Italy seeking to make up ground

World Cup winner Italy knows it has to make up ground if it's to qualify for next year's European Championship.

updated: June 01, 2007 11:05 IST
  • Total Shares


World Cup winner Italy knows it has to make up ground if it's to qualify for next year's European Championship.

The Italians trail Ukraine, Scotland and France by two points in Group B, and on Saturday it can claw back some points when it plays at the Faeroe Islands.

Twenty qualifiers are scheduled throughout Europe, at the midway point of qualifying for the finals in Austria and Switzerland from June 7-29, 2008. A further 19 qualifiers are set for June 9.

Only the top two countries in each of the seven groups progress.

Italy recalled Filippo Inzaghi for the first time since October after his two goals helped AC Milan win its sixth European Cup with a 2-1 win over Liverpool last week. But six potential starters are missing.

Playmaker Francesco Totti has been on a break from the national team since the World Cup, forwards Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino are recovering from surgery, defender Alessandro Nesta is getting married, midfielder Mauro Camoranesi has a right thigh injury, and forward Vincenzo Iaquinta has a toe problem.

Also, defender Gianluca Zambrotta and midfielder Massimo Ambrosini sat out training on Wednesday with injuries.

"Of course I'm disappointed about the injuries, but I'm not going to cry over it. I've got 23 players that will find a way to get motivated," coach Roberto Donadoni said. "Underestimating the opponents is a mistake we can't permit ourselves."

Italy also plays Lithuania next Wednesday - they drew 1-1 in their first match.

Injury concerns

France hosts Ukraine and also has injury concerns, with midfielder Patrick Vieira, striker Thierry Henry and defender Willy Sagnol all sidelined. Rookies Jimmy Briand and Bakary Sagna and Alou Diarra were called up as cover.

Ukraine is similarly weakened by the absence of Chelsea striker Andriy Shevchenko with a groin injury. Dynamo Kiev midfielder Serhiy Rebrov is also out with a hip injury, and another top forward, Artem Milevsky, has a foot complaint.

Also in Group B on Saturday, Lithuania hosts Georgia.

Spain is in a lot more trouble. Never a winner of either the World Cup or European Championship, Spain has produced some standout players, but they've never combined for a trophy.

Spain is third in Group F behind surprising leader Northern Ireland and Sweden. But it has nine points - compared to Northern Ireland's 13 and Sweden's 12.

Spain should get six points from its next two matches - against Latvia on Saturday and Liechtenstein the following Wednesday as it seeks its eighth finals appearance.

"If we want to qualify for the finals these next two games are vital," said Spain winger Joaquin Sanchez, who returns to the squad after eight months out.

Espanyol striker Luis Garcia made his first Spain squad after Fernando Torres hurt his left ankle in training.

Sweden without Ibrahimovic

Also in Group F on Saturday, Denmark hosts Sweden. The Swedes could be without striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who has been sidelined since he had groin surgery in April.

"He's been looking good in practice," Sweden coach Lars Lagerback said of the Inter Milan striker, who said he would decide on Friday on his inclusion.

Midfielders Christian Wilhelmsson and Anders Svensson are also in doubt through injury.

Denmark defender Daniel Agger, who plays with Liverpool, should overcome an ankle injury, and defender Lars Jacobsen is on track to recover from a sore foot.

Iceland hosts Liechtenstein in the group's other match.

Germany welcomes San Marino on Saturday missing nine of its World Cup players because of injuries. But even without captain Michael Ballack, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and striker Lukas Podolski among others, Germany should easily account for San Marino, which it beat 13-0 on Sept. 6 for a record in European qualifying.

"Our responsibility is not to jeopardize our lead in the group," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.

Germany leads Group D, but the Czech Republic and Ireland also have 13 points.

Farewell Giggs

Wales hosts the Czechs on Saturday in the farewell match for retiring captain Ryan Giggs. The Czechs have included Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky and Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech in its squad.

In Group A, leader Poland is at Azerbaijan on Saturday seeking to extend its lead to 19 points. Following Poland, and all with 11 points, are Portugal, Serbia and Finland. Portugal, without suspended winger Cristiano Ronaldo, is at Belgium, and Serbia travels to Finland. Also, Kazakhstan hosts Armenia.

Croatia leads Group E and travels to Estonia on Saturday. Croatia has 13 points, followed by Israel, Russia and England on 11. Russia will be visited by Andorra, which like Estonia, has not won in five qualifiers. Israel is at Macedonia.

Group G leader Netherlands is idle, allowing Romania to go level on points if it beats Slovenia. Bulgaria is third with nine points, and is at Belarus. Albania hosts Luxembourg.

In Group C, Turkey is at Bosnia-Herzegovina, defending champion Greece meets Hungary, and Norway plays Malta. Turkey leads with 13 points, followed by Greece with 12, with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Norway on seven.