Briefs on Group A finalists for Euro 2000, to be co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium between June 10 and July 2.
GERMANY--MATTAUUS IS FIT FOR ROMANIA’S MATCH
Germany will be eager to prove that reports of their demise as a footballing power are premature.
They may have performed poorly in a series of friendly games since their disappointing World Cup exit at the hands of Croatia in the quarterfinals with Scotland and the United States among their conquerors since.
But apart from an early slip up against Turkey they proved they are still a formidable force in real competition and won their qualifying group.
However, sniping at veteran coach Ribbeck with AC Milan’s Bierhoff and Bayern Munich stars Jeremies, Oliver Kahn and Markus Babbel leading the criticism has racked their build-up to Euro 2000.
Germany's inspirational Lothar Matthaus admits he is struggling to be fit for Euro 2000 after he was substituted during the 8-2 defeat of Liechtenstein in Freiburg. The 39-year-old aggravated a thigh injury and hobbled off after half an hour. He also missed the 3-2 win over the Czech Republic on Saturday because of injury.
The former skipper recently tore a muscle in his right thigh, but Germany's team doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfarht said, “There is no problem. Lothar can play his substitution was simply a precautionary measure.”
ROMANIA IS READY FOR THE BIG DAY
Romania came off the better in their duels with Portugal in qualifying and will hope to continue that trend. They also beat England in the 1998 World Cup and will not fear Kevin Keegan's side.
Romania won their group in style, but a player coup then led to the sacking of Victor Piturca and his replacement by Ienei.
Ienei is an affable figure and has earned the nickname "nea Imi" - uncle Imi - among his players.
But Hagi, dubbed "the Maradona of the Carpathians", remains at 35 the talismanic figure for Romania and his role in Galatasaray's UEFA Cup victory - the first ever for a Turkish club at continental level - was instrumental with another Romanian Georghe Popescu also prominent in that triumph.
Ilie, nicknamed "the Cobra", is the best of the younger generation.
PORTUGAL IS THE BEST RUNNERS-UP
Portugal qualified for these finals as the best runners-up. They have already booked their tickets for Euro 2004, as they will be the host nation.
But this tournament probably represents the last chance of success at senior level for the team that twice won the under-21 World Cup in 1989 and 1991.
Figo is the one member of that team to fulfill his promise at senior level with an impressive season for Barcelona, albeit unrewarded with medals.
They will again be tackling Romania, who topped their qualifying pool but will be hoping it is third time lucky.
ENGLAND IS THE LUCKIEST QUALIFIER
England are the luckiest team to reach Euro 2000, having Sweden's victory over Poland to thank for earning them an unlikely play-off spot. In that play-off they beat eternal rivals Scotland to become the 16th and final team through.
It was a dire qualifying campaign in which only Paul Scholes and Sol Campbell really enhanced their standing as players.
To be fair, England had to change coaches in mid-campaign when Glenn Hoddle was forced to quit for ill-judged remarks about the disabled with Keegan taking over after a brief interim under Howard Wilkinson.
Alan Shearer, top scorer in Euro 1996, has given England a major injury scare with their opening match against Portugal in the European Championship just four days away.
The England captain needed a scan on his injured left knee before the team flew out from to their Spa headquarters in Belgium.
The striker, who was hurt against Malta in England's 2-1 win last Saturday, admits he will not know until Sunday if is fit.
The time is ripe for David Beckham to reproduce the same performance in an England shirt that he does for his club side Manchester United although he often plays second fiddle to Scholes at international level.
Steve McManaman's heroics for Champions League winners Real Madrid may be enough to persuade Keegan to give him his head.
The renewal of their rivalry with Germany will provide for a tense clash at Charleroi while Romania will also have a psychological advantage, having beaten England in the 1998 World Cup.
Portugal also can point to recent history, having beaten England in the 1986 World – (Several Sources)
Germany v Romania (Liege 1600 GMT)
Portugal v England (Eindhoven 1845 GMT)
Romania v Portugal (Arhnem 1600 GMT)
England v Germany (Charleroi 1845 GMT)
England v Romania (Charleroi 1845 GMT)
Germany v Portugal (Rotterdam 1845 GMT)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)