Football: Bergkamp will start against Koreans

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The Independent Online
SUCH IS the gathering of the globe's footballing talent in France that luminaries of the game like Alessandro del Piero, Denilson and Dennis Bergkamp have yet to start a game while one of England's brightest, David Beckham, has not even appeared on the pitch.

Other significant names also yet to kick a ball in anger include Nigeria's Nwankwo Kanu and Yugoslavia's Dejan Savicevic. Their time is certain to come, but with all the competing nations having completed at least one game, the substitutes' benches are often as star-studded as the XI on the paddock.

In the case of Bergkamp, lingering hamstring injury problems are the only reason that the Arsenal striker started on the Dutch bench against Belgium. The Netherlands drew their opening game 0-0, dominating throughout but seldom threatening to score.

They sorely needed Bergkamp's creativity in attack and he did appear for the final 25 minutes. Now Bergkamp and Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, are both confident he can manage at least an hour in the match with South Korea tomorrow.

"I feel really good. I'm going to start the match, although I don't know yet whether I'll be able to finish it," said Bergkamp.

As for Denilson it was never going to be easy to get a starting place against Ronaldo and Bebeto. Only Brazil could keep a player with the pace and skill of Denilson as their ace on the bench, bringing him on for a total of 22 minutes in two games so far.

Italy's Del Piero was also excluded by injury and his World Cup place was in some doubt at one point. He, too, is coming back. The Juv-entus attacker had suffered a groin strain before the World Cup and did not play as the Azzurri drew 2-2 with Chile in their opening game. He was on the bench against Cameroon on Wednesday and played the last half hour, replacing Roberto Baggio. "It was good to play 30 minutes. I hope I will be back up to 90 minutes soon," he said.

That leaves Beckham a worried man. The England midfielder played in every one of the World Cup qualifying games and was considered a certainty to start against Tunisia in Marseilles on Monday. Instead, he was dropped in favour of Darren Anderton and Beckham did not have injury to blame for his absence.

"I know I've just got to work extra hard on the training ground and win back my place," the Manchester United midfielder said on Wednesday. "Maybe I was tired in a few games towards the end of the season but I did not expect this."

Milan's Savicevic, the key man in Yugoslavia's qualifying campaign, has been absent with a knee injury and there are signs that the team are losing patience with him.

"Dejan Savicevic must declare himself if he wants to play against Germany - we cannot allow everything to hang in the air until Sunday because by then it will be too late," Yugoslavia's assistant coach, Vujadin Boskov, said this week. "His injury is completely healed and I think the problem is somewhere in his head."

Such mental turbulence is not confined to Savicevic, however. His club team-mate Patrick Kluivert, of the Netherlands, has been suspended for two matches after being sent off against Belgium.