Football: Blatter airs fears for 'minnows'

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SEPP BLATTER said yesterday that the so-called 'minnows' of European football like San Marino, who venture out at Wembley next week, may have to endure pre- qualifying before joining the likes of England at the group stage.

'For the next World Cup we want a preliminary round to precede the qualifying groups,' the Fifa general secretary said in a Belgian newspaper. 'The only solution is to restrict the number of international games now Europe is crumbling further all the time. More and more matches end 6-1 or 8-0. From a sporting point of view that's nonsense and definitely not good advertising for our sport.'

Eric Cantona will miss Manchester United's FA Cup fifth- round tie at Sheffield United on Sunday after France insisted the striker would be required for international duty. West Yorkshire Police are not planning to take any action over claims that Cantona spat at a Leeds' fan on his return to Elland Road on Monday.

A winding-up petition brought by the Inland Revenue against Brighton for pounds 400,000 unpaid tax was yesterday deferred in the High Court until the beginning of April.