by Adrian Clarke
Republic of Ireland defender Steve Finnan insists his side must go for broke in their vital UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 10 encounter against Switzerland in Basel on Saturday.
Victory for Brian Kerr's side would secure a play-off place - but if Russia then fail to beat Georgia in Moscow, Ireland would qualify automatically for next summer's finals. "As we need to win the game I don't think that we can afford to be negative in our tactics," Liverpool FC full-back Finnan told uefa.com. "We have no choice but to go out there and play good, attacking football.
"But we must not be too cavalier in our approach because we can always win the match in the last minute. It is vital that we get things right tactically - because we only get one shot at winning the game. It would be such a shame if our EURO 2004™ campaign finished now but to be honest, we're not expecting Russia to slip up at home to Georgia. Realistically we have to win and it looks like we may have to settle for second place."
Despite leading Group 10 with 12 points, Switzerland could still be eliminated from the competition if results go against them at the weekend. But a draw will guarantee Köbi Kuhn's side at least a play-off place and, with the squad bolstered by return from injury of captain Jörg Stiel, confidence is high in the Swiss camp - although defender Ludovic Magnin is out with a torn leg muscle and playmaker Hakan Yakin is a slight doubt with a foot injury. Switzerland also have Ricardo Cabanas suspended.
Switzerland are likely to recall Stiel in goal behind a central defensive partnership of Murat Yakin and Patrick Müller, with Stéphane Henchoz dropping to the bench. FC Basel's Benjamin Huggel could make his first start in midfield while Hakan Yakin is expected to recover in time to take his place behind Alexander Frei and Stéphane Chapuisat in attack.
The sprinkling of unavailability troubling Kuhn's squad will not be viewed positively by Finnan, who insists he and his Ireland team-mates will not underestimate the opposition, who defeated Ireland 2-1 in Dublin a year ago thanks to goals from Hakan Yakin and Fabio Celestini. "
Switzerland have an impressive team so it won't be easy," the former Fulham FC player added. "Not many sides come to Lansdowne Road and go away with a win, so we have a lot of respect for them."
Kerr also has some slight injury worries - not least surrounding himself. Ahead of Thursday's flight to Switzerland, Kerr was suffering from flu and his assistant Chris Hughton took the final training session, one sat out by Tottenham Hotspur FC striker Robbie Keane. "Robbie's got a little knock on the back of his knee," Hughton explained. "He didn't train but it was purely a precaution."
Meanwhile in Moscow, Russia's Aleksandr Mostovoi is struggling with a shoulder problem and rates his chances of playing as "50-50", although fellow midfield player Aleksei Smertin is back in training after a fitness scare. Georgia's Rangers FC striker Shota Arveladze will not travel to Moscow because of a knee injury.
Victory will be enough to secure Georgi Yartsev's side top spot unless Switzerland beat Ireland at Saint Jakob Park, a draw will guarantee the Russians a play-off berth whatever happens elsewhere in the group, but defeat will end their EURO 2004™ hopes unless Ireland lose to the Swiss.
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