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Thursday, August 31, 2000
Canada's last gasp at weekend qualifier
Thirty-four World Cup qualifying games will be played in Europe and the Americas this weekend.
Canada's faint hope in Group C will almost certainly be extinguished Sunday by a Trinidad and Tobago side that carries a one hundred percentage record and has yet to concede a goal.
Trinidad coach Ian Porterfield has strikers Arnold Dwarkia and Jerren Nixon doubtful through injury, but any loss will be compensated by the return of captain Russell Latapy after suspension and Nottingham Forest striker Stern John, recovered from a cartilage injury.
Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke, who missed last week's game against West Ham with a tender ankle is likely to start.
The only change for Canada is the recall of St. Johnstone midfielder Nick Dasovic to replace the suspended Paul Stalteri.
Given that Canada and Panama are winless in three and yet to score a goal, what chance has Canada got to win their final three games and Panama to beat Mexico and Trinidad? Not much I would say.
Group D qualifiers could be decided with Honduras and Jamaica favoured to lock up spots in the next round at the expense of El Salvador and St. Vincent. Group E is tight with three points separating the four countries.
Costa Rica should take revenge on Barbados -- who beat them 2-1 in the opening game of the group -- and this would stretch the gap between first and third. Second place USA has a pivotal home game against a Guatemalan side currently tied with them on four points.
With a home game against Costa Rica and a trip to Barbados to come, the United States need to avoid a loss.
After seven games in South American qualifying, Argentina leads with 16 points and has a four-point lead on Colombia.
Only two points separate the next six teams and with four automatic qualifiers, it's heating up.
Saturday, sixth-place Chile with consecutive wins over Brazil (3-0) and Bolivia (2-0), await second-place Colombia -- a side unbeaten in their last three outings.
Uruguay, although winless in two, occupies third with eleven points and face seventh-place Ecuador, only a point adrift.
Brazil, currently fourth, has a great chance to move up when they face lowly Bolivia and Venezuela in their next two games.
Twenty-three games go in Europe, with several looking crucial.
Group 2 action sees Holland and new coach Louis Van Gaal facing the traditionally difficult Republic of Ireland.
Both teams will be missing players but for quite different reasons.
Holland has Edgar Davids, Jaap Stam and Marc Overmars out through injury and Irish players Mark Kennedy and Phil Babb are just lucky to be out? Out of jail that is.
Both were arrested earlier in week for attacking a policewoman's car in Dublin. After being released on bail, coach Mick McCarthy immediately sent them home.
Dutchman Ronald De Boer, whose move from Barcelona to Glasgow Rangers will be finalized later this week for $13 million, is in the Dutch squad.
In Group 6, Euro 2000 co-hosts Belgium kick off against Croatia -- a side missing Chelsea midfielder Mario Stanic through injury and looking to make up for failing to make this summers big event.
Also in Group 6, Scotland travels to play Latvia who will have red-hot Southampton striker Marian Pahars available.
Other games to watch will be: Germany versus Greece; Ukraine at home to Poland; Hungary hosting Italy and Portugal away to Estonia.
Automatic qualifiers France has lined up a friendly international against England.
After 102 caps, 55 as skipper, Didier Deschamps has joined defender Laurent Blanc in announcing that this will be his last international appearance.