Vieira accuses England players
Patrick Vieira has branded England players 'dirty' and 'cheats' in the aftermath of Sunday's Group B opener. It was a closely contested clash punctuated by niggling fouls on both sides, but by no means a dirty affair. But Vieira, who plies his trade in England with Arsenal, saw it differently. The Gunners midfielder, who had a running battle with Chelsea's Frank Lampard, was not impressed by England's tactics. The Arsenal skipper is quoted as saying: "It was really tough. We couldn't break down their defensive shield. They fouled a lot and cheated. "But we stayed calm and showed the strength of character we needed to win." He added: "We were gutted physically, but didn't feel anything because we were so excited." A Zinedine Zidane injury-time double broke English hearts as the French completed a remarkable comeback to win the tie 2-1 in Lisbon. Lampard's headed goal after 38 minutes had given England the lead, but individual errors cost Sven-Goran Eriksson's men a famous victory against the defending champions. David Beckham spurned the chance to double England's lead when he had his spot-kick saved by former Manchester United teammate Fabien Barthez. And when substitute Emile Heskey conceded a freekick on the edge of the box right on the cusp, Zidane brought the tie to an even keel with a sublime strike. Thierry Henry, who hitherto had been kept relatively quiet, then induced a foul from David James when he beat the England goalkeeper to Steven Gerrard's back pass, and Zidane made no mistake from the resultant spot-kick. Winger Robert Pires claims the French never lost their belief even when they were staring defeat in the face with time running out. "It was getting late but we just couldn't swallow the idea of losing. We never gave up."
Vieira accuses England players
Overmars announces retirement
Flying Dutchman Marc Overmars has announced his retirement from international football. He will step down at the end of Holland's Euro 2004 campaign. As the third-highest capped player in the current Dutch side with 83 matches and 17 goals, the winger told Het Parool newspaper: "It is good for football and good for the people. The faces of the De Boers, (Edwin) Van der Sar and Overmars are too well known." The future of the 31-year-old former Ajax, Arsenal and Barcelona star is at present still uncertain following his release from the Spanish club, although he has been linked with two Premiership clubs in Liverpool and Newcastle United. But for now, all Overmars wants to do is finish his international career on a high. He said: "I still have value for this team. "I'm relieved the tournament is only three weeks long as otherwise I might struggle with injuries. It would be a different story if the tournament was held for four months."
Becks wants England success
England captain David Beckham is desperate to emulate his success at club level with the national team. The 29-year-old enjoyed unprecedented success during his days with Manchester United, including winning the Champions League in 1999. However, silverware at international level has eluded him - and England as a whole - since the 1966 World Cup. However, Beckham believes the current squad is good enough to end that drought - if not at Euro 2004, then at the World Cup in Germany two years later. "Most of the players are looking forward to the next two competitions, this one and the World Cup," he said. "They are two competitions being played in Europe and it certainly gives us a great chance of winning something. This is potentially one of the best teams in Europe. "We are all looking for an improvement in our own game and as a team and if we can find that improvement, and bring it into a competition like this, then we can go all the way. "People ask me if we win the championship whether that would mean me getting the recognition I deserve as a player - and maybe it would. "My own career would not be a failure if I didn't win anything with England, but for it to happen would cap everything off for me."
Pletikosa out for two weeks
Croatia have suffered a massive injury blow ahead of their Euro 2004 opener against Switzerland. First-choice goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa suffered a thigh injury in training on Wednesday, but it proved way more serious than first anticipated. Said team spokesman Goran Rotim: "The muscle is not strained, it is a rupture." Tomislav Butina is the likely replacement in goal, although Joe Didulica will push him all the way.
