Smith still has England future, says Sven

ENGLAND coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has played down suggestions Manchester United’s Alan Smith does not have a future with the national team.

Smith, 24, opted to play for United’s reserves on Monday rather than join the England squad in Denmark. FA chief executive Brian Barwick even hinted it could mean the end of his international career. But Eriksson said: “I take the blame and it’s finished now. The door is not closed for Alan Smith, I promise you.”

Jermain Defoe is set to partner Wayne Rooney up front as Michael Owen is suspended for next month’s clash with Wales, while Eriksson revealed Paul Robinson would only play the first half as part of an agreement with Tottenham boss Martin Jol.

Joe Cole will start on the left side of a midfield also featuring David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, with Shaun Wright-Phillips not making the trip due to a swollen knee.

In Sol Campbell’s enforced absence through injury, John Terry will partner Rio Ferdinand in central defence, with Ashley Cole and Gary Neville at full-back.

ENGLAND: Robinson, G Neville, A Cole, Terry, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Lampard, Beckham, J Cole, Rooney, Defoe.

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GERMANY will attempt to end their 14-match winless run against top opponents when they face arch-rivals Holland in a friendly tonight. Next year’s World Cup hosts have not beaten a major side since a 1-0 win over England in the last match played at Wembley Stadium in October 2000 and Dietmar Hamann, the scorer of their match-winner that day, believes a victory is long overdue.

“Wembley is light years behind us. Now it’s time to end the run against the best teams,” said Hamann, back in midfield after missing June’s Confederations Cup with a stress fracture in his right foot. Injury has forced Borussia Moenchengladbach striker Oliver Neuville to withdraw. Coach Juergen Klinsmann decided not to include youngsters Bastian Schweinsteiger of Bayern Munich or Cologne’s Lukas Podolski, instead opting for experience, recalling Hamann and Borussia Dortmund defender Christian Woerns.

NETHERLANDS (probable): van der Sar; Kromkamp, Boulahrouz, Opdam, de Cler; Landzaat, Maduro, Cocu; Kuijt, van Nistelrooy, Robben.

GERMANY (probable): Kahn; Friedrich, Woerns, Mertesacker, Schneider; Ernst, Ballack, Hamann, Frings; Klose, Kuranyi

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THE whipping boys of World Cup qualifying Group Four meet for a match that will probably end up deciding the wooden spoon.

Cyprus only lie above the Faroe Islands on goal difference, with both having lost every match so far bar their first meeting in Nicosia which ended in a 2-2 draw. Since then Cyprus have generally proved more resolute opposition than Wednesday’s opponents against the likes of France, Israel, Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland, who are all fighting it out at the other end of the table. However, this time the Faroes have home advantage and they will be fired up to take maximum points to help them avoid the ignominy of finishing the campaign rock bottom.

Slovakia have plenty at stake in Liechtenstein in Group Three as they try to stay three points ahead of the pursuing Russians, who have a game in hand.

Second in the standings behind Portugal, Slovakia will expect to take all three points in Vaduz and hope Russia come unstuck in what is a trickier game in Latvia.

Romania should have no trouble beating Andorra in Group One, but will stay third - still two points behind the second-placed Czechs after playing two games more.

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RONALDO returns to the Brazil line-up in Croatia after being rested for the Confederations Cup. Ronaldo’s current and future club team mates Roberto Carlos and Robinho, who joins Real Madrid later this month, are also in a side which will be without Ronaldinho.

The Barcelona playmaker has been left out by Carlos Alberto Parreira as he is suspended for their next qualifier against Chile on September 4.

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MEXICO, the CONCACAF zone leaders on 13 points, can take a big step closer to the finals by winning a tricky game at home to Costa Rica, who occupy the third and final guaranteed qualifying slot. Though buoyed by some good displays at the Confederations Cup, Mexico will not underestimate the Costa Ricans after memorably losing 2-1 to them at the Azteca Stadium in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. The United States, second on 12 points, can keep the pressure on Mexico and further their own ambitions by beating Trinidad and Tobago. Guatemala host Panama in the other game.

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