Euro 2008: Paris ready for World Cup final sequel
LONDON, Sept 4 (Reuters) - France host Italy in a re-run of the World Cup final without Zinedine Zidane, while the Czech Republic and Slovakia will be reunited on a football pitch when Euro 2008 qualifying continues on Wednesday.
The French will clearly have a score to settle at the Stade de France, scene of their own World Cup triumph in 1998, when they face Italy's world champions just two months after their disappointing contest in Berlin.
Zidane, whose red card for head-butting Marco Materazzi overshadowed the final, has now retired while the Italy defender is suspended for having goaded the greatest footballer of his generation.
For France, though nothing will make up for defeat in Berlin on penalties, Raymond Domenech and his men will want to turn the page with a win that would also put them in an excellent qualifying position in Group B.
They will also go into the game after a convincing 3-0 victory in Georgia on Saturday that will have lifted spirits in the French camp.
Italy, by contrast, need to pick themselves up after a surprise 1-1 draw with Lithuania in Naples, albeit with a side missing several rested World Cup winners.
Thirteen years after Czechoslovakia's so-called 'Velvet Divorce', in which the country split into two, Slovakia play host to the Czech Republic in Group D. The Czechs beat Slovakia 4-1 in a 2002 friendly.
The Slovaks, who were 6-1 winners over Cyprus on Saturday, will have to keep a closer watch on Czech newcomer David Lafata than Wales did.
The striker scored within seconds of making his debut as a substitute to put his team ahead before going on to score an 89th-minute winner after the Welsh had equalised.
World Cup hosts Germany, who edged Ireland 1-0 with a deflected Lukas Podolski free kick in Stuttgart, will have a much easier time against San Marino in Group D.
Striker Miroslav Klose, top scorer at the World Cup with five goals, could get as many in a single game against the tiny principality.
England will expect to follow up their 5-0 drubbing of Andorra, in Steve McClaren's first competitive game in charge since replacing Sven-Goran Eriksson, with a more difficult Group E win in Macedonia.
They will again be without suspended striker Wayne Rooney, who became England's youngest goalscorer in this fixture as a 17-year-old three years ago in a Euro 2004 qualifier.
Spain, who opened their Euro 2008 qualifying campaign with another of the weekend's mis-matches by trouncing Liechtenstein 4-0 in Group F, are away to Northern Ireland.
Finland, who caused an upset on Saturday by beating Poland 3-1 in Leo Beenhakker's first competitive game in charge of the Poles, will be out to defy the odds a second time at home to World Cup semi-finalists Portugal in Group A.
Israel, who began with a 1-0 victory in Estonia, will play their next Group E game against Andorra in the Netherlands after UEFA prevented Israeli teams from playing at home due to the security situation.
Israel's FA is hoping to get the UEFA ban overturned, following the United Nations-brokered ceasefire in the war with Lebanese guerrilla group Hizbollah.