Football: Cantona is cleared for World Cup mission: Uefa delays its verdict on Frenchman's Turkish outburst

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The Independent Online
UEFA, European football's governing body, yesterday cleared Eric Cantona, the Manchester United striker, to play in France's crucial World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria on Wednesday.

But Cantona faces sanctions from Uefa after allegedly making critical remarks about referees in the aftermath of United's exit from the European Cup in Turkey last week. He was shown the red card for angry gestures made to the referee of the game against Galatasaray, Switzerland's Kurt Rothlisberger, after the final whistle.

However, any punishment applied by Uefa, due to be announced today but believed to be a suspension from United's next four matches in European competition, will apply to club football only. 'He can play for France next week, that's no problem,' Rene Eberle, the head of Uefa's disciplinary committee, which considered the case in Zurich yesterday, said. France need to avoid defeat against Bulgaria to qualify for the World Cup finals.

Cantona was not allowed to give evidence in person in Zurich. The United manager, Alex Ferguson, said: 'I'm delighted to know now that Eric will be free to play for his country next week. I shall be having a discussion with him in the morning and we'll take it from there.'

Another Old Trafford international, Brian McClair, yesterday signed a new three-year contract with United. McClair, 29, joined the club in the summer of 1987 from Celtic.

Ron Atkinson, the Aston Villa manager, has become involved in a war of words with Australia's coach, Eddie Thomson, over the availability of Mark Bosnich, the Villa goalkeeper, for his country's World Cup qualifying play-off in Argentina on Wednesday.

Bosnich is struggling to overcome a hip injury which forced him to withdraw from last weekend's Premiership game against Arsenal. The Villa Park rule book states (much to Thomson's dissatisfaction) that a player must pull out of an international if he fails to complete the club's previous match.

'The rules apply to everyone - not just the Australians,' Atkinson said. 'I don't remember Jack Charlton belly-aching when he had to leave Paul McGrath out of a Republic of Ireland international.

'Mark Bosnich is the same as everyone else. We are not trying to pull a fast one. The Aussies would do well to remember that it was us who persuaded Bosnich to play in the World Cup play-offs.'

San Marino have included just one full-time professional in their squad to face England in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier in Bologna - a game Graham Taylor's men must win by seven clear goals if they are to have any chance of reaching next year's finals. The defender Mauro Valentini, who plays for Rimini in Italy's Serie C, is the odd man out in his country's party of part-timers. The midfielder Massimo Bonini, once of Juventus, is currently without a club after the expiry of his contract with Bologna.

The Dutch squad for Wednesday's other Group Two qualifier, against Poland in Poznan, shows just one change from the list of players for their victory over England in Rotterdam last month. The PSV Eindhoven midfielder, Arthur Numan, replaces the suspended Frank Rijkaard. The Netherlands only need a draw to reach the finals - whatever happens in Bologna.

On the domestic front, West Bromwich Albion's concern over their poor defensive record yesterday prompted them to offer pounds 250,000 for Peter Swan, the Port Vale centre- back who was sent off in last season's Wembley Second Division play-off final against Albion. Vale, however, want at least to recover their outlay for the transfer-seeking Swan, who cost pounds 310,000 when he arrived from Hull City in 1991.

Wrexham have signed the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper, Andy Marriott, for pounds 200,000. Marriott, 23, started his career at Arsenal before joining Forest four years ago. He kept goal for Forest in the 1-0 League Cup final defeat against Manchester United at Wembley in 1992. He has been on a month's loan at Wrexham and will play in tomorrow's home FA Cup first-round tie against Walsall.

PFA's coaching complaints,

FA Cup countdown, page 39

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