The road to South Africa 2010 begins this weekend for Europe. In this preview we focus on Group 2 where Greece, Switzerland and Israel will all be hoping to finish in top spot whilst Latvia, Moldova and Luxembourg will be out to cause a few shocks.
The home side will certainly be hoping to improve on their last World Cup qualifying campaign which saw them finish bottom of their group.
An opening home fixture against
However, they failed to qualify for World Cup 2006, despite being an outside tip, and will be looking to improve on that showing which saw them finish fifth in their group, albeit with only minnows Lichtenstein and
The two countries know each other well, having been drawn in the same group in qualifying for World Cup 2006. However, both games ended in a stalemate, the two sides sharing a 2-2 draw in
Although they have only ever qualified for one World Cup final (Mexico 1970) Israel have made huge strides in recent years and only narrowly missed out on qualification on Euro 2008. Although on paper the two-sides look evenly matched, home advantage may just favour the Israelis.
Having said that, the visitors do enjoy a better head-to-head record. In five meetings between the two countries the Swiss have only lost once, winning twice and drawing the other two games.
The big news from the Swiss point of view is the arrival of Ottmar Hitzfeld as manager to replace Kobi Kuhn who departed following Euro 2008. The Swiss, of course, co-hosted the tournament with neighbours
Philippe Senderos, who joined AC Milan over the summer from Arsenal on a season long loan, will be missing due to a lack of match fitness while Swiss captain Alexander Frei is also out of the
The Israelis slumped to a 2-0 defeat in
A mere four years ago the Greeks were the kings of
Otto Rehhagel’s side failed to make it to the last World Cup and after easily qualifying for Euro 2008, they lost all three group games and went home early after a dismal showing.
A bright start in this competition is therefore essential and they couldn’t really have asked for a more favourable opener.
The Euro 2004 winners have also never lost to
However, one word of warning for the Greeks comes in their failure to qualify for World Cup 2006. The opening fixture of that campaign also looked a relatively simple task, away to
Rehhagel’s side will not need reminding that they cannot afford to make such a costly mistake this time around, especially with the likes of
One criticism that has been levelled at the Greek side is the lack of young players in the team. Whilst the squad has stayed largely the same over the last few years, King Otto has taken the opportunity to call up the 20-year-old
Although they have never qualified for the finals of a major tournament, they did stun
*Goal.com would like to apologise for any confusion over the snippet of information we published over phantom prodigy Masal Bugduv, who is apparently as elusive as a home win at Stamford Bridge recently. We received information from a fake Associated Press report, and we are sorry to pass this on. Still, unlike some publications we did not even begin to imply that we had watched him play - merely that he was in a provisional squad list and was attracting attention, as per the (forged) AP report. But nonetheless: to our loyal fans, our visitors, and especially that brave little tyke Masal Bugduv himself: sorry, folks.