Football: Anelka vows to deliver goods

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The Independent Online
NICOLAS ANELKA hopes to win the battle of expensive summer signings when France travel to Kiev today for a tough Euro 2000 qualifier against Andriy Shevchenko's Ukraine.

Anelka, Real Madrid's pounds 23.5m capture from Arsenal, has struggled in the club's first two Spanish League games but has been confirmed as a starter for the world champions in today's Group Four match. Shevchenko, who joined Milan from Dynamo Kiev for pounds 15m, scored in the Serie A champions' opening 2-2 draw with Lecce.

"The most important thing for me is to be happy when I'm playing and giving the best I can," Anelka said. "I'm looking forward to a very difficult match. We must be patient to create chances. There is no pressure. This is as important a match as any other and France always play for the win."

France, a point adrift of the leaders Ukraine and two points ahead of both Russia and Iceland, are boosted by the return of the midfielder Zinedine Zidane, but Emmanuel Petit misses out through injury.

Russia are in a precarious position but should easily win in Moscow against Armenia, whom they beat 3-0 in March. They will want convincing performances against Armenia and next Wednesday's opponents, Andorra, to get a boost before next month's final qualifier against Ukraine.

Denmark and Switzerland meet in Copenhagen with both countries six points adrift of Italy in Group One. The Danes, without the Laudrup brothers, Brian and Michael, look to the PSV Eindhoven striker Jon Dahl Tomasson, once of Newcastle United, for inspiration. They travel to Italy next Wednesday.

The Norway coach, Nils Johan Semb, relies on British-based players to put a stranglehold on Group Two against Greece, who have claimed nine points from seven matches.

Chelsea's Tore Andre Flo is expected to start up front for Norway in Oslo, with the Manchester United striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking an unusual midfield position alongside Spurs' Oyvind Leonhardsen and Sheffield Wednesday's Petter Rudi.

In Group Seven, Slovakia will be eliminated from the reckoning should they lose to unbeaten Romania, who trail leaders Portugal by a point. The Portuguese were playing in Azerbaijan last night.

The Group Six leaders Spain, who have hammered both Austria and San Marino 9-0, will all but clinch qualification should they beat Austria in Vienna.

The Czech Republic, who have already won Group Nine and clinched a place in the finals, play Lithuania in Vilnius tonight. The Lithuanians could move into second in the group with a win if Scotland draw with Bosnia.