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Powers limp into key Euro 2008 qualifiers
by Paul Kennedy, June 1st, 2007 9:07AM

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TAGS:  european championship, france, italy, spain

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Saturday is a key day for powers Italy, Spain and Portugal, who are all fighting to stay in contention in Euro 2008 qualifying, while France and Ukraine meet in a clash of giants. Unfortunately, they find themselves depleted of firepower at the end of a long season.

Italy is fourth in Group B with 10 points, two points behind leaders Ukraine, Scotland and France, and it will be missing many key strikers for its trip to the Faeroe Islands on Saturday and Lithuania on Wednesday.

AC Milan striker Alberto Gilardino had a knee operation, while Bayern Munich-bound Luca Toni had foot surgery and Udinese striker Vicenzo Iaquinta has an injured toe. Francesco Totti, Serie A's top scorer this season with 26 goals for Roma, remains on international sabbatical.

Fortunately, Filippo Inzaghi, hero of AC Milan's recent UEFA Champions League triumph, will be available and should start up front with veteran Alessandro Del Piero of Serie B champion Juventus.

Spain is third in Group F, four points behind leaders Northern Ireland and three behind Sweden, and also has problems up front. With Atletico Madrid's Fernando Torres injured, uncapped Osasuna striker Roberto Soldado may start up front with David Villa against Latvia on Saturday.

Spain coach Luis Aragones has gambled and recalled Valencia's Joaquin, who will probably start on the right wing to give his team more attacking options.

Portugal is second in Group A, five points behind Poland, going into its game at Belgium on Saturday, but Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo is suspended and Benfica attackers Simao Sabrosa and Nuno Gomes are injured.

The biggest clash takes place at the Stade de France, where 2006 World Cup runner-up France hosts quarterfinalist Ukraine. Both teams will be without their scoring aces. Nicolas Anelka should fill in for Thierry Henry, out with a groin injury, in the Bleus' attack. Andriy Voronin will be the main Ukraine threat in the absence of Andriy Shevchenko, who underwent hernia surgery last month.

EURO 2008 SCHEDULE:
GROUP A
June 2

Finland-Serbia
Kazakhstan-Armenia
Azerbaijan-Poland (Setanta-PPV, live, 11:55 am ET)
Belgium-Portugal (Setanta-PPV, live, 2:40 pm ET)
Standings: Poland 16 points; Portugal, Serbia, Finland 11; Belgium 7; Kazakhstan 5; Azerbaijan 4; Armenia 1.

GROUP B
June 2

Faeroe Islands -Italy (RAI International, live, 2:30 pm ET)
Lithuania-Georgia
France-Ukraine (Setanta Sports USA, live, 2:55 pm ET)
Standings: Ukraine, Scotland, France 12 points; Italy 10; Georgia 6; Ukraine 4; Faeroe Islands 0.

GROUP C
June 2

Greece-Hungary (Setanta-PPV, live, 2:25 pm ET)
Norway-Malta
Bosnia-Herzegovina - Turkey (Setanta Sports USA, delay, 8:30 pm ET)
Standings: Turkey 13 points; Greece 12; Norway, Bosnia-Herzegovina 7; Hungary 6; Malta 4; Moldova 2.

GROUP D
June 2

Germany-San Marino (Fox Soccer Channel, live, 4 pm ET)
Wales-Czech Republic
Standings: Germany, Czech Rep., Ireland 13; Slovakia 9; Wales 6; Cyprus 4; San Marino 0.

GROUP E
June 2

Estonia-Croatia (Setanta-PPV, live, 2:25 pm ET)
Russia-Andorra
Macedonia-Israel
Standings: Croatia 13 points; Israel, Russia, England 11; Macedonia 7; Estonia, Andorra 0.

GROUP F
June 2

Denmark-Sweden (Setanta Sports USA, delay, 6:45 pm ET)
Latvia-Spain (Fox Soccer Channel, live, 2 pm ET)
Iceland-Liechtenstein
Standings: Northern Ireland 13 points; Sweden 12; Spain 9; Denmark 7; Latvia, Lichtenstein, Iceland 3.

GROUP G
June 2

Albania-Luxembourg
Belarus-Bulgaria
Slovenia-Romania
Standings: Netherlands 14 points; Romania 11; Bulgaria 9; Belarus 7; Slovenia 4; Albania 1; Luxembourg 0.



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