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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy, Dutch Hope to Erase Euro 96 Flops

LONDON -- Italy and the Netherlands, playing for the first time since their Euro 96 disappointments, are the two teams with the most to prove in World Cup qualifying games Saturday.

The Dutch face Wales while the Italians travel to Moldova. Those two key games are among seven World Cup qualifiers Saturday. The others are: Estonia vs. Belarus, Latvia vs. Scotland, Lithuania vs. Iceland, Northern Ireland vs. Armenia, and Ukraine vs. Portugal. On Sunday, it's Finland vs. Switzerland and the Faeroe Islands vs. Yugoslavia.

Dutch coach Guus Hiddink is taking a patched up team to Wales for the Group 7 game. Strikers Patrick Kluivert, Jouri Muilder, Johan de Kock and Dennis Bergkamp are out with injuries. Hiddink is expected to counter up front with Celtic's Pierre van Hooijdonk and Manchester United's Jordi Cruyff.

Gould knows that beating the Dutch would give Wales -- 5-0 and 6-0 winners over tiny San Marino in their first two matches -- a great start in a group where the Dutch are favorites.

"The events of the summer are still fresh in the memory,'' Gould said of the Dutch, who lost to France on penalties in the quarterfinals. "Euro 96 has gone, and Guus Hiddink has got to start all over again ... playing away at Wales. I don't think that's an easy game for anyone and he'll be thinking it's a tough one to get through after what happened in Euro 96.''

Wales will be without several key players, chief among them suspended Manchester United striker Ryan Giggs.

Italy's assignment in its Group 2 match at Moldova is to win big. England -- the other group favorite -- won 3-0 in Moldova last month and the Italians will want to keep pace.

Sacchi has opted for a "trident'' attack, led by three strikers -- Pierluigi Casiraghi of Lazio, Enrico Chiesa of Parma and Fabrizio Ravanelli of Middlesbrough. AC Milan veterans Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta and Juventus' Ciro Ferrara will spearhead the defense, with Francesco Toldo of Fiorentina starting in goal.

The most notable absentees will be forward Alessandro Del Piero, midfielder Demetrio Albertini, striker Marco Simone and goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi.

Scotland takes a swing through the Baltics, facing Latvia on Saturday and Estonia on Wednesday. The Scots need two victories to keep the pressure on Group 4 leader Sweden, which has won its first two qualifying games.

Scotland coach Craig Brown will be without five injured players -- strikers Duncan Ferguson, Ally McCoist, Gordon Durie and Kevin Gallacher, and defender Colin Hendry.

"I think we have the capabilities within the squad that remains to play Estonia and Latvia and I will be extremely disappointed if we don't do well and score some goals on this trip to the Baltics,'' Brown said.

ONN -- When Bayern Munich face their old rivals Hamburg on Saturday, they will be looking to recapture not just the form of their midweek cup win over Borussia Moenchengladbach -- but also the spirit of Thomas Strunz's basement.

After their first round UEFA cup exit to Valencia and last Saturday's 3-0 drubbing by Werder Bremen, the midfielder decided action had to be taken and invited the entire team to his home on Monday night to sort out their problems -- which they did in a meeting in the basement of Strunz's large house.

The result was clear for all to see in Wednesday's 2-1 win at Moenchengladbach. Bayern went into a basketball-style huddle to pledge allegiance before the match and produced a resolute performance in sharp contrast to the Bremen game.

"We wanted to show ourselves and the fans that we're a team that sticks together," Strunz said.

Like the rest of the Bayern players, Strunz knows last season's descent into constant squabbling and sniping probably cost his team their 14th Bundesliga title. The Munich stars say they're determined not to make those mistakes again.

But they also know one good game is not enough to start proclaiming they have turned the corner.

"We don't want to break out in euphoria," club vice-president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge warned. "We've made that mistake in the past."

Saturday's defeat cost Bayern the top spot and pushed them down to third. They can ill afford to fall further behind.


Coach Arrigo Sacchi will field three strikers to boost Italy's offense in Saturday's World Cup qualifying match against Moldova in Chisinau.

Sacchi said Thursday that the Italian team will be led by a "trident" made with Pierluigi Casiraghi of Lazio, Enrico Chiesa of Parma and Fabrizio Ravanelli of Middlesbrough.

AC Milan veterans Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta and Juventus' Ciro Ferrara will mastermind defense with young Francesco Toldo of Fiorentina starting as goalkeeper.

Wales boss Bobby Gould is hopeful that Mark Pembridge will win his fitness battle and face the Netherlands at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday night.

Gould named Pembridge in the side, and the Sheffield Wednesday midfielder, who has been sidelined by a calf strain, came through a training session without suffering any adverse reaction.

Gould will wait until the last moment before deciding whether to play him.

Birmingham winger Andy Legg is on stand-by should Pembridge be ruled out.

Gary Speed replaces the suspended Ryan Giggs and Kit Symons steps in for the injured Chris Coleman.

Scotland manager Craig Brown moved to solve his problems for the World Cup qualifiers against Latvia and Estonia by calling up in-form pair Dougie Freedman of Crystal Palace and John McGinlay of Bolton.