Football: Irish back Uefa ban on Yugoslavia

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The Independent Online
IRISH FOOTBALL officials yesterday welcomed the call by foreign ministers of the European Union for an end to sporting contact with Yugoslavia. That recommendation adds to the pressure on Uefa, the game's European governing body, to throw Yugoslavia out of the European Championship, just as it did before the 1992 finals.

Such a move could only benefit the Republic of Ireland, who lost 1-0 in Belgrade last November, in a match postponed for a month because of the political situation there.

Four other Group Eight matches in Yugoslavia, Croatia and Macedonia have subsequently been put off and the Irish have been pressing Uefa for a decision on whether either Yugoslavia or Macedonia will be able to fulfill their fixtures in Dublin early in June.

An announcement is due on 11 May but could now be brought forward. Bernard O'Byrne, the Football Association of Ireland's chief executive, said: "I always felt it would be a United Nations or European Union edict that would persuade Uefa to act. The most straightforward interpretation of this decision is that Yugoslavia will be removed from the competition. We hope that Macedonia are treated fairly as they are victims in all of this."

The Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, preparing for his side's friendly at home to Sweden tonight, said: "It's unsettling because the lads have been asking what's happening and it's impossible to give them an itinerary for the summer."

Meanwhile, he is ploughing on in his phlegmatic way, accepting that five drop-outs from the original squad is fewer than might have been expected at this stage of the season. Derby's Lee Carsley became the fifth when he was sent home yesterday with an ankle injury.

One man's withdrawal is another man's opportunity, however, and David Connolly, Mark Kennedy and Stephen Carr are among those hoping to benefit. All three will start tonight, Carr for the first time. For Connolly, who is due to return from Wolves to Feyenoord but knows he has no future there, it is a particularly good chance to put himself in the shop window.

Potential purchasers should note that he comes with a promise of satisfaction from McCarthy, who said: "He looks sharp as a tack. His record for the Republic speaks for itself. He needs to get a move and, whoever he plays for, I guarantee he'll score goals."

Connolly will partner Niall Quinn in attack. Robbie Keane and Damien Duff are being rested after their exertions at the World Youth Championship in Nigeria, so Kennedy comes in on the left.

Jesper Blomqvist, one of the few United players declared fit for international football this week, will feature in a strong Swedish side. With a five- point lead in their group over England, whom they beat 2-1 in September, Sweden see a game against opposition drawn largely from the Premiership as perfect preparation for the return at Wembley on 5 June.

Scotland's player of the year, Henrik Larsson, will play, although his club-mate Johan Mjallby, Coventry's Magnus Hedman and Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg have all withdrawn.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Given (Newcastle Utd); Carr (Tottenham), Cunningham (Wimbledon), Breen (Coventry), Staunton (Liverpool); McAteer (Blackburn), Kinsella (Charlton), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), Kennedy (Wimbledon); Quinn (Sunderland), Connolly (Wolves).

SWEDEN: Kihlstedt (Brann Bergen); Kaamark (Leicester), P Andersson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Bjorklund (Valencia), Lucic (Bologna); Mild (IFK Gothenburg), Schwarz (Valencia), D Andersson (Bari), Blomqvist (Manchester Utd); Larsson (Celtic), Pettersson (Borussia Monchengladbach).

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