders who have not played together before for Switzerland on a senior level, Stephane Grichting and Mario Eggimann. The match with Switzerland is the last competitive game for Greece until March 28, 2009, when it faces Israel. The Danish federation announced yesterday that Denmark will face Greece in a friendly on February 11 in Athens.

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