Football: Gullit makes peace with Dutch: Wayward Maradona likely to miss World Cup finals

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The Independent Online
THE World Cup finals in the United States this summer may not be graced by the presence of Diego Maradona - or, come to that, Pele - it was learned yesterday, but Ruud Gullit, unexpectedly, should be there for the Netherlands. Not a bad substitute.

Gullit, whose form and, just as importantly, fitness has been a revelation since joining Sampdoria this season, has made his peace with Dick Advocaat, the Dutch coach, and will return to the national fold in a friendly against Scotland in Utrecht on 27 May.

It is understood that the sport's world governing body, Fifa, and the World Cup organisers, dismayed at Maradona's recent reclusive behaviour, are looking to Gullit in the hope that the Dutchman could be persuaded to bless their tournament with his extraordinary talent.

As for Maradona, his return to the national team was described by Alfio Basile, the Argentine coach, as 'very remote'. Basile, in New York along with the other coaches of the World Cup qualifiers for a meeting with Fifa, said of his errant talent, sacked by his club, Newell's Old Boys, three weeks ago: 'He should be left in peace.' Basile added, though, if Maradona decided to carry on: 'I shall pick him'.

Pele, who was not invited to the World Cup draw last December, still appears to be persona non grata, as far as Joao Havelange, the Fifa president, is concerned and will not be invited to attend the finals, at least not by Havelange. 'He is not a part of Fifa, not a member of a delegation,' said the 77-year-old Havelange, who stands for re-election before the finals. Pele, who has alleged there is corruption in the Brazilian federation run by Havelange's son- in-law, is still wanted by the organisers, however.

On a sartorial note, referees for the finals will dispense with traditional black and wear instead their choice from three more colourful outfits - silver, pink or gold.

Teddy Sheringham, the Spurs striker who requires a further knee operation, has not kicked a ball in earnest in over four months but that did not prevent him bagging another goal yesterday. The Football Association has credited him with the first goal in the 2-2 draw against Sheffield United on 11 September, instead of Jason Dozzell, taking Sheringham's tally to 11. It was one of 19 goals of dubious parentage during the first four months of the season to be reviewed by a nine- man jury, who changed the identity of the scorer in six cases.

QPR are facing their third consecutive week without a match after a Bramall Lane pitch inspection was ordered for this morning, putting tomorrow's Premiership game at Sheffield United in doubt.

Brian Kilcline, the Swindon defender, will be out of the game for at least a month with a broken foot.