Football: Forest marksman hopes for his chance

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THE NOTTINGHAM Forest striker Pierre van Hooijdonk looks set to be given his World Cup chance for the Netherlands against South Korea in Marseilles on Saturday.

The 28-year-old appears likely to be the replacement for Patrick Kluivert, who has been banned for two matches after being sent off against Belgium last Saturday.

Van Hooijdonk partnered Dennis Bergkamp in a training session yesterday as the Arsenal striker continued to build up his fitness after a six-week injury lay-off. The Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, insisted that the training combination did not mean Van Hooijdonk would partner Bergkamp against South Korea on Saturday. However, the Forest player said: "I hope it does. Certainly, because of the suspension, my chances are better."

Bergkamp hopes to be fit enough to start the South Korea game after only joining the action against Belgium as a substitute midway through the second half of the goalless draw. "We will be giving Dennis a tough work out on Wednesday and then look at the situation on Thursday, but we're going on the basis of him starting," Hiddink said.

The Arsenal winger Marc Overmars sat out yesterday's two-hour session, but Hiddink insisted he was not seriously injured. "He's feeling the effects of a few hard Belgian tackles," the Dutch coach said. "Belgium worked hard on him. Referees must be careful to protect such good and attractive players."

The Belgian defender Lorenzo Staelens, whose clash with Kluivert on Saturday led to the striker being sent off, believes the two-match ban that has been imposed on the Dutchman is too harsh.

"Perhaps it wasn't that serious and perhaps the sending off would have been sufficient," Staelens said yesterday. Told that the minimum ban was one match, he said: "I think that's what he deserved."

Staelens admitted that his reaction may have been exaggerated. "But I think virtually everyone would have reacted the same way in that situation," he said.

Spain's coach, Javier Clemente, said yesterday that his goalkeeper and captain, Andoni Zubizarreta, would retain his World Cup place against Paraguay on Friday.

Zubizarreta was widely held to blame for two of Nigeria's goals in the Africans' 3-2 victory over Spain in Saturday's Group D match.

"Zubi is secure," Clemente said. "He has had a lot of injust treatment. He was playing well and they [the media] were just waiting for a blunder so they could criticise him. The critics are just acting on a whim, he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world."

With Alessandro Del Piero of Juventus fit again, Italy's coach, Cesare Maldini, is considering using him, Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri in attack against Cameroon tomorrow. All three played together in training sessions over the weekend.