Football: Ireland's match in Belgrade called off

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The Independent Online
MICK McCARTHY, the Republic of Ireland manager, said his European Championship plans have been thrown into disarray by the postponement of Saturday's game against Yugoslavia in Belgrade.

The threat of a Nato bombardment of military installations in the Belgrade area, the massacres in Kosovo and the general political unrest prompted yesterday's decision by Uefa, the European game's governing body to reschedule the match.

McCarthy, who has another Euro 2000 qualifying match against Malta in Dublin four days later to plan for, said: "It's an anti-climax with all the preparation we have been doing for this Yugoslav game. But we must abide by these decisions - there are no alternatives. After our victory over Croatia last month, everyone was looking forward to playing the Yugoslavs."

The Irish squad will return to their clubs before assembling in Dublin on Saturday to prepare for the game against Malta at Lansdowne Road.

No new date has been set for the Yugoslavia match, although both countries have been told to keep 18 November as a free date, and it is possible Uefa will insist it is played at a neutral venue.

The Yugoslav FA's general secretary, Branko Bulatovic, who expressed regret at the decision, said his federation had told Uefa they thought there was no reason for a postponement.

Scotland's manager, Craig Brown, will be without the heart of his midfield for the qualifying double-header against Estonia and the Faroe Islands. Everton's John Collins ruled himself out of the squad with a recurrence of a toe injury that flared up while he was playing against Wimbledon on Saturday, while Celtic's Paul Lambert has withdrawn with a hamstring injury.

Peter Schmeichel, who was expected to miss Denmark's match against Switzerland after injuring a stomach muscle during Manchester United's Champions' League draw away to Bayern Munich, has gone to Denmark for treatment and could play for his country next Wednesday after all.

Germany's new coach, Erich Ribbeck, had his options reduced by injuries to four players and has selected a less experienced squad than he had intended for his first two matches in charge, the Euro 2000 group three qualifiers against Turkey and Moldova next Saturday and Wednesday.

Ribbeck, appointed after Berti Vogts resigned last month, lost three of the eight Bayern Munich players in his original squad of 26 - the veteran libero Lothar Matthaus and the midfielders Thomas Strunz and Mario Basler. Also ruled out was the Kaiserslautern striker, Olaf Marschall. The uncapped players in the squad include Bayern's Carsten Jancker and the Fenerbahce midfielder Mustafa Dogan.

n Uefa will hold a hearing on Thursday into Hearts' complaint about the height of the goalposts and uneven ground in the goalmouth for their European Cup-Winners' Cup second leg in Spain against Real Mallorca last week. The Edinburgh club drew the match at the Luis Sitjar Stadium, after playing under protest, and were knocked out 2-1 on aggregate.