Yugoslav relaunch relies on Stojkovic

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The Independent Online
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After enduring four years in exile, Yugoslavia are determined to regain their status as one of Europe's elite nations. Banished from competitive football since the 1992 European Championship, the Yugoslavs are building a formidable side as they prepare for their return to serious action in the 1998 World Cup qualifiers

In front of a fanatical 35,000 crowd at Belgrade's Red Star stadium yesterday, Yugoslavia earned a 1-0 friendly win over Romania. The home side's captain, Dragan Stojkovic, once of Red Star and Marseille but now with Grampus Eight in Japan, scored the winner from a 52nd-minute free-kick.

Yugoslavia, who can now call on players from just Serbia and Montenegro, had summoned almost all their top players home from their clubs around the world, including Predrag Mijatovic of Valencia, Vladimir Jugovic of Juventus and Aston Villa's Wembley hero, Savo Milosevic. Milan's Dejan Savicevic pulled out with a leg injury sustained in training yesterday morning, and his place was taken by Bolton's Sasa Curcic.

Euro 96 qualifiers Portugal failed to impress in a laboured 1-0 win over Greece in Lisbon. They had to rely on an 87th-minute penalty from Oceano to beat the Greeks. The Portuguese coach, Antonio Oliveira, chose to try out some fringe players, allowing regulars like Barcelona's Luis Figo and Juventus' Paulo Sousa to sit this match out. The penalty was conceded when Oceano was tripped by Zissis Vrizas, who is currently with Sheffield United.

In Kuala Lumpur, Saudi Arabia beat their former Gulf War adversaries, Iraq, 1-0 in sudden-death extra time yesterday to secure the third and last Asian place at this year's Olympic football tournament.

Saudi Arabia join Japan and South Korea from Asia to become the 11th team to qualify for the 16-team tournament. Brazil, Argentina, Ghana, Tunisia, Nigeria, France, Hungary and the hosts, the United States, have already secured their places in Atlanta.

The Saudi substitute, Hussain Rashid, headed the winner in the seventh minute of extra time. Japan and South Korea qualified by winning the semi- finals of the Asian qualifying tournament on Sunday. South Korea beat Japan 2-1 in yesterday's final.

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