Beckham: Show no respect
England captain David Beckham says there will be no room for niceties when they meet France on Sunday. Given the amount of French players plying their trade in England, the game will have a 'derby' feel to it, but the Real Madrid man says that won't be the way they approach the Group B clash. "Every one of our players respects every one of their players and their team as a whole, but once we cross that white line most of the respect will be out the window and we will be fighting to win the game," he said. Beckham also dispelled notions that they would go into the game looking for a draw against the defending champions and tournament favourites. "I think it's important we don't lose, but it's a massive challenge for the team," he added. "Whichever team performs will win the game - but we're definitely going for the win. "In the World Cup things worked perfectly for us in the Argentina game (1-0 win) - and hopefully the same will happen again." Beckham rejected calls that their fortunes rested on his shoulders, saying: "I'd like to think I'll have a big impact on the tournament. "But we're not a one or two-man team just like France aren't - they've got more than Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry. "It's not all about me. I've got to lead as a captain and I'll try my best as always - but so will all the players."
Russians fretting over referees
Russia are concerned that referees will rule in favour of host nation Portugal as well as Spain during Euro 2004. With their opening group game against the Spaniards just three days away, Russia skipper Alexei Smertin admits he is worried about the impartiality of the officials, especially during the Group A matches. Smertin said: "Officiating is on our minds. Being in the same group as Portugal and Spain, who are seen almost as co-hosts, the officiating has to worry you. "I hope it'll be fair to all teams and it won't affect the outcome of games." His sentiments are echoed by teammate Alexander Mostovoi, who added: "I have little doubt referees are more likely to help Portugal than Russia. "This is just a reality and I'm afraid there is nothing we can do about it. "I can recall the last World Cup, where Spain were simply dumped out in their quarter-final against South Korea by bad refereeing in the bluntest possible fashion. "They wanted to give medals to the host country at any cost and they achieved their goal."
Will it be King?
Ledley King has emerged as the favourite to replace John Terry against France on Sunday. The Tottenham man trained alongside Sol Campbell in Wednesday's training session, which is usually an indication of the way Sven is thinking. Terry looks likely to miss out on Sunday's Euro 2004 opener with a hamstring injury and has been given only until Friday to prove his fitness. But while Liverpool man Carragher replaced Terry in Saturday's friendly against Iceland, he could make way for King against France. Eriksson apparently has concerns about Carragher's lack of pace, which was exposed by Thierry Henry in meetings between Arsenal and Liverpool this season. Chelsea defender Terry finally trained on Wednesday - but alone with physiotherapist Gary Lewin rather than with the rest of the team. "John has made progress," said Eriksson. "He will work in the gym then on Friday we will decide. "We have to be careful because this is more than one game and we don't want him to break down for the rest of the tournament "We have Carragher and we have Ledley King and they are both in very good shape and I'm sure they'd both like to play in the first game."
Wiltord predicts 2-0
Sylvain Wiltord is talking big ahead of France's opening Euro 2004 clash with England. He has confidently predicted that not only will they beat England 2-0 on Sunday, but that he will play a big part in their victory. Wiltord will leave Arsenal this summer after refusing a new contract, but thinks that an impressive performance in Portugal will help him win a dream move to Spain. And he intends to begin in style on Sunday, when France face England in the big match of the group stages. "It will be 1-0 to us, we'll make it 2-0 at the end. I'll score or make a decisive pass," Wiltord told Eurosport. "Obviously, it will be strange for me and all the other 'Frenchies'. "We've spoken about it over the last few months, and we can't wait to play against them. We tease them and joke about it during training, everybody is looking forward to France versus England." But Wiltord needs to look further ahead of the 'physical' game he predicts against England as he is yet to find a club for next season. He has been linked with the short hop to Tottenham with French coach Jacques Santini, but he says he would prefer a move to Spain. "I think a Spanish club would suit me in terms of football, the ambiance and the other little things I like. I don't think the Spanish league is inferior. "The Italian league doesn't really suit my style of play, and it would be a bit strange going to a club other than Arsenal in the Premiership."
