Football: Wright's broken toe forces him to miss Dutch game: Mixed news from Highbury as England prepare for crucial World Cup qualifier with a weakened strike force

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JOY FOR Arsenal, heartbreak for England. Ian Wright's season of stark contrasts for club and country continued yesterday when, only hours after quenching his goal thirst with the Gunners, his international ambitions suffered another setback when he was forced to pull out of next week's World Cup clash with the Netherlands because of a broken toe.

The injury is a huge personal disappointment for the player and potentially a damaging one for Graham Taylor and his prospects for leading England to the World Cup finals in America next summer. With Alan Shearer a long-term casualty, he again has to do without both his first-choice goalscorers for a game that could go a long way towards deciding if England are to qualify.

Arsenal's main concern is that their premier predator - Wright took his season's tally to 27 in Wednesday's drawn game with Nottingham Forest - will be fit for the FA Cup final with Sheffield Wednesday on 15 May.

He has fractured the little toe on his right foot, and is ruled out for at least two weeks. But Wright insisted: 'I always look on the bright side and I won't even think about missing the final. I'll aim to be fit for that.'

Despite his inherent buoyancy Wright is naturally 'very disappointed' to be an international by- stander once more. Yet in a 'when one door closes' situation his sore toe could have prodded open a window of opportunity for Teddy Sheringham, north London's rival sharpshooter whose matching 27 goals for Tottenham earned him a call to the squad for the first time. Or Taylor could give a second invitation to his substitute pairing of David Platt and Les Ferdinand which was responsible for five of the goals that saw San Marino hit for six at Wembley in February.

Wright's choice to fill his own vacancy is Paul Merson, 'not just because he's my team-mate but because he's quality in every sense. When I'm picked in front of players of Paul's ability it gives me a big boost'.

Merson, who played through the Coca-Cola Cup final victory over Wednesday with a back injury and missed the Forest fixture, was cleared to join up with the England party last night along with Lee Dixon, who picked up a knee injury.

There was also better news about Nigel Winterburn who was taken off on a stretcher off at Highbury with damaged ankle ligaments which appeared to have put paid to his hopes of winning only his second cap in the absence of Stuart Pearce and Tony Dorigo. Taylor took the precaution of calling up another Gunner, Martin Keown who can fill in anywhere at the back, and yesterday added Liverpool's David Burrows to the list.

But the Arsenal physiotherapist, Gary Lewin, had some encouragment for Taylor. 'We feared Nigel had ruptured an ankle ligament but tests have shown it is just stretched,' Lewin said. 'He'll still need a couple of days' intensive treatment but the plan is for him to report with England tomorrow night.'

The Netherlands have their own problems with their key defender, Ronald Koeman, ruled out for three weeks with a torn muscle. The Barcelona player joins the world player of the year, Marco van Basten, as a spectator for a game that will see the Dutch overtake England into second place in Group Two if they win.

The European Cup will feature semi-finals next season following the Champions League stage, but the competition will not be merged with the Uefa Cup as had been proposed by the organisation's president, Lennart Johansson. An alternative scheme, combining the Uefa Cup and Cup- Winners' Cup, will be considered.

Parma last night reached the European Cup-Winners' Cup final on the away goals rule despite a 1-0 home defeat against Atletico Madrid. Juan Sabas scored in the 77th minute for Atletico who had Juan Juanito sent off late on. Parma, 2-1 first-leg winners, meet Antwerp, who beat Spartak Moscow 3-2 on aggregate. Both teams will be appearing in their first European final, at Wembley on 12 May.

Juventus reached the Uefa Cup final, in which they will play Borussia Dortmund over two legs, after a 1-0 victory against Paris St Germain in France last night. Robert Baggio scored winner in the 76th minute.

Lineker in Leeds, Proud Rangers,

Non-League Notebook, page 37

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