Briefs on Group B finalists for Euro 2000, to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium between June 10 and July 2.
ITALY NOT IN THE EXPECTED SHAPE
Italy's first choice goalkeeper Gianluca Buffon will miss the European Championships after breaking his hand in Saturday's 1-0 friendly defeat in Norway, which makes the team who started qualifying in top gear in a doubting level, specially when they limped with a 3-2 home defeat by Denmark and a 0-0 draw in Belarus.
Besides, an injury to the world's most expensive player Inter Milan's Christian Vieri means the $50-m man will be counted out.
That brought the knives out for Zoff, who found out that the national hero status he earned as a 1982 World Cup-winner - he also won Euro 68 as a player - counts for nothing when you are in charge of the Azzurri.
TURKEY HOLDS A SECOND DREAM LIKE UEAF
Turkish soccer has never been in better shape with the country still basking in Galatasaray's UEFA Cup victory, the first ever for a Turkish team at European level - no less than nine employees of the Istanbul outfit are in the squad of 22.
They earned their spot via a stormy two-legged play-off win over the Republic of Ireland and their victory also proved a tonic for a country ravaged by disaster in the form of earthquakes that claimed the lives of 45,000 people.
The Turks are eager to redeem themselves for a disappointing showing in Euro 1996 in England and looked a useful outfit in qualifying, beating Germany 1-0 in an early qualifier.
"Bull of the Bosphorus" Hakan Sukur scored that goal but Sukur is widely dependent on Sergen Yalcin, who is the key creator in the side with Arif Erdem also well capable of grabbing a goal.
English-born Leicester City midfielder Muzzy Izzet has also been drafted into the squad.
They have had a kind draw but will need to be at their best if they are to progress although they can count on the support of a sizeable Turkish community in the low countries.
BELGIUM AS CO-HOST
As co-hosts they will be expected to do well but - unlike for Holland - a place in the semi-finals will probably be seen as an acceptable outcome.
Their form was giving real concern but the replacement of George Leekens as coach by Waseige in August seems to have revitalized the "Red Devils".
Waseige has introduced a 4-4-2 system and the players have responded with an impressive string of results, notably a 3-1 friendly win in Italy.
Belgium have fared relatively well in the draw although Italy will be determined to make them pay for that friendly defeat. Belgium's large Turkish community will also have divided loyalties while Sweden proved formidable qualifiers.
Times have been lean since Sweden finished third in the 1994 World Cup but at last they are back on the big stage after a convincing qualifying campaign in which they outplayed England twice.
Sweden are set to hand Henrik Larsson a starting slot for the Euro 2000 opener against Belgium on Saturday after the Celtic striker played the final 25 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Spain at the weekend - his first international since his leg break seven months ago.
Co-manager Lars Lagerback said, “Henrik was inspirational in the 25 minutes he played.”
Larsson added: “The game proved to me that I can handle this level and this tempo,” – (Several Sources)
Belgium v Sweden (Brussels 1845GMT)
Turkey v Italy (Arnhem 1230 GMT)
Belgium v Italy (Brussels 1845 GMT)
Sweden v Turkey (Eindhoven 1845 GMT)
Belgium v Turkey (Brussels 1845 GMT)
Italy v Sweden (Eindhoven 1845 GMT)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)