Soccer: European footbal teams begin journey to Germany

Expatica, Netherlands
Aug 17 2004

European footbal teams begin journey to Germany

16 August 2004

HAMBURG – While most countries throughout the world have long ago
begun their qualifying campaign for the 2006 World Cup in Germany,
the journey for European countries starts only on Wednesday.

Four qualifiers will be played.

In Group 1, Macedonia and Armenia clash in Skopje, with the home side
being the favourites. Not only is Macedonia ranked 92 in the world –
compared to 116 for Armenia, but coach Dragan Kanatlarovski can call
on several players playing throughout Europe.

Midfielder Vanco Trajanov, for instance, has just joined German
Bundesliga club Arminia Bielefeld, while Artim Sakiri plays his club
football for West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.

The pick of the matches on Wednesday takes place in Bucharest, where
Romania take on Finland in another Group 1 match. With the Czech
Republic, the Netherlands and Andorra also in the group, the two
teams will know that they can ill-afford to drop points at this early

The home side suffered a setback ahead of the game, when captain
Christian Chivu broke a bone in his foot during beach football whilst
on holiday. Although the foot was put in plaster, it did not heal
sufficiently and requires corrective surgery ruling him out for the
next four international matches.

They still have a host of exciting players to call on, with Chelsea’s
striker Adrian Mutu being one of them.

Finland coach Antti Muurinen had to replace Anderlecht defender Teemu
Tainio and Auxerre midfielder Hannu Tihinen after they both were
ruled out through injury.

In Group Three, two of the weakest teams in European football play
their first games. Luxembourg, who are ranked 157th in the world and
second-last in Europe, seem to have an impossible task away to
Slovakia, who are ranked 86 places above them.

Luxembourg’s record in World Cup qualifiers is – nor surprisingly –
very bad and they have won only two (1961 4-2 against Portugal and
1972 2-0 against Turkey) out of 91 games. They have finished last in
their group every time they have played in the qualifiers.

Luxembourg will, however, fancy their chances to avoid that this time
around as also in their group is Liechtenstein, who are ranked just
three positions above them in the rankings.

Liechtenstein are at home in Vaduz against Estonia on Wednesday.
Although several of their players are part-timers, Liechtenstein
coach Martin Andermatt can call on several players who play for Swiss

Andermatt, who took over the side in March, will be looking to
improve on the Liechtenstein record from their last qualifying
campaign, when they were last in their group without a point or a

The other three teams in Group Three are: Portugal, Russia and

The next qualifiers will be played on September 4, when the majority
of other teams enter the competition.