World Cup: Halle ready for call from Norway

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The Independent Online
THE LEEDS United defender Gunnar Halle is set to be recalled by Norway against Brazil tomorrow when the Norwegians face one of the biggest matches in their history.

While the coach Egil Olsen has tried to play down the importance of the Group A encounter, Halle realises that Norway must avoid defeat against the world champions to ensure qualification for the second round.

They could lose by a one-goal margin and still go through if Scotland and Morocco draw at St Etienne at the same time. But Halle is optimistic that Norway can at least draw against Brazil, having beaten them 4-2 in a friendly in Oslo last year.

"This is going to be one of the most important matches we've ever played," said Halle. "I don't know if Brazil have got any real weaknesses, but we're confident we can get a result against them."

Olsen is not so sure. He rates Norway's chances of upsetting Brazil as around 20 per cent. "Not a lot has changed," he said. If Norway do go out, it would mark the second straight first-round exit from the World Cup finals for the Norwegians under Olsen, who is tipped to take over as coach of Celtic after the tournament.

No wonder he is treating the match in such a low-key manner. "There's no difference," he said. "It's only a football game, just like all the others. It's an especially important one, of course, but one of the things that makes it special is that we don't know if it's the last. I shall be asking the players the same thing as I always ask them - that they do their very best."

The Arsenal midfielder Patrick Vieira and the Chelsea defender Franck Leboeuf may win their first finals call-ups for France in Wednesday's Group C finale with Denmark.

Vieira could replace the captain Didier Deschamps and Leboeuf may deputise for Laurent Blanc, as both Deschamps and Blanc are on one yellow card, and another one would keep them out of the hosts' second-round match. Players with just one yellow card in the group games have that caution quashed for the knock-out phase.

"I have to watch out over the yellow cards issue," said the France coach, Aime Jacquet. "But I want to put my best team out really and we'll be playing for a win in Lyon."

Vieira is certainly not banking on being called up. "I'm not wondering whether or not I might get into the team for the next match. It's up to Jacquet," said the young Gunner.

The only France players definitely out of consideration are the suspended Zinedine Zidane, who also misses the second-round match following his sending-off against Saudi Arabia, and the injured striker Christophe Dugarry.

Denmark's coach, Bo Johansson, is still a long way from deciding how to approach the game against France.

"I think I've got five line-ups in mind right now," the Swede said before training near Marseilles yesterday. He has been forced to rethink his strategy due to the suspensions of both Miklos Molnar and Morten Wieghorst, sent off in the red card-strewn 1-1 draw with South Africa last Thursday.

"You never know how things are going to work out, so you always have to plan for everything," said Johansson, who had gone into his first two matches with near identical line-ups. Having only narrowly defeated the Saudis 1-0 - France then crushed the same team 4-0 - and failed to capitalise on a bright start against South Africa, the Danes are sorely in need of goals from somewhere this week.

The veteran midfielder Michael Laudrup, playing his last competitive tournament, could be given a less defensive role while the striker Ebbe Sand, still to score for Denmark, could lose his place up front alongside Laudrup's younger brother, Brian.

A draw will guarantee Denmark progress - but they could be knocked out on goal difference if they lose badly. South Africa play Saudi Arabia later on Wednesday.

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