Sunday, June 02, 2002

World Cup notebook


Swedish star back in training; appears ready for England opener

By DAVID MORDKOFF
Associated Press Writer

        Fredrik Ljungberg was back in training Saturday and appeared ready to play in Sweden's World Cup opener against England.

        The star midfielder, who injured his left hip and groin last week after finally getting rid of his back problems, had running drills with a Swedish trainer in the morning.

        In the evening, he worked out with the team, but didn't go full speed during a 90-minute session at Saitama Stadium, the venue for Sunday's Group F game.

        “We'll just have to wait and see,” co-coach Lars Lagerback said. “But we're hopeful, and Fredrik himself is also hopeful.”

        The Swedes have until one hour before kickoff Sunday to make their final decision.

        ———

        INZAGHI SITS: Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi will start his squad's first World Cup match on the bench, coach Giovanni Trapattoni said Saturday.

        The forward nicknamed “Pippo” hurt his knee last weekend during a warmup match, but said soon after he was in good shape. On Friday, he looked strong in an evening practice, scoring four times against an outclassed local youth team.

        “Pippo did well in his test,” Trapattoni said Saturday. “He will be on the bench in Monday's match. With the medical staff, we're evaluating if he could be used during the match.”

        Italy, a three-time World Cup champion, plays Ecuador on Monday in its first Group G match.

        ———

        EUSEBIO PREDICTS: Eusebio thinks Portugal can go a long way in the World Cup — as long as it beats the United States in its opening game.

        Eusebio, who led Portugal to third place in the 1966 World Cup, said Saturday that the June 5 game is crucial to give the team a lift.

        “In World Cups, the first game is like a final,” Eusebio said.

        “We have to focus on winning that match, and I'm saying that because I have experience. If we beat the United States, our way is open for a long run.”

        Eusebio is on FIFA's list of top 10 players and is now a soccer ambassador for Portugal. He scored nine goals in the 1966 tournament, including four in a 5-3 quarterfinal win over North Korea.

        ———

        PROTECTED PORTUGAL: As World Cup training grounds in South Korea go, Portugal probably has one of the safest.

        The Portuguese are using the Korean Military Academy on the edge of Seoul, a highly secure complex where soldiers poke machine guns from behind sandbags and camouflage netting.

        Goalie Ricardo Pereira denied the heavy security, which includes numerous police officers, was unsettling for the squad.

        “It makes us feel like we're being taken care of. It takes a worry off our shoulders,” he said.

        The premises, though, are a bit more austere than the team hotel, the Ritz-Carlton in the city center.

        But the South Korean military is an enthusiastic host. It installed new changing rooms especially for the Portuguese.

        The practice field is impeccable, like a manicured lawn. It is surrounded on three sides by tall trees which, as well as providing some privacy from an adjacent main road and railroad tracks, also provide cover for what appear to be secret service agents.

        ———

        HONG KONG RAID: Police in Hong Kong arrested four bookmakers and seized slips amounting to $2.6 million in illegal bets on World Cup soccer.

        They also seized 11 mobile phones and two computers in raids Friday evening, part of an intensified crackdown on World Cup gambling, spokeswoman Suzanne Lee said.

        Gambling is popular among Hong Kong Chinese, but for decades the only legal betting in the territory has been on lotteries and horse races.

        New laws took effect Friday, opening day of the 32-nation tournament, to ban placing bets by telephone or over the Internet with overseas bookmakers.

        During the last World Cup in 1998 police arrested 49 people for illegal gambling and seized $7.42 million in wagered cash.

        Many people interviewed Saturday said their friends are still placing bets on the World Cup, ranging from $13 to $642, by telephone and the Internet.

       



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