Latvia could take a giant step towards qualifying for their first-ever FIFA World Cup™ finals when they take on Switzerland tomorrow.
Only three points separate the table-topping Swiss from Greece and Latvia in Group 2 ahead of the clash in Riga. Latvia put themselves firmly in contention, not only for a play-off place but to win the group, when they beat Israel on Saturday. And another victory tomorrow would but them level on points with the leaders.
While Aleksandrs Starkovs' men have impressively picked off minnows such as Luxembourg and Moldova in their campaign, they have struggled against the groups bigger names, having not taken a point off either Switzerland or Greece.
Now Starkovs is hoping they can repeat their Israel performance against Switzerland and emulate their greatest ever achievement, when they qualified for the UEFA European Championship six years ago courtesy of a victory over group winners Sweden. "Then we played against the group leaders and that brought us the second place," he said. "We've experienced this - why shouldn't we be able to repeat it?"
Switzerland could be all but home and dry had they not slipped to an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Luxembourg earlier in the campaign. Nevertheless, coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has since led his side to five consecutive victories - including a 2-0 win against Greece on Saturday - is confident. "I'm very motivated, and I'm convinced we'll succeed in qualifying for the World Cup in South Africa," he told FIFA.com.
Greece get an immediate chance to bounce back from their defeat against Switzerland when they travel to Moldova. The match will also give Otto Rehhagel another chance to claim his 50th win as coach of the Greeks.
His side looked set for at least a point at the weekend until late goals from Stephane Grichting and Marko Padalino won it for the Swiss. Defender Loukas Vintra, who was sent off in that match, will miss out this time.
The group's other game sees Israel welcome Luxembourg to Ramat Gan. Israel are four points adrift of Greece and Latvia after their defeat at the weekend and seem destined to miss out on a trip to South Africa.