Sven too close to Becks - Robson
Sir Bobby Robson says Sven-Goran Eriksson's closeness to David Beckham could alienate the rest of the squad. The Newcastle United boss is wary of the Swede having one rule for the England skipper and another for the rest of his England internationals. Eriksson would do well to take a leaf out of the veteran coach's book. Robson claims he never allowed himself to be too close to his players when he was in charge of England, while his decisions have sometimes angered Magpies skipper Alan Shearer. Robson is quoted by the Newcastle fanzine TyneTalk as saying: "A manager cannot afford to get too close to individuals, no matter how big or famous. Otherwise, you run the risk of riling the others. "I never gave special treatment to players such as Peter Shilton, Gary Lineker or Bryan Robson." Robson also hopes that Eriksson told Beckham that he was at fault for Japan's goal during the 1-1 draw at the City of Manchester Stadium last Tuesday. He added: "Beckham let his player go and get in a telling cross. I hope Sven made that clear because it won't do David any good to be untouchable."
Larsson on target for Swedes
Henrik Larsson scored to help Sweden on their way to a comfortable 3-1 win over Poland in Stockholm. Larsson headed home Erik Edman's cross in the 41st minute to put Sweden in front and the hosts doubled their lead nine minutes after the break as defender Andreas Jakobsson rose highest to head in Kim Kallstrom's corner.Marcus Allback poked in a third goal from just two yards out in the 72nd minute before the visitors scored a late consolation through Damian Gorawski. But there wasn't such good news for Sweden's Group C opponents Denmark, who suffered a 2-1 home defeat against England's Group B rivals Croatia. The visitors were in control from the start and took a deserved lead after 27 minutes when Tomislav Sokota received a perfect pass from Dado Prso and lifted the ball over keeper Thomas Sorensen. And 12 minutes later the visitors were two goals to the good as Ivica Olic slipped between the Danish defence to head the ball home from a corner Substitute Ebbe Sand scrambled the ball over the line in the 57th minute to give the Danes some hope of a comeback but Croatia held out for a morale-boosting win.
Ruud: We must play as a team
Ruud van Nistelrooy insists that Holland must play as a team if they hope to achieve glory at Euro 2004. The Dutch are renowned for their technical ability and have an abundance of gifted players in their squad, but the Manchester United star believes they need to combine that with teamwork to succeed. The prolific striker is set to spearhead Holland's attack in Portugal and he is delighted to be taking part in his first major finals, but he doesn't rate his team amongst the favourites to lift the coveted Henry Delauney trophy this summer. Van Nistelrooy said: "I know we can play good football. Technically and tactically we are very good but it's not only about that. We have to play as a team. "For me we are an outsider for this tournament. We have had too many problems qualifying to put us among the favourites." He added: "Because of what happened in the past I haven't been able to play in a big tournament, so to be here preparing myself like this is a great feeling." Dick Advocaat's men wrap up their preparations for the European Championships with a friendly against the Republic of Ireland at the Amsterdam Arena on Saturday before turning their focus to the opening group match against Germany on June 15.
Totti: Ball too hard
The Roma ace does not concur with the view that the silver adidas 'Roteiro' model suits the strikers better than the goalkeepers and says most in the Italian camp are not happy with it. "It's too hard," said Totti. "It's not true what some people say, that this ball is better for the strikers than for the goalkeepers. "It's too hard and it doesn't rebound that well." The Azzurri are the latest to voice their concerns over the ball ahead of the tournament which starts in a week's time. Czech Republic coach Karel Bruckner criticised the ball after his side's recent 6-0 friendly win over Austrian amateur side Tyrolia. "I must say that it is another game with this kind of ball. It is a big change for the players. "This ball could be good just for the players of Real Madrid who play with short one-metre passes. But our players have problems controlling it with long passes. "We will have to learn new habits and we will probably change our playing system." There were mixed reviews when the ball was first introduced, with most of Spain's players highly critically of it after the 2-1 friendly win over Peru in February. Ivan Helguera called it a 'beach ball'. "I don't like it at all. To send it where you want you really have to hit it hard." Teammate and Real Betis striker Joaquin said: "It's hard to believe they can call this a ball. It lifts a lot and doesn't follow a true line." However, England skipper David Beckham declared himself a fan of the ball a long time ago. He said: "The most important thing for me is to know that I can rely on the ball to go exactly where I want it to go. "The new Roteiro reacts very well to my foot. I've noticed that the accuracy of my corners, my passing and, of course, my freekicks improved. Keepers are going to have a very tough time."