----------------------------------------------------------------- WORLD CUP GROUP TWO ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts Norway. . . . . . . . . 5 4 1 0 18 3 9 England. . . . . . . . 5 3 2 0 15 3 8 Netherlands. . . . . . 6 3 2 1 17 8 8 Poland. . . . . . . . . 4 3 1 0 7 2 7 Turkey. . . . . . . . . 8 1 1 6 7 17 3 San Marino. . . . . . . 8 0 1 7 1 32 1 -----------------------------------------------------------------
ANOTHER day, another striker. Teddy Sheringham's debut against Poland here tonight makes Tottenham's goalscoring conduit the fourth centre-forward to be tried by England in the last five games, this banana- skin of a World Cup tie again denying Graham Taylor the continuity he craves.
The manager planned to keep changes to a minimum after the encouraging performance against the Netherlands last month, but Les Ferdinand's troublesome back has presented Sheringham with his chance, and a second alteration sees Tony Dorigo displace Martin Keown at left-back.
Taylor has a fair idea of the settled side he wants, but transferring it from paper to pitch is proving problematical, injuries having forced changes on him in 29 of his 30 matches in charge.
It could be worse. The consensus here is that Sheringham and Dorigo for Ferdinand and Keown may well improve rather than weaken the team, and there is a lack of conviction about the Poles which points to the win England need to nudge Norway off the top of Group Two.
Having fanned the fires of expectation with talk of the 'impossibility' of losing here, and in Oslo on Wednesday, Taylor applied the damper yesterday by warning his players that tonight's tie is one 'everybody is looking for us to slip up on'. His final exhortation will be: 'Don't trip up on it, fellas.'
The omens are good. England have not won in Poland since the last match before the 1966 World Cup, but they are unlikely to get a better chance to bridge the gap, with the Poles struggling to score goals, even against little San Marino, and deprived by injury of an influential player in Everton's Robert Warzycha.
Even without him, the greatest threat is likely to come from the flanks, where Jacek Ziober and Roman Kosecki are lively enough to ensure that Dorigo and Lee Dixon have more to do than charge forward to service Sheringham.
Both full-backs will be reminded that they are primarily defenders but, in the absence of an orthodox winger, the onus will still be on them to get forward at every opportunity and pile in the crosses.
Dorigo performs this function better than most, and with John Barnes also cast in the role of supplier, on the left side of midfield, Sheringham and the ubiquitous David Platt should not go short of chances.
If they are forthcoming, Sheringham expects to tuck away a decent percentage. The Spurs striker's ability to link up and bring others into play gained him preference over Ian Wright, but he is a goalscorer, too, as he has proved 29 times this season, and Taylor throws him in with the acknowledgement that 'he has always been a good finisher'.
The debutant is characteristically confident. He had expected to play, once Ferdinand was injured, and selection had not unnerved him. 'I am really looking forward to it,' he said. 'The most exciting thing about it for me is that Ian Wright, who is a great goalscorer, is also in the squad, and the manager had a look at him and picked me instead. That's some compliment.'
Sheringham accepted that as an unselfish target man, it might not be easy to make his mark straight away. 'Les catches the eye with his pace and the spectacular things he does. I'm not that sort of player. I'm probably better at creating things for others.'
Heavily dependent on crosses, he expects to see enough of the ball in the air to make life difficult for Kazimierz Wegrzyn, the Krakow centre-half, in whom Leeds United have a continuing interest.
Sheringham says: 'The full-backs are being encouraged to get forward, and they can both cross some great balls. Then there's John Barnes, of course, who can put it on a sixpence for you. And I should get enough possession, then it's up to me. I'm confident. David Platt has been scoring most of England's goals. Perhaps I can relieve him of that pressure. I always go out expecting to score, and this is no different.'
The approach may not be, but the preparation was. England had to eject 600 autograph-hunting schoolchildren from their training pitch yesterday, then dig out Silesia's Percy Thrower to attend to the grass before they could get to work. After an irritating delay, the accent was on crossing the ball. 'All the players share the responsibility for getting out wide and providing width,' Taylor said. 'It's a big pitch, and it's important that we use all of it, winning control of the middle, then getting the ball out to the flanks.'
England will seek control of the midfield with the now-familiar umbrella, which has Paul Ince and Carlton Palmer providing disciplined back-up to free Paul Gascoigne to strut his stuff.
Feted wherever he goes, the Poles can't see enough of Gazza. Literally. Football's Phantom of the Opera has been told by Lazio he must keep the carbon graphite mask on his damaged cheekbone until 15 June.
Gascoigne's renewed importance to England was demonstrated in the Netherlands match last month, when they were 2-0 up and dominant until Jan Wouters's elbow put him out of the game. After his withdrawal, the Dutch were able to hit back hard and draw 2-2.
If the man in the mask can last the distance tonight, England should win, and go on to Oslo tomorrow with command of the high ground at the top of Group Two.
POLAND (probable): Bako (Besiktas); Adamczuk (Eintracht Frankfurt), Czachowski (Udinese), Wegrzyn (Krakow), Lesiak (Wacker Innsbruck), Kosecki (Osasuna), Lesniak (Wattenscheid), Brzeczek (Lech Poznan), Ziober (Montpellier), Szewczek (Katowice), Furtok (Hamburg).
No compromise for Ardiles,
Cup finalists face fines, page 52
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