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France and Scotland bid to top its 2008 European Championship qualifying group

France and Scotland bid to top its 2008 European Championship qualifying group

Scotland will try to succeed where World Cup champion Italy failed.
Having beaten Italy 3-1 in a rematch of the World Cup final last month, France plays Scotland at Hampden Park on Saturday with top place in Group B in European Championship qualifying at stake.
France and Scotland lead the group with six points, five ahead of next-to-last Italy.
"The match against Scotland is the true rendezvous on the road to the European Championship," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "Before that, we were in the aftermath of the World Cup."
France beat Spain, Brazil and Portugal to reach the World Cup final after almost exiting at the group stage for the second straight time. But Italy won in a penalty shootout to capture its fourth title.
France are now without the retired Zinedine Zidane and Fabien Barthez to face a Scotland team rejuvenated by coach Walter Smith. Victories over the Faeroe Islands and Lithuania with an 8-1 goal tally has given Scotland renewed confidence.
"They will be dangerous in all areas, from the kick-off to the final whistle," Domenech said. "The Scotland players can cause us problems. They beat the Faeroe Islands 6-0, which we have not managed to do."
Smith said Scotland shouldn't fear France, but can't just sit back and defend.
"No one will be quaking in their boots in any way shape or form," Smith said Friday. "We have to achieve a proper balance. We are talking about a (France) team which has just reached the World Cup final and has a fantastic record in qualifying since 1994.
"We know the strength that they have, but we have to keep in mind that if we are to achieve anything at all, we have to look at the attacking aspect of it and we hope to cause them a few problems."
Scotland has recently struggled against France _ losing 3-0, 2-1, 2-0 and 5-0 in their last four meetings since a 2-0 win in Glasgow in 1989.
France's preparations have been hindered by several players battling injuries. Striker Louis Saha has hamstring and groin strains, winger Sidney Govou twisted his left ankle, defender William Gallas has a thigh injury and captain Patrick Vieira hurt his left ankle in training.
"I will see how Patrick's fitness is after training," Domenech said Friday. "It is the same situation with Louis Saha."
Nicolas Anelka has been recalled as cover for Saha. Anelka, exiled from the national team for three years after falling out with former coach Jacques Santini, last played in a 2-1 loss to Slovakia in March.
Scotland has lost midfielder Nigel Quashie with an ankle injury, but Barry Ferguson is back from the heel problem that forced him to miss the games against the Faeroe Islands and Lithuania.
"I think Barry is ready now," Smith said. "He's had half a dozen games which have brought up his match fitness, and I think that was required. He was injured in the latter stages of last season, all through the close (off)season and in the preseason buildup _ but I think he is now ready to play."
Celtic striker Kenny Miller is suspended, but will be back for Wednesday's game against Ukraine. Kris Boyd and James McFadden are likely to be paired in attack.