Around the World: Stressful start for Belgium's new coach

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THEY ARE supposed to be friendly neighbours who are preparing to stage a major international sporting event - but try telling that to the crowd who witnessed Saturday's stormy friendly in Rotterdam between the Netherlands and Belgium.

The joint hosts of next year's European Championship drew 5-5 in a bad- tempered encounter which saw nine players booked and a red card for Belgium's Marc Wilmots. The distinctly unfriendly friendly was disfigured by several dangerous tackles, mostly by belligerent Belgians.

Wilmots, who was sent off for a rash assault on Boudewijn Zenden, could have been joined by other early departures. Belgium's Lorenzo Staelens and the Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, who clashed in last year's World Cup when the latter was sent off, continued their feud, and Staelens in particular was lucky to stay on the pitch. Kluivert had a happier game this time, scoring a hat-trick.

It was a dramatic debut for Belgium's new coach Robert Waseige, who replaced the hapless Georges Leekens last month after the Red Devils had slump to No 33 in the world rankings. He will be hoping for a calmer game in Liege tonight, when his side meet Morocco in another friendly.

Waseige will be looking for a better result against the north Africans than the one gained by the Dutch in a friendly in Arnhem in April, when Morocco gained an unexpected 2-1 win. The Coventry City pair of Youssef Chippo and Mustapha Hadji are likely to start for the visitors, who will be backed by plenty of expatriate fans.

The Dutch international midfielder Edgar Davids has been given clearance to carry on playing for his club, Juventus, the Italian Olympic Committee announced yesterday.

Davids had been suspended pending a decision by football's world governing body, Fifa, on whether he could use diamox, a treatment for glaucoma which contained a banned diuretic. He played against Belgium on Saturday, when he scored a spectacular goal, wearing a pair of black plastic goggles to protect his eyes.

Lothar Matthaus may not receive a warm welcome when he returns to Bayern Munich after Germany's game against Northern Ireland tomorrow.

The 38-year-old, who famously fell out with Jurgen Klinsmann, is in trouble again after a recent clash on the training ground with Bayern's French full-back Bixente Lizarazu, who reportedly slapped Matthaus. The veteran libero is due to leave German football and join Major League Soccer's New York-New Jersey MetroStars in December, but he may go sooner. "If they [the club] believe I am responsible for any trouble, they can release me from my contract straight away," he said last week.

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