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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 20:30 GMT

Watch out for Germany

BBC Sport ice hockey commentator Bob Ballard reflects on Germany's impressive start in Salt Lake City.

The six dream teams had better watch out - Germany are on the march.

Not given much of a chance before Group A started, they in turn picked off favourites Slovakia, Austria, and then comprehensively beat Latvia, the only team that could stand in their way.

The most impressive thing of all is that in those three games, they have conceded just three goals.

And in Marc Seliger, they have had the outstanding net-minder of the competition so far - and he's not even first choice for his German club side Nuremburg.

Coach Hans Zach must take great credit for assembling a team that seems to have all the right components.

Aside from the goal-tending, their defence has been smart throughout and have afforded Seliger enormous protection on the rare occasions he has looked ill at ease.

Thomas Soccio and Klaus Kathan have been the pick of their forwards, and in captain Juergen Rumrich, they have an inspirational leader who will notch up 150 caps for his country during the tournament.

How far Germany go however is another question.

But defending champions the Czech Republic, who will be their first opponents in the second round of eight, will not relish playing them.

Most of the Czechs arrive on Thursday, so their practice time will be limited before they get on the ice in earnest.

Canada and Sweden are also in that group, and if anything, the Swedes look the most vulnerable without the presence of Peter Forsberg, who lead them so impressively to gold in 1994.

The other group contains Finland, the US and Belarus, initially the rank outsiders but who have made the last eight for the second successive Games.

Belarus beaten

Switzerland, who have already been eliminated from the Olympics, edged out Belarus 2-1, who are already assured of place in the last eight.

Jean-Jacques Aeschlimann scored the go-ahead goal at 9:11 of the second period.

Patrick Fischer scored Switzerland's first goal, at 16:52 of the opening period.

Vadim Bekbulatov replied for Belarus at 3:42 to draw his team level.

Ukraine beat France 4-2 in the other preliminary match.


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