Football: Rijkaard out to end barren run

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The Independent Online
FRANK RIJKAARD, the Netherlands' coach, has his best squad available to try to bring an end to a 10-match run without a win when they take on the Czech Republic in a friendly at the Philips stadium in Eindhoven today.

Rijkaard has all his key players back in the squad, including the Arsenal winger, Marc Overmars, and Edgar Davids, the Juventus midfielder.

Meanwhile, the French World Cup striker Stephane Guivarc'h will be looking to secure a place in the world champions' Euro 2000 squad when they play Croatia in a friendly in Paris today. The match is a repeat, at the same Stade de France venue, of the World Cup semi-final 16 months ago when the French came from behind to win 2-1 with two goals from the right-back, Lilian Thuram.

Guivarc'h, whose last appearance for France was the 1998 World Cup final, should start as Lilian Laslandes has pulled out with back trouble and David Trezeguet was released to France's Under-21 side, although he, too, is now injured. Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry were also named in the under-21 squad but both may miss out with injury.

Back at Auxerre after a disappointing season with Newcastle and Rangers, Guivarc'h is close again to the form that won him his World Cup place as top scorer in the French First Division in 1997 and 1998. However, his international scoring record is poor with only one - on his debut against South Africa in 1997 - in 13 games.

Croatia will be playing for their honour, having missed out against Yugoslavia for a place in the Euro 2000 finals. "It can't be a friendly match when you have the first and third placed teams of the last World Cup," Miroslav Blazevic, the Croatia coach, said. "We want to show we could have done better than our narrow [World Cup] defeat.

Injuries to key players have forced Italy's coach, Dino Zoff, to radically alter his personnel and tactical approach for today's friendly with Belgium in Milan. Experienced defenders Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Alessandro Nesta are all missing with injuries and yesterday the Juventus midfielder Antonio Conte left the squad's training camp with a knee problem. The Internazionale striker Christian Vieri will also be absent as he rests a troublesome foot injury.

Zoff has an opportunity to experiment with a new formation and give a chance to players who have been kept on the fringes during the successful Euro 2000 qualification campaign. Italy's performances in qualifying were effective but unspectacular and Zoff could play all of Francesco Totti, the Roma striker, and Juventus' Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi.

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