Football: England opt for Chile warm-up at Wembley

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The Independent Online
Chile will provide England's next opponents at Wembley on 11 February in their warm-up to the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

The Football Association have not yet confirmed opponents for planned friendlies in March and April, but Saudi Arabia will visit Wembley on 23 May for their final home game before the finals.

"We're looking to develop a balanced and helpful fixture list between now and the start of the World Cup and both Chile and Saudi Arabia have qualified for France 98," Glenn Hoddle, the England coach, said. "Chile are clearly similar in style to Colombia; the same can be said of Saudi Arabia in comparison with Tunisia - and both Colombia and Tunisia, of course, figure in our group at the World Cup."

Marcelo Salas, the Chilean striker, will not be appearing at Wembley as a Manchester United player, however, as the league leaders have pulled out of the race to sign him, saying their current form does not warrant the need for another striker.

Salas' agent, Gustavo Moscardi, had claimed this week the player was not interested in joining United, as he is thought to want to move to Italy, with Parma being his likely destination.

Everton have denied that Gary Speed will be moving to Newcastle, despite reports linking him with a pounds 5m swap deal involving Darren Peacock after a pounds 3.5m bid from St James' Park fell through last week.

An Everton spokesman said last night: "It is absolute nonsense. Gary is definitely not involved in any talks with Newcastle."

Speed will captain Everton at Leicester tomorrow, aiming to end his side's unenviable record of having gone a full year without an away Premiership victory, the last one coming at Derby on 16 December last year.

Sheffield Wednesday are hopeful that they will be able to resurrect the deal to bring the Macedonian international Goce Sedloski to Hillsborough after his transfer was halted by a problem with a medical.

George Boateng, the Dutch Under-21 midfielder, has signed for Coventry City in a pounds 250,000 move from Feyenoord and goes straight into the side against Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow.

"We consider this a very good piece of business," Gordon Strachan, the Coventry manager, said. "To get him for that price was a steal. We scraped the barrel to do this deal. If I want to bring any more players here I must wheel and deal."

Meanwhile, the Coventry captain Gary McAllister will be out of action for seven weeks after keyhole surgery revealed a torn cartilage.

Arsenal have given their 37-year-old goalkeeper John Lukic a free transfer after losing his place as David Seaman's deputy to Austrian Under-21 keeper Alex Manninger.

Rangers have finally found their own permanent training ground at Balgray in Glasgow's west end. The Scottish champions have agreed terms with Kelvinside Academy War Memorial Trust to buy the school's 10-acre training ground.

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