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Football: Injury puts Peruzzi out of the World Cup

ANGEL PERUZZI, Italy's first- choice goalkeeper, is out of the World Cup finals after pulling a calf muscle during training yesterday. Gianluca Pagliuca will step up in his place and Fiorentina's Francesco Toldo will be promoted into the squad.

The Juventus keeper fell to the ground in obvious pain after jumping for a ball in a morning practice session at the team's training camp at Coverciano, near Florence. "I'm very upset," he said. "Now I'll have to sweat another four years to go to the next World Cup."

He added: "Pagliuca is a great goalkeeper, one of the best in the world. He's sure to do great in the World Cup."

Peruzzi did not play in the 1994 World Cup finals but has been a regular for Italy during the past three years, winning 22 caps. He has also been a key figure in the Juventus team that won the last two Serie A titles and reached consecutive European Cup finals.

Italy's World Cup veteran Roberto Baggio is doubtful for tomorrow's game against Sweden, Italy's last warm-up before the finals, after bruising his lower back. Alessandro Del Piero, who is still recovering from a thigh strain, will also be absent.

Concern about Dennis Bergkamp's participation in the final continues. The Arsenal striker has not played a competitive game since 29 April because of the hamstring injury which also cost him his place in and the FA Cup final.

"It was too risky to play him against Cameroon," the coach Guus Hiddink said. "I feel he should be back but, at the moment, nothing is certain."

Veteran keeper Andoni Zubizarreta has suffered a new muscle injury that will force him to miss Spain's final warm-up match. Zubizarreta, 36, will be out of action for five to eight days after straining his left leg. Real Madrid's Santiago Canizares will take his place against Northern Ireland.

To the surprise of many, Roma striker Abel Balbo joined up with Argentina on Saturday, having refused to play in the qualifiers after the first two rounds. "I said at the time I wouldn't play the qualifiers because the long trips from Europe tired me out," he said.

Until a few days ago, the favourites to fill the last remaining place in the squad were striker Claudio Caniggia, like Balbo a veteran of the last two World Cups, and midfielder Christian Bassedas. "I did everything I could to be in the team," Caniggia said.

Brazilian striker Romario has announced he will be fit to play for his country against Scotland in the opening match of the on 10 June.

Romario, who had maintained a four-day media silence as he struggled to overcome a nagging calf muscle injury, said: "I have faith in God that I will be available for the coach to pick me if he wants. I can't guarantee that I will be one 100 per cent match fit by then but I will be fit enough to play."

Romario denied that assistant coach Zico had told them that he would not be considered for the squad if he did not train normally by tomorrow, Fifa's deadline. Marcio Santos and Flavio Conceicao have already been dropped, controversially, because of injury.

Three English-based players have been named in South Africa's squad, but Barnsley's midfielder Eric Tinkler misses out. Lucas Radebe, of Leeds, and Mark Fish, of Bolton, will join up with Fulham's Andre Arendse in coach Philippe Troussier's 22-man squad, which also includes former Leeds striker Phil Masinga, now with Bari.