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Rediff.com  » Sports » New-look European sides open WC campaigns

New-look European sides open WC campaigns

September 06, 2008 16:57 IST

European countries begin their campaigns to reach the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa on Saturday with newly crowned continental champions Spain and world champions Italy among those under new management.

Vicente del Bosque has succeeded Luis Aragones as Spain's coach while Italy's World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi is back in his old job following Roberto Donadoni's departure after their disappointing European championship performance.

Other men looking to win their first competitive games in charge include Italian Fabio Capello, who leads England against Andorra and Croatia, and Bert van Marwijk, Marco Van Basten's successor as Dutch coach whose side kicks off against Macedonia next Wednesday after a friendly against Australia on Saturday.

Germany, beaten in the Euro 2008 final by Spain, and France, who failed to survive the group stages in June, have kept faith with Joachim Loew and Raymond Domenech respectively.

Europe's 53 teams are chasing 13 of the 32 final berths in South Africa with the nine group winners qualifying directly along with four runners-up who come through a playoff round.

Spain, top of FIFA's world rankings for the third successive month, and Italy will be among those looking for the direct route and both should get their campaigns off to winning starts this weekend.

Del Bosque's first competitive game is against Bosnia in Murcia on Saturday before they face Armenia in Albacete on Wednesday.

However, Del Bosque will be without Euro 2008 scoring hero Fernando Torres and midfielder David Silva who have both dropped out of the squad with injuries.

Barcelona's teenage prodigy Bojan Krkic has been called up as a replacement for the Group Five match.

Italy begin the defence of their world title with a match they should win against Cyprus in Larnaca before facing Georgia.

Like Spain, Italy have a new man in charge of the team, although Lippi is back in a familiar routine and has recalled fit-again captain Fabio Cannavaro and striker Luca Toni to his squad which is more than capable of making a perfect start to their campaign.

Another Italian coach seeking success is Capello who has had to be content with playing friendlies since taking over England in January following his adopted country's failure to qualify for Euro 2008 under previous coach Steve McClaren.

He should at least get a winning start against tiny Andorra in neutral Barcelona on Saturday. Another victory in Croatia next Wednesday would be a huge bonus, especially as it was a defeat by Croatia at Wembley in November that cost England a place in the finals.

FRENCH REVOLUTION

France, World Cup runners-up in 2006, will field a rejuvenated team when they visit Austria on Saturday following the international retirements of Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele.

Domenech will however be without injured captain Patrick Vieira and promising forward Hatem Ben Arfa, but the new young talent includes goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, defender Bacary Sagna, centre-back Philippe Mexes, midfielder Lassana Diarra and striker Samir Nasri.

Germany, hosts in 2006 and beaten finalists in Vienna start against Liechtenstein and Finland without captain Michael Ballack (foot injury) and central midfield partner Torsten Frings (broken nose) for their first two qualifiers.

Bastian Schweinsteiger will be asked to run the midfield in Ballack's absence, while goalkeeper Robert Enke will play his first competitive international after being chosen as Jens Lehmann's replacement.

Source:
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