Qualifying for the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland continues with games Saturday and next Wednesday, the first of five double dates in 2007.
Here's a look at Groups
1-3. GROUP 1.
Portugal, currently tied for fourth place in Group 1, faces two critical Euro 2008 qualifiers in the next week. The Euro 2004
runners-up host Belgium on Saturday and travel to Serbia next Wednesday.
The Portuguese will be without Brazilian-born playmaker Deco
, who underwent
surgery to deal with an injury to one of the fingers on his right hand. Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari
, who is also without the suspended Simao Sabrosa
for the Belgium game, called up 21-year-old Sporting Lisbon midfielder Nani
"Two victories in the next
two matches put the Portuguese team in a comfortable position and not in need of the help of third parties in the fight for the top places," Scolari told reprters. GROUP 1
Finland 11 points;
Serbia, Poland 10;
Portugal, Belgium 7;
Armenia, Azerbaijan 1. SCHEDULE:
Saturday, March 24
Poland-Azerbaijan (TV: PPV-Setanta, live, 12:55 pm ET)
Portugal-Belgium (TV: Setanta Sports USA, delay, 6 pm ET)
Kazakhstan-Serbia Wednesday, March 28
Poland-Armenia (TV: PPV-Setanta, live, 2:25 pm ET)
Serbia-Portugal (TV: Setanta Sports USA, live, 3:10 pm ET)
French coach Raymond Domenech
continues to be a lightning rod for controversy.
French manager, Arsene Wenger,
engaged in a dispute with Domenech, claiming the French national team overused Arsenal star Thierry Henry
, leading to his season-ending injuries.
Now Didier Deschamps
, the French coach of Italian giant Juventus, blasted
Domenech for failing to call up Henry's long-time friend, David Trezeguet
, for the Bleus' Euro 2008 qualifier at Lithuania on Saturday. Domenech claimed that
playing in Serie B, the second level of Italian soccer, isn't good enough for a player seeking to be selected to a national team.
"He can't say he is not choosing a player because he plays
in Serie B and that he hasn't adapted to the level the national team play at," Deschamps was quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday. "It is an offense to Juventus and the player.
Trezeguet is at the same level today as he was when he was in Serie A. Serie B is a hard league, and of a very high standard."
Without Henry and Trezeguet, who started in France's most
recent game, a 1-0 loss to Argentina in February, Domenech has called up seven strikers: Djibril Cisse
(Bolton), Karim Benzema
(Lyon), Sidney Govou
(Lyon), Frederic Piquionne
(Monaco) and Sylvain Wiltord
Piquionne was one of four
uncapped players called up along with midfielders Abou Diaby
(Arsenal), Lassana Diarra
(Chelsea) and Samir Nasri
Scotland, France 9 points;
Faeroe Islands 0. SCHEDULE:
Saturday, March 24
PPV-Setanta, live, 12:55 pm ET) Wednesday, March 28
Italy-Scotland (TV: RAI International, live,
2:25 pm ET) GROUP 3.
Turkey and Greece, the defending European champion, play for the Group 3 lead when they meet Saturday in Athens, but
Turkish coach Fatih Terim
has tried to play down down the encounter between the bitter rivals.
"We altogether are trying to detach this match from getting perceived as a national
cause, diminishing the pressure on our players," Fatih said. "This is not a national cause but a national match."
Just as important for Turkey could be the match four days later at home
against third-place Norway. STANDINGS:
Turkey, Greece 9 points;
Malta, Hungary 3;
Saturday, March 24
Greece-Turkey (TV: PPV-Setanta, live, 3:25 pm ET)
Fox Soccer Channel, delay, 4:30 pm ET) Wednesday, March 28
Turkey-Norway (TV: Setanta Sports USA, live, 2 pm ET)
Malta-Greece (TV: PPV-Setanta,
live, 1:25 pm ET)