Briefs on Group D finalists for Euro 2000, to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium between June 10 and July 2.
DENMARK’S SCHMEICHEL BORN A WINNER
Denmark famously won the 1992 European Championships in Sweden as stand-in replacements for Yugoslavia - who had been expelled because of United Nations sanctions.
They spent most of their time preparing for that tournament on various beaches in Europe.
A similarly relaxed approach by Israeli players - reported to have spent the eve of their play-off match with the Danes in the company of call girls - also seems to have been to Denmark's benefit this time around.
Johansson will step down after Euro 2000 although veteran Schmeichel - a survivor of that 1992 side - insists he will carry on for the World Cup qualification campaign.
Schmeichel, a Treble winner with Manchester United last season, proved he is still a born winner by lifting the Portuguese title with Sporting Lisbon earlier this month.
CZECH REPUBLIC THE FIRST TO JOIN EURO 2000
The Czechs were runners-up to Germany last time in England, sunk by Oliver Bierhoff's golden goal at Wembley.
They failed to qualify for France 98 but they were the first nation to book their spot in Euro 2000 after cakewalking their group and not dropping a single point.
The loss of Berger through suspension for the first two matches will be a blow but the Czechs won the European title in 1976 and have proved a formidable team in this tournament.
They will need all the form they showed in qualifying if they are to emerge from this most difficult pool.
FRANCE SEEKS TO ADD THE CONTINENTAL CROWN
World champions France are bidding to add the continental crown to their global prize and in the end topped their qualifying pool after more than a few scares on the way.
The absence of Zidane for four matches through injury saw France falter badly and their maestro's return saw them just do enough to qualify automatically.
The absence of a world-class striker - an eternal problem even under World Cup winning coach Aime Jacquet - remains the one glaring gap on Lemerre's team sheet although Real Madrid's Nicolas Anelka is beginning to show a return to the form that made him such a hot property in the transfer market.
Lemerre, who inherited the job from Jacquet, strongly hinted he was contemplating quitting in the weeks after France qualified amid rumors of senior players such as Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc exercising undue influence in team matters.
But last week he signed a two-year contract, which ensures that he will be at the helm when the world champions defend their crown in Japan and South Korea in 2002.
HOLLAND GATHERS MORE STARS FOR CZECH
Marc Overmars has overcome a hamstring injury and will now line up for Holland in their Euro 2000 opener against the Czech Republic.
The Arsenal winger, who missed the final warm-up game against Poland at the weekend, trained alone yesterday and said, “It went well for me. What I need now is a couple of days training with the rest of the team.”
Holland's last European campaign - in England in Euro 96 - was blown apart by internecine feuds. Davids was sent home and the players split into two camps on largely racial lines.
Rijkaard had a poor start as coach with at one point only one win in 12 games but there have been signs of improvement in recent matches.
He will be deprived of the services of PSV Eindhoven forward Ruud van Nistelrooy whose circulate ligament injury scuppered his move to Manchester United at the 11th hour.
Rijkaard will have the toughest of baptisms in competitive matches in what are arguably the most difficult pool of all with world champions France, Euro 96 runners-up and top qualifiers Czech Republic and 1992 winners Denmark – (Several Sources)
France v Denmark (Bruges 1600 GMT)
Netherlands v Czech Republic (Amsterdam 1845 GMT)
Czech Republic v France (Bruges 1600 GMT)
Netherlands v Denmark (Rotterdam 1845 GMT)
Denmark v Czech Republic (Liege 1845 GMT)
France v Netherlands (Amsterdam 1845 GMT)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)