April 26, 2000
Hamburg, April 25: Twelve of the 16 teams taking part in the Euro 2000 football tournament go into action tomorrow in a series of friendlies giving them a last chance to reshuffle and fine-tune.
With controversial pair Nicolas Anelka of Real Madrid and Bordeaux’s Sylvain Wiltord both out – Anelka because of his stop- start time in Spain and Wiltord because of an impending transfer – Henry and Trezeguet can seize their chance.
Coach Roger Lemerre’s side will be eager to show they are more than just a solid defensive unit plus Zinedine Zidane, who is back after being rested for last month’s win in Scotland.
Dark horses Slovenia will be looking to their star playmaker Zlatko Zahovic, who has been suspended by his club Olympiakos Pireaus for swearing at (now former) coach Alberto Bigon.
The man who has scored in every second match for his country to help them into their first major tournament final will probably be joined by uncapped midfielder Rajko Tavkar of cgerman second division side Fortuna Cologne.
The classic Scandinavian clash in Copenhagen will see Sweden without their Arsenal midfielder Fredrik Ljungberg, who suffered a rib injury in their UEFA cup semi-final against Lens.
The visitors are expected to include Marcus Allbaeck, who has been showing peak form. The Oergryte is striker is one of just six home- based players in an always dangerous squad including as Bari’s striker Yksel Osmanovski.
The Danish squad may well be without their own Italian league star Martin Joergensen, with the Udinese midfielder doubtful. Coach Bo Johansson is also threatening to exclude SV Hamburg’s Thomas Gravesen because the hot-headed midfielder’s is seen as a red card risk.
Italy go into their match against Portugal in the southern Port of Reggio Calabria on a continental low – for the first time in 13 years there are no serie a clubs in any European cup semi-finals.
The National side has also been performing poorly, losing to Spain 2-0 last month, and coach Dino Zoff has yet to stamp his personality on a side weakened by injury to Juventus star Alex Del Piero and Parma midfielder Diego Fuser.
With Christian Vieri and key defender Paulo Maldini also out injured, the Inzaghi Brothers (Juve’s Filippo and Lazio’s Simone) will again be battling with Roma’s Francesco Totti and Marco Delvecchio for striker roles.
Portugal have recalled midfielders Paulo Sousa and Paulo Bento in what are likely to be the only changes by coach Humberto Coelho to the side that beat Denmark last month.
In oslo, Norwegian coach Nils Johan semb will be fielding recalled Valencia-bound Rosenborg striker John Carew as he assesses his impressive strength up front.
The much-fancied side which beat Brazil during the 1998 world cup already boasts Manu’s Ole Gunnar Solkjaer, Chelsea’s Tore Andre Flo and Tottenham’s Steffen Iversen from the english premiership.
They will be facing a Belgian squad with recalled Eindhoven striker Luc Nilis – apparently reconciled with the National side after distancing himself following the early world cup exit in 1998.
And what of the German defending champions, once so feared, but now dismissed as being `at rock bottom’ by no less a person that living legend Franz Beckenbauer?
They take on an always demanding Swiss side in a centenary encounter in Kaisers Lautern, their defence marshalled by a now 39- year-old Lothar Matthaeus playing his 146th international.
Regular keeper Oliver Kahn is being rested, replaced by Jenslehmann, whose jitters allowed the 1-0 winner for Kahn’s Bayern Munich side against Dortmund over the weekend.
Captain Oliver Bierhoff is going through a crisis – 843 minutes with scoring for his club AC Milan – while key midfielder Jens Jeremies has been suspended for Wednesday’s match by coach Erich Ribbeck for outspoken criticism of the ”miserable” mood in the squad.
The Czech Republic – who qualified with maximum points for Euro 2000 to find themselve in the toughest group along with the Dutch, France and Denmark – will see Israel as cannon fodder in Prague.
Coach Jozsef Chovanec is omitting Liverpool midfielder Patrik Berger from a side which will have to do without his services for the first two Euro 2000 matches because of his red card against the Faroe Isles in the last qualification match.
Also out through injury is Berger’s Liverpool team-mate Vladimir Smicir, leaving the door open for Sparta Prague prodigy Thomas Roaicky. Veteran striker Pavel Kuka should also return.
Further cannon fodder must surely be Cyprus as they face the might of Romania, who recall Valencia striker Adrian Lilie and Galatasaray defender Gheorghe Popescu to restore pride after last month’s 2-0 defeat to Greece.
Against Scotland in Arnhem, Dutch coach Frank Rijkaard will have Arsenal’s Dennis Bergkamp, Barcelona’s Boudewijn Zenden and Atletico Madrid’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink back on board after recent injuries.
The side that must be seen as Euro 2000 favourites includes a star-studded line-up of Frank De Boer, Michael Reizinger, Winston Bogarde, Philip Cocu and Patrick Kluivert and Zenden – all of Barcelona – plus manu defence Bastion Jaap Stam and Juventus keeper Edwin Van Der Sar.
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