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Reputations on the line in Euro qualifiers

Reputations on the line in Euro qualifiers

Sharp-shooters Wayne Rooney, Nicolas Anelka and Craig Bellamy spearhead a legion of star names determined to salvage battered reputations in Euro 2008 qualifiers on Saturday.
Rooney returns to the England side to face Macedonia at Old Trafford having served out a suspension imposed for his World Cup quarterfinal red card.
Meanwhile, Anelka, whose football odyssey has now taken him to humble Bolton, is in line for a shock recall to the French side for the trip to Scotland.
Bellamy will skipper Wales for the first time in Cardiff against Slovakia with the backing of coach John Toshack that the fiery attacker will put aside his bad-boy image and lead his country to an opening win.
Elsewhere, in Saturday's 22-match bumper program, World Cup winner Italy has plenty to prove as it takes on Ukraine looking to bounce back from its defeat to Group B rival France last time out.
Spain is also under fire, having lost 3-2 to Group F minnow Northern Ireland.
Rio Ferdinand believes Rooney will emerge from his form slump as England looks to build on its 100-percent record against Macedonia in Manchester.
Manchester United striker Rooney returns for Steve McClaren's team after serving a two-match suspension following his World Cup red card against Portugal.
But he is without a goal for club or country since the opening day of the season in August.
The 20-year-old has also surprisingly failed to score in a competitive international since hitting two in England's 4-2 win against Croatia in Lisbon during Euro 2004.
But United teammate Ferdinand said: "It's the way of the world that we operate in, but we tend to overhype things whether they are good or bad.
"There is a lot of pressure on Wayne to deliver, but Michael Owen had it, David Beckham had it and Wayne accepts it himself. It's water off a duck's back to him now."
Anelka too has plenty to prove.
The 27-year-old could start against the Scots in Glasgow after injury sidelined Sydney Govou and Louis Saha.
Anelka last played in France's friendly loss to Slovakia in March and missed out on the squad that reached the World Cup final.
"He deserves it, he never gave up," Arsenal defender William Gallas said of Anelka. "He's adapted well to his club (Bolton) and is performing well."
Anelka has 31 caps and has scored seven goals for France.
Scotland tops Group B on goal difference ahead of France with both teams having won their opening two games.
Liverpool striker Bellamy finds himself in the spotlight as he prepares to skipper Wales for the first time.
The 27-year-old will be in court early next week, in between Wales' two qualifiers that includes a visit from Cyprus on Wednesday, on assault charges.
It is the latest incident in a career that has seen him fall out with teammates, managers and fans off the field while being dogged by red cards on it.
But Toshack is standing by his decision to hand Bellamy the armband in the absence of injured Ryan Giggs.
"I am not so sure that Craig's on-field record is too much of a problem," said Toshack. "It's not something I have considered or felt the need to think about with regard to making him captain. But his desire in the red jersey cannot be questioned."
World Cup winner Italy is second from bottom of Group B with just one point from two games but midfielder Andrea Pirlo insists the world champion will come through Saturday's crucial test against Ukraine in Rome.
Pirlo was at the heart of the Italy team at the World Cup, and believes the team is looking like world-beaters once again despite a draw against lowly Lithuania and defeat to France.
"This is the real Italy, the Italy that won the World Cup, and we will show it on Saturday," Pirlo said.


Updated : 2021-08-02 21:37 GMT+08:00