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Favorites hobbled heading into Group C openers
by Paul Kennedy, June 9th, 2008 6:45AM

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[EURO '08 PREVIEW] The Group of Death could be something less. Injuries are a major for concern for France, Italy and the Netherlands heading into the Group C openers on Monday in Switzerland.

OUR PICKS
1. FRANCE. The key will be the play of the veterans. If Thierry Henry, Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram play well, they can go far.

2. ITALY. After beating France in the World Cup final, the Azzurri lost to and tied the Bleus in Euro qualifying.

3. NETHERLANDS.
With a leaky defense and inconsistent attack, the Oranje won't survive group play.

4. ROMANIA.
Edged the Netherlands to claim their qualifying group.

MAGAZINE COVERAGE
Soccer America's Paul Kennedy previews Group C.

MONDAY'S OPENERS
Fitness remains a concern for France heading into its opener against Romania in Zurich.

Captain Patrick Vieira is out with a thigh injury, Franck Ribery and Henry were banged up in last Tuesday's win over Colombia, and Willy Sagnol and Sagnol were still working themselves back into shape.

France might line up with Nicolas Anelka starting up front in Henry's place.

Italy and the Netherlands both have their share of injury worries heading into Monday's game in Berne.

With captain Fabio Cannavaro out, it should be Andrea Barzagli alongside Marco Materazzi in the middle of the Italian backline. Daniele De Rossi (red carded against the USA at the World Cup two years ago) could start in midfield ahead of Massimo Ambrosini.

Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie are out for the Dutch, who have already lost Ryan Babel, sidelined last week with torn ankle ligaments.

NAME TO REMEMBER
Karim Benzema matched his age with 20 goals to top all scorers this season in France's Ligue 1.

"I'm confident," the Lyon striker says. "I know this is the highest level and it's up to me to show what I can do."

He has never lacked confidence, telling his teammates before his debut for Lyon three years ago that he was there to take their take place in the starting lineup.

"Karim has everything to become a truly great player," says Sidney Govou, Benzema's teammate at Lyon and with the national team.

SCHEDULE
June 9 in Zurich
Romania vs. France
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 11:50 am
June 9 in Berne
Netherlands vs. Italy
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 2:30 pm
June 13 in Zurich
Italy vs. Romania
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 11:50 am
June 13 in Berne
Netherlands vs. France
ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, 2:30 pm
June 17 in Zurich
France vs. Italy
ESPN, ESPN Deportes, 2:30 pm
June 17 in Berne
Netherlands vs. Romania
ESPN Classic, 2:30 pm, ESPN Deportes, 5 pm

ROSTERS
FRANCE
Goalkeepers: 23-Gregory Coupet (Lyon), 16-Sebastien Frey (Fiorentina), 1-Steve Mandanda (Marseille).
Defenders: 3-Eric Abidal (Barcelona), 2-Jean-Alain Boumsong (Lyon), 14-Francois Clerc (Lyon), 17-Sebastien Squillaci (Lyon), 5-William Gallas (Arsenal), 13-Patrice Evra (Man. United), 19-Willy Sagnol (Bayern Munich), 15-Lilian Thuram (Barcelona).
Midfielders: 21-Lassana Diarra (Portsmouth), 6-Claude Makelele (Chelsea), 7-Florent Malouda (Chelsea), 22-Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich) 20-Jeremy Toulalan (Lyon), 4-Patrick Vieira (Inter Milan).
Forwards: 8-Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea), 9-Karim Benzema (Lyon), 10-Sidney Govou (Lyon), 11-Samir Nasri (Marseille), 18-Bafetimbi Gomis (St. Etienne), 12-Thierry Henry (Barcelona).

ITALY
Goalkeepers: 1-Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), 14-Marco Amelia (Livorno), 17-Morgan De Sanctis (Sevilla).
Defenders: 5-Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid), 23-Marco Materazzi (Inter Milan), 2-Christian Panucci (Roma), 6-Andrea Barzagli (Palermo), 19-Gianluca Zambrotta (Barcelona), 4-Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), 3-Fabio Grosso (Lyon).
Midfielders: 21-Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan), 8-Gennaro Gattuso (AC Milan), 13-Massimo Ambrosini (AC Milan), 10-Daniele De Rossi (Roma), 20-Simone Perrotta (Roma), 22-Alberto Aquilani (Roma), 16-Mauro Camoranesi (Juventus).
Forwards: 9-Luca Toni (Bayern Munich), 7-Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus), 11-Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), 12-Marco Borriello (Genoa), 15-Fabio Quagliarella (Udinese), 18-Antonio Cassano (Sampdoria, on loan from Real Madrid).

NETHERLANDS
Goalkeepers: 1-Edwin van der Sar (Man. United), 16-Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax), 13-Henk Timmer (Feyenoord).
Defenders: 14-Wilfred Bouma (Aston Villa), 15-Tim de Cler (Feyenoord), 3-John Heitinga (Ajax), 4-Joris Mathijsen (Hamburg), 12-Mario Melchiot (Wigan), 2-Andre Ooijer (Blackburn Rovers).
Midfielders: 20-Ibrahim Afellay (PSV), 5-Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Feyenoord), 8-Orlando Engelaar (Twente), 17-Nigel de Jong (Hamburg), 10-Wesley Sneijder (Real Madrid), 23-Rafael van der Vaart (Hamburg), 6-Demy de Zeeuw (AZ).
Forwards: 21-Ryan Babel (Liverpool), 19-Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Ajax), 18-Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), 9-Ruud van Nistelrooy (Real Madrid), 7-Robin van Persie (Arsenal), 11-Arjen Robben (Real Madrid), 22-Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink (Celtic).

ROMANIA
Goalkeepers: 1-Bogdan Lobont (Dinamo Bucharest), 23-Eduard Stanciou (CFR Cluj), 12-Marius Popa (Poli Stiinta Timisoara).
Defenders: 2-Cosmin Contra (Getafe), 15-Dorin Goian (Steaua Bucharest), 14-Sorin Ghionea (Steaua Bucharest), 4-Gabriel Tamas (Auxerre), 17-Cosmin Moti (Dinamo Bucharest), 13-Cristian Sapunaru (Rapid Bucharest), 3-Razvan Rat (Shakhtar Donetsk), 22-Stefan Radu (Lazio).
Midfielders: 5-Cristian Chivu (Inter Milan), 6-Mirel Radoi (Steaua Bucharest), 7-Florentin Petre (CSKA Sofia), 8-Paul Codrea (Siena), 20-Nicolae Dica (Steaua Bucharest), 16-Banel Nicolita (Steaua Bucharest), 19-Adrian Cristea (Dinamo Bucharest), 11-Razvan Cocis (Lok. Moscow).
Forwards: 10-Adrian Mutu (Fiorentina), 9-Ciprian Marica (VfB Stuttgart), 21-Daniel Niculae (Auxerre), 18-Marius Niculae (Inverness.



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