Football: World Cup countdown - 172 days... and counting, until the start of the 1998 World Cup finals

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The Independent Online
Romania may be missing some familiar names when they face England at the World Cup finals next summer. Two of their top men based in Germany's Bundesliga, Ionut Lupescu and Florin Raducioiu, said this week that they would not play for their country in France.

"The relationship with the Romanian football federation is very difficult, and I also have enough to do trying to avoid relegation with my club," said Lupescu, who plays for Borussia Monchengladbach. Raducioiu, of VfB Stuttgart, said he also had no desire to go to France.

"The door is closed. I can deal with not going to France since I've already been to two World Cup finals," the former West Ham forward said.

The two players have quit the national team in a dispute with the coach, Anghel Iordanescu, who said recently that he would welcome them back. Ovidiu Sabau, of the Italian club Brescia, has also walked out, complaining that the coach's demands of victory at any price were incompatible with his religious convictions.

Another Romanian international striker, Adrian Ilie of Turkey's Galatasaray, is joining the Spanish side Valencia for pounds 4.3m - despite allegations that the player was still afflicted by hepatitis, which he had as a child.