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  News: Countdown to EURO 2004


Shevchenko and Inzaghi in tournament "Absentees XI"
Euro 2004 brings together the best teams on the continent. However, some of Europe's finest players, including Filippo Inzaghi, Rio Ferdinand and Andrij Schevchenko, will not be showing off their skills in Portugal.
Tuesday, 08 June 2004

Shevchenko, arguably the player of the season in Serie A with champions AC Milan, will stay at home because Ukraine failed to qualify.

Barcelona's Rustu Recber is another of the "missing". He helped Turkey to a surprise place in the last four at the 2002 World Cup, conceding four goals in six matches.

The Turks were expected to cruise into Euro 2004 but were dumped out by surprise package Latvia, who will be competing at a major soccer tournament for the first time here.

Winger Ryan Giggs, one of the driving forces at Manchester United, is yet to play at a World Cup and European Championship for Wales, a country which nearly made it this time before losing to Russia.

Suspension is the reason for the absence of England defender Ferdinand and France striker Djibril Cisse from one of the big games of the group stage in the June 12-July 4 tournament.

Ferdinand is serving an eight-month ban for missing a dope test while Cisse was suspended for five matches, reduced to four on appeal in April, for violent conduct during an under-21 international.

England meet holders France in their opening Group B match in Lisbon on Sunday.

The central striker in the tournament's Absentees XI would be Cisse or Italy's Filippo Inzaghi, deemed not fit enough after his recent injury for coach Giovanni Trapattoni to risk.

Spain's Jose Antonio Reyes is one player who probably didn't expect to watch Euro 2004 on television.

Despite impressive performances for the national team and for Arsenal since his move to England, the former Sevilla forward is seen as one for the future, not the present, by coach Inaki Saez.

Not such a surprise is that Spanish midfielder Gaizka Mendieta is missing the tournament. So is Mista despite his contribution to Valencia's UEFA Cup final victory over Olympique Marseille.

Portugal would appear to be overloaded with top goalkeepers as they have omitted Porto's Vitor Baia whose safe pair of hands grasped the European Cup at the end of the season.

Germany's two most notable absentees are Borussia Dortmund defender Christoph Metzelder, one of the revelations of the 2002 World Cup who was ruled out with an Achilles injury, and Bayern Munich midfielder Sebastian Deisler.

Deisler, one of the most gifted and creative players Germany has to offer, was absent for over six months while recovering from depression and made his return to Bundesliga action late in the season. Coach Rudi Voeller ruled he was not yet fully fit.

Also unfit is Russia's veteran captain Viktor Onopko. In addition the Russians have lost fellow central defender Sergei Ignashevich, like Onopko with a knee injury.

Absentees XI (coached by Belgium's Aime Anthuenis): Rustu Recber; Christoph Metzelder, Rio Ferdinand, Viktor Onopko; Gaizka Mendieta, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs, Sebastian Deisler; Andrij Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi, Djibril Cisse.
- Reuters



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