Football: Beckham in doubt for Poland

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DAVID BECKHAM'S participation in England's European Championship qualifier against Poland on Saturday is in doubt after he was substituted with a calf injury during Manchester United's 3-1 win over Everton yesterday.

The England coach, Kevin Keegan, will also find out today whether David Batty will be fit to link up with the rest of the squad. The tenacious midfielder has only just returned to the Leeds line-up after three months out with a broken rib.

England will not find many familiar faces in the Polish team. Only two members of the side that lost 2-1 to England in a World Cup qualifier in October 1996 remain in the squad named yesterday.

There is no place in the squad for striker Marek Citko, who scored against England, nor for Artur Wichniarek, the leading scorer in the Polish First Division this season.

Ryan Giggs is a serious doubt for Wales's European Championship qualifier against Switzerland after succumbing to a hamstring injury. The winger missed Manchester United's game yesterday and, although he will report to the Welsh squad, he is unlikely to play.

"It's for them to decide his fitness," Alex Ferguson, the United manager, said, "but I think he'll be doubtful."

The Republic of Ireland's crucial European Championship qualifier in Macedonia, scheduled for Skopje on Saturday, remains in doubt because of the political situation in the Balkans.

With 10,000 Nato troops assembling in Skopje and the threat of Nato bombardment in neighbouring Kosovo, the Football Association of Ireland has been in constant communication with Europe's governing body, Uefa, and the Republic's Department of Foreign Affairs.

"The security of all our players, officials and supporters is of paramount importance," the FAI Chief Executive, Bernard O'Byrne, said. "It is a matter of deep concern that our flight path on Thursday is through Yugoslavian airspace.

"Uefa have already told us that the situation regarding our hotel is not conducive for players preparing for such a vital European Championship match." The Republic coach, Mick McCarthy, will continue his preparations as usual, with his squad assembling in Dublin tonight.

"It's a tragedy that people are being killed in that part of the world at the moment," McCarthy said. "But I have to prepare my team for a football match until I hear of any postponement from the people who make those decisions."

Mark Viduka has accused people in "high places" at Celtic of "making problems" with the payment of his transfer fee to Croatia Zagreb.

Celtic are unwilling to pay the pounds 3m fee in full because of apparent concerns that Zagreb will not distribute the money properly. World football's governing body, Fifa, is to decide on the matter. The Scottish champions have paid pounds 900,000 so far.

"I have no problems with Zagreb, but some people in high places at Celtic are making problems," Viduka said. "Maybe it's in their own interests, maybe they don't want to pay money for me. People here are trying to put words in my mouth."

Sunderland have signed Carsten Fredgaard, but Lyngby's Danish Under- 21 international will not arrive until the end of the season.

Fredgaard has signed a four-year contract after his club accepted a pounds 1.5m fee. Fredgaard, who can play up front or in an attacking midfield role, is considered one of the best prospects currently playing in Danish football.

Ronaldo has been voted the second-worst current Brazilian footballer in a newspaper poll. The Corinthians player Mirandinha "won" the poll with 130 votes, but Ronaldo, twice voted world player of the year, came second with 73 votes.

POLAND SQUAD (European Championship qualifier v England, Wembley, 27 March): Goalkeepers: Matysek (Bayer Leverkusen), Sidorczuk (Sturm Graz), Wyparlo (LKS Lodz). Defenders: Ratajczyk (Rapid Vienna), Siadaczka (Austria Vienna), Hajto (MSV Duisburg), Swierczewski (Gamba Osaka), Klos (Auxerre), Bak (Olympique Lyons), Lapinski (Widzew Lodz), Zielinski (Legia Warsaw). Midfielders: Majak (Hansa Rostock), Waldoch (VfL Bochum), Adamczuk (Dundee), Nowak (VfL Wolfsburg), Iwan (PSV Eindhoven), Brzeczek (Maccabi Haifa), Michalski (Widzew Lodz) Czerwiec (Wisla Krakow). Forwards: Kowalczyk (Las Palmas), Trzeciak (Osasuna), Juskowiak (VfL Wolfsburg).