Football: Scholes gives England win in France

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The Independent Online
ENGLAND'S WORLD Cup campaign kicked off with a first win on French soil last night courtesy of a goal from Paul Scholes.

The Manchester United man netted the only strike as Glenn Hoddle's side beat the French Second Division team Caen in a behind-closed-doors game within hours of their arrival across the Channel.

With television cameras and photographers banned, the only witnesses to England's win were some 200 local dignitaries who had been invited by the Football Association and the small French club.

There was a taste of home however, as some England fans who had been let into the stadium before the game left behind Union Jack banners on the benches behind one goal.

In a game played in steady rain, Hoddle used around 15 of his squad players. They included the Arsenal goalkeeper David Seaman, who had sparked fears he might miss out on Monday's opener against Tunisia when he left the squad's Buckinghamshire hotel yesterday morning with heavy strapping around his left thigh.

England officials, however, maintained the bandages were purely precautionary to avoid the Highbury man's dead-leg being inflamed by the trip from Heathrow. Hoddle reported no injury problems from the game and the coach added: "It was a very worthwhile exercise for us.

"Some of the players had not played a match for quite a period of time and nobody has played since the game against Belgium in Morocco last Friday week."

With reporters barred from going anywhere near the stadium, Hoddle, the few let in, and the England entourage, are the only people who will know how well they played.

Italy will be without Alessandro Del Piero when they face Chile in their opening World Cup match tomorrow.

Del Piero is recovering from a pulled adductor muscle and had hoped to be fit for the match in Bordeaux. But yesterday the Juventus striker acknowledged he needed more time and vowed instead to be back for Italy's second Group B match - against Cameroon in Montpellier on 17 June.

"Everything's going smoothly as far as the injury is concerned but it's become clear over the past few days that I won't be ready to face Chile," Del Piero said. "I'll carry on training and hopefully be ready to face Cameroon." Italy now appear certain to start tomorrow's match with the recalled Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri in attack.

The Dutch defender Frank de Boer has twisted his left ankle in training and may miss the Netherlands' opener against Belgium on Saturday. He missed the 1996 European Championship after injuring his right ankle - but the latest injury appears less serious.

The Arsenal striker Dennis Bergkamp, who has been out of action for six weeks with a strained hamstring, has been training with the Dutch squad this week. He had seemed unlikely to play until the second round - but now the Dutch team doctor has not ruled out a place for him on the substitutes' bench on Saturday.

Nigeria have lost their defender Jero Shakpoke, who, it was revealed yesterday, broke his left collarbone during last Friday's 5-1 friendly defeat in the Netherlands and will miss the tournament. The Olympic champions will ask Fifa, world football's ruling body, for permission to call up a replacement for Shakpoke.

ENGLAND (starting line-up v Caen yesterday): Seaman; Neville, Adams, Southgate; Anderton, Beckham, Ince, Scholes, Ferdinand; Shearer, Owen.