Football: Better news for McCarthy

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The Independent Online
Mick McCarthy, the Republic of Ireland manager, had some welcome good news yesterday: his veteran midfielder Ray Houghton came through his first training session of the week to clear up doubts over an injured ankle. The former Liverpool man can now expect to start tomorrow's World Cup play-off second leg against Belgium in Brussels.

"He has done everything that was asked of him and he is certainly available for selection," McCarthy said. The full-back Terry Phelan is out of contention, though, showing no improvement in the calf injury he collected during training on Tuesday. Blackburn's Jeff Kenna will probably be recalled in place of the injured Denis Irwin at right-back, with Steve Staunton on the left.

Another man with injury problems is Cesare Maldini, Italy's coach, whose side meet Russia in Naples tomorrow. Christian Vieri is out and his understudy at centre-forward, Pierluigi Casiraghi, is not fully fit, which could mean a starting place for Fabrizio Ravanelli.

The Russian coach, Boris Ignatiev, also has problems. Two members of his squad failed to show up in Naples. "I don't know where [Valeri] Yesipov and [Yevgeni] Bushmanov have got to," he said. It later transpired that Yesipov was preparing for a knee operation, while Bushmanov's club, Torpedo Moscow, said he had not travelled to Italy because his airline ticket was not delivered in time for the squad's departure.