Italy, England need wins in berth hunt


LONDON, AP

World Cup champion Italy could be in serious jeopardy of missing out on next year’s European Championship it if fails to beat Scotland on Wednesday. England coach Steve McClaren will likely be looking for a new job if his team’s doesn’t get a big win at Andorra. Twenty more Euro 2008 qualifying games are scheduled for Wednesday, with Group B looking most interesting as qualifying nears the halfway point. Italy, which beat France on penalty kicks in the World Cup final, has only seven points from four games, and trails leaders Scotland and France, and third-place Ukraine. “It’s a chance we can’t waste,” Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon said. “We’ll give our all for the coach and ourselves. We all share the same goal.” The Ukrainians, coming off a 2-0 win Saturday over the Faeroe Islands, host Lithuania on Wednesday, while France is idle. If Ukraine wins, Italy will stay in fourth place regardless of its result against the visiting Scots in Bari. A loss would drop the Italians eight points behind Scotland, and five less than France and possibly Ukraine. England isn’t faring much better, tied for third in Group E with eight points. Croatia, which is idle Wednesday, leads the group with 13 points. Russia is second with 11 points and is also idle. England was held to a 0-0 draw by Israel in Tel Aviv on Saturday — the team’s fifth straight game without a win. The English press is calling for McClaren to go. A slipup against tiny Andorra, which has been outscored 19-1 in its four Group E matches, would surely be the final straw. “There is no concern or fear we won’t get to the European Championships. None whatsoever. It is my job to make sure they do it,” McClaren said. “There is still a hell of a long way to go. We have to make sure we win the game on Wednesday. We all know what we have to do.” In Group A, Portugal plays at Serbia in a match that will keep the winner near the top of the standings. “It will be a tougher match because we’re playing away from home,” said Portugal winger Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored two goals in a 4-0 win over Belgium on Saturday. “Portugal must fight a good fight, play like it did (against Belgium).” The two teams are tied for third with 10 points, and leader Poland hosts Armenia while second-place Finland visits Azerbaijan. Serbia, which reached last year’s World Cup but failed to win a game in the group stage, was upset 2-1 by Kazakhstan on Saturday. “It will be tough after the shock (loss),” said Serbia captain Dejan Stankovic, who is returning to the team after missing the Kazakhstan game with suspension. “I just hope our fans won’t greet us with jeers and boos.” Serbia will be playing without striker Nikola Zigic, who was red-carded in the final minutes of Saturday’s game. Turkey, which crushed defending champion Greece 4-1 in Athens on Wednesday, faces Norway at home in Group C. The Norwegians were upset by Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1. If Norway wins, Greece could move back into a tie for first place if it beats host Malta. In Group D, the Czech Republic would move back into a tie for first with Germany by beating Cyprus in Liberec. The Czechs lost to Germany 2-1 Saturday. “It could happen that we lose. Now we have to forget it,” Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech said. Sweden visits Northern Ireland in a match between the top two teams in Group F. The Northern Irish topped Liechtenstein 4-1 Saturday while Sweden had the day off. Spain, which has only six points from four matches and is in fourth place in the group, hosts Iceland. The Spanish beat third-place Denmark 2-1 on Saturday. “We had a lot of luck that they were left with a player less so early,” Spain coach Luis Aragones said. “I don’t understand that second half that we played. We played too nervously, and we can’t play like that.” The Netherlands stayed in first place in Group G despite a 0-0 draw with Romania. Up next is a visit to Slovenia, while Romania hosts Luxembourg and Bulgaria takes on visiting Albania. Romania and Bulgaria are tied for second place with eight points. Also Wednesday, it’s: Georgia vs. Faeroe Islands; Hungary vs. Moldova; Ireland vs. Slovakia; Wales vs. San Marino; Israel vs. Estonia; and Liechtenstein vs. Latvia.