Netherlands seek edge as Robben prepares to return

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The Independent Online

Arjen Robben is in line to make his first start in seven weeks tonight as the European section's tightest qualifying group reaches a pivotal stage. The Chelsea winger has made only substitute appearances since suffering a foot injury at Blackburn Rovers but is expected to line up in Bucharest for the Netherlands.

Arjen Robben is in line to make his first start in seven weeks tonight as the European section's tightest qualifying group reaches a pivotal stage. The Chelsea winger has made only substitute appearances since suffering a foot injury at Blackburn Rovers but is expected to line up in Bucharest for the Netherlands.

The Dutch lead Group One on goal difference from their Romanian hosts with both Finland and the Czech Republic, who meet tonight in Teplice, a point behind. Ruud van Nistelrooy leads their attack but Roy Makaay has been ruled out.

Romania have recalled several old hands, including 37-year-old Dorinel Munteanu, who will win his 121st cap, and Viorel Moldovan six weeks after he announced his international retirement.

"I have been forced to call veterans and some inexperienced young players in a desperate attempt to beat the European championship semi-finalists," said Romania's coach Victor Piturca.

The Euro 2004 winners, Greece started Group Two qualifying badly but can collect a third successive win in Georgia. The other key fixture is in Group Eight, where Bulgaria host leaders Sweden.

Argentina and Brazil should confirm their dominance of South American qualifying against Bolivia and Peru; Mexico and the United States meet to determine control of the Concacaf section; and Cameroon, Senegal and Nigeria, all finalists in 2002, need to beat Sudan, Liberia and Gabon respectively to revive faltering campaigns in the African zone.

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