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Building up for the real thing
France appears ready for this summer's Euro 2004 Championship after a 2-0 friendly victory Wednesday at neighbour Belgium.
Thursday, 19 February 2004


^ Luis Figo celebrates his 100th international  appearance for Portugal in Faro.

The defending champions won in Brussels as Sidney Govou scored in first-half injury time and Manchester United striker Louis Saha clinched the victory with a 75th-minute strike. It was Saha's first match for Les Bleus.

Govou collected a deflected ball in the area and scored with an angled drive from the right. Playmaker Zinedine Zidane set up Saha's goal with a perfect pass before 48,000 fans at King Baudouin stadium.

With Euro 2004 only four months away, 15 of the 16 qualifiers were in action across Europe with Russia the only idle team.

In a showdown between two teams headed to the June 12-July 4 championship, Germany defeated Croatia 2-1 on a second-half injury-time goal by Carsten Ramelow.

Miroslav Klose gave Germany a first-half lead against the run of play, but Ramelow got the winner after Mato Neretljak scored a late equalizer.

In another match between qualifiers, the Czech Republic stayed unbeaten in 20 games as it drew Italy 2-2 in Palermo, Sicily. Tomas Rosicky equalized for the Czechs in the 89th.

Christian Vieri gave Italy an early lead but the Czechs rallied each time. Antonio Di Natale scored Italy's other goal and Jiri Stajner did the same for his side.

Portugal and England drew 1-1 in the southern city of Faro as each team prepares for the summer tournament.

England took a 1-0 lead when defender Ledley King -- in his debut for England -- deflected the ball home in the 47th off a David Beckham free kick. Pauleta knotted the match 1-1 on a perfect free kick that curled in over the outstretched right hand of 'keeper David James.

Other qualifiers for the continental championship including the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Greece and Latvia picked up victories in friendlies.

Arjen Robben scored in the 56th as the Dutch defeated the United States 1-0 in Amsterdam. It was the first time the Americans had a full-strength team since reaching the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup.

The speedy Robben took the ball on the left wing and headed it past U.S. defender Frankie Hejduk. He then drove it home to the right of sliding goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

Denmark won 1-0 at non-qualifier Turkey on Martin Jorgensen's winner in the 32nd. In the match at Adana in southern Turkey, Inter Milan's Thomas Helveg provided the winning cross.

The victory came as Turkey's coach Senol Gunes reshuffled his team after Turkey failed to reach this summer's championship.

Playing in Barcelona, Spain defeated Peru 2-1 after Nolberto Solano gave the Latin Americans a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes. Ten minutes later, Joseba Etsebarria scored and Ruben Baraja added another a minute later.

In a showdown between two teams bound for the tournament in Portugal, Greece defeated Bulgaria 2-0 to stay unbeaten in 14 games. It was Greece's 10th win in 14 under German coach Otto Rehhagel. Dimitris Papadopoulos and Zissis Vryzas scored for Greece.

Latvia, a surprise qualifier, won 3-1 over Kazakhstan in a match played in Larnaca, Cyprus. Jurijs Laizan scored two and Marian Pahars scored the other. Youri Assenov gave Kazakhstan a lead after only 24 minutes.

In an upset, non-qualifier Albania defeated qualifier Sweden 2-1 to hand the Swedes their fourth straight defeat.

Sweden took a 1-0 lead on Stefan Selakovic's goal in the 50th. But Ervin Skela, who plays for Frankfurt in the German Bundesliga, equalized in the 68th and Ardian Aliaj scored the winner in the 75th.

Morocco, losing finalist to Tunisia in the African Nations Cup, defeated Switzerland 2-1.
- AP





18 Feb 2004
Albania 2-1 Sweden
Latvia 3-1 Kazakhstan
Spain 2-1 Peru
Turkey 0-1 Denmark
Netherlands 1-0 USA
Portugal 1-1 England
Belgium 0-2 France
Italy 2-2 Czech Republic
Greece 2-0 Bulgaria
Morocco 2-1 Switzerland
Croatia 1-2 Germany


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