Football: Bergkamp may miss first game

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The Independent Online
THE Netherlands coach, Guus Hiddink, has admitted that Dennis Bergkamp may not be fit in time for his side's opening World Cup game against Belgium a week on Saturday.

Bergkamp has been out with a hamstring injury since the middle of May, but Hiddink had been hoping the Arsenal striker would be ready to start the Group E match at the Stade de France. "Time is running out for Dennis," admitted Hiddink as his side prepared for their final warm-up match against Nigeria today.

Hiddink will want to test the fitness of PSV Eindhoven's central midfielder Wim Jonk in that game. Jonk has been suffering with a groin injury and, if he is not fit, Hiddink seems certain to favour the right-footed Aron Winter as a partner for Phillip Cocu instead of the left-footed Edgar Davids.

The German trainer Berti Vogts is to watch captain Jurgen Klinsmann's performance closely in their final World Cup warm-up match against Luxembourg at Mannheim today. He said: "I want to see Jurgen play for 90 minutes, now that he's fit again and played for 20 minutes against Columbia."

The German side go into the game in high spirits, following their convincing 3-1 win against Columbia last weekend. The game against Luxembourg, who have not qualified for the World Cup finals, would be a "nice run-in for France", added Vogts, who will also be keenly monitoring Bayern Munich's captain Thomas Helmer in training. Vogts said he did not want to risk another injury to Helmer, who has only just returned after a thigh injury.

Vogts said: "I got the green light from the team doctor to play Thomas for one half. He is a very important player, with influence and standing, and I think he is a crucial player for our team." He added he would use the opportunity to try out other players, including wing-back Joerg Heinrich, who disappointed in a recent friendly against Finland.

The Brazilian striker Romario returned home on Wednesday after being dropped from the Brazilian World Cup squad because of an injured right calf. "I went to France full of happiness and surrounded by friends," Romario said shortly after arriving at Rio de Janeiro's international airport. "I return alone and full of sadness. My dream of helping Brazil win its fifth World Cup was shattered. There was a lack of patience. I know how my body functions and I know I would have the physical conditions to play."

Romario said he will have recovered in 15 days and expects to resume playing for Rio's Flamengo. Some fans cried when they saw Romario. Others shouted invective against Zico, the team's coordinator whom they said was responsible for Romario's exclusion.

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