Friendly bouts for heavyweights

Thirty of the 32 teams in the June 9-July 9 World Cup finals have friendlies scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.
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Published on Feb 27, 2006 12:27 PM IST
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None | ByAssociated Press, London

With just over three months to the start of the World Cup, time is precious for players still trying to earn their trip to Germany.

Thirty of the 32 teams in the June 9-July 9 World Cup finals have friendlies scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Only Togo and Australia are idle.

Most of the action takes place in Europe on Wednesday — 100 days before the World Cup starts.

Brazil visit Russia; Argentina play Croatia in Basel, Switzerland; England hosts Uruguay and Italy hosts World Cup hosts Germany. France hosts Slovakia; Spain play Ivory Coast in Valladolid; the Dutch are against Ecuador in Amsterdam and the United States get to test Kaiserslautern as a World Cup venue when they play Poland.

On Tuesday, World Cup newcomer Trinidad and Tobago play Iceland in London and Japan play Bosnia-Herzegovina in Dortmund, Germany.

Brazil are using the Russia friendly as their final game before announcing the World Cup squad. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira is without four players who are likely to be in the final roster — defenders Cafu and Roque Junior and goalkeepers Dida and Julio Cesar, all who are injured.

The rest of the team — led by two-time player of the year Ronaldinho — will be a reflection of the lineup Parreira plans to start in Germany as Brazil attempt to win a record sixth World Cup title.

"It's not time for experiments," Parreira said. Brazil's last pre-World Cup game is against New Zealand in June 4 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Spain expect a strong test against African Cup of Nations runner-up Ivory Coast.

"In terms of individual ability, it's the best African team," said Aragones, who believes Chelsea's Didier Drogba and Arsenal's Kolo Toure are the most dangerous players.

Aragones is expected to give Cesc Fabregas and Marcos Senna their Spain debuts.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson chose several fringe players for his squad to face Uruguay at Liverpool's Anfield stadium, missing eight regulars with injuries.

Eriksson has named rookie striker Darren Bent and given Wes Brown, Kieran Richardson and Luke Young the chance to impress.

"Everything depends on how many injuries we have," Eriksson said. "The door is open to everyone but if everyone is fit then I'm quite sure of 19 or 20 at least."

Eriksson, who will step down after the World Cup, wants a successor chosen before the tournament starts.

"We must have a manager before the World Cup starts. If we wait until after, that's too late," Eriksson said.

Germany faces Italy without experienced defender Christian Woerns, whom coach Juergen Klinsmann said last week would not be part of his World Cup squad after the player criticized him. Captain Michael Ballack said the decision surprised him. "Christian was an important component of the national team," he said.

However, Klinsmann is believed to prefer younger defenders with attacking skills.

Timo Hildebrand or Jens Lehmann are expected to play in goal in place of Oliver Kahn, who has pulled out with a bruised thigh. Germany also play the United States in Dortmund on March 22.

Italy coach Marcello Lippi named newcomer Manuel Pasqual and welcomed back striker Christian Vieri. Pasqual, a 23-year-old Fiorentina defender, is replacing injured Juventus regular Gianluca Zambrotta while Vieri, now playing with Monaco, is rejoining the Azzurri after eight months.

Lippi also recalled AS Roma midfielder Simone Perrotta and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, fully recovered from a shoulder injury which sidelined him for months.

Real Madrid midfielder Antonio Cassano was left off the roster. France coach Raymond Domenech called up in-form Lyon defender Francois Clerc for the first time for the Slovakia match. Domenech also recalled AS Roma defender Philippe Mexes after a two-year absence and retained Fenerbahce striker Nicolas Anelka.
Dutch coach Marco van Basten also picked a rookie in his squad to play Ecuador. Feyenoord midfielder Nicky Hofs was picked, while Rafael van der Vaart, Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Andre Ooijer all were left off the roster to recover from injuries.

Countries must select their final 23-man squad by May 26.

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