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25.03.2009 Football News


By chelseafc

For Chelsea's England players it is friendly international action on Saturday ahead of a World Cup qualifier next week. For other nationalities, the vital games start this weekend.

The second half of the qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa is beginning and there is still plenty of work to do for Petr Cech's Czech Republic.

They are currently third in their group (the top team qualifies automatically with the eight best of the nine second-placed teams going into play-offs.

Slovakia sit two points ahead of the Czechs and Northern Ireland are second on goal difference, although they have played a game more. Fifth-placed Slovenia away on Saturday are Cech's next opponents with a home match against Slovakia to come the following Wednesday.

Russia comes back into Chelsea focus with the arrival of Guus Hiddink. The second-placed Russians share a group with Germany who are current leaders by four points with one game more played.

Michael Ballack is in the German squad and confirmed as captain and will be hosting Liechtenstein on Saturday before travelling back to the UK to face Wales on Wednesday.

Michael Ballack
Hiddink will be hoping to gain ground with games against the two low-achievers in the group, at home to Azerbaijan and away to Liechtenstein who have one point apiece.

Sitting pretty at the top of their group are Branislav Ivanovic's Serbia. They will be looking for an away win against neighbours Romania on Saturday to keep above Lithuania who are on the same points, before a friendly at home to Sweden next week.

France are in the same group and by no means on course for South Africa. The 1998 world champions trail Serbia by five points with a game in hand and need back-to- back wins over Lithuania in this round of fixtures. The first match is away although Florent Malouda's non-inclusion and Nicolas Anelka's return to England with a toe injury means they must do it without Chelsea input.

Portugal are down in fourth in their group although only two points off the pace, although leaders Denmark have a game in hand. Paulo Ferreira is out and it remains to be seen if Ricardo Carvalho and Deco (who missed the weekend match at Spurs through injury) will be involved in Saturday's home game against Sweden. José Bosingwa has been selected, Ricardo Quaresma has not.

Portugal also play a home friendly against South Africa next Tuesday.

That leaves England and John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole from Chelsea's European World Cup qualifiers.

After warming up at home to Slovakia on Saturday, Wembley hosts a qualifier against Ukraine a week on Wednesday. Andriy Shevchenko is in the Ukraine squad.

Away from Europe, Sunday is a big day for 2010 qualifiers.

In Africa this is the start of a second stage of group matches, the numbers having been cut down. Ghana will be ecstatic to welcome Michael Essien back home to start the campaign against Benin.

Essien playing for Ghana
Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou have travelled back to Ivory Coast to face Malawi while Nigeria are away to Mozambique with John Mikel Obi's involvement in question after illness hindered the midfielder in the days prior to the Tottenham game.

Alex is not in the Brazil squad for qualifiers against Ecuador and Peru.

At Under 21 level, Michael Mancienne has England dates away to Norway on Friday and at home to France next Tuesday at Nottingham Forest.

Ben Sahar's Israel are at home to Kazakhstan on Sunday. Rhys Taylor has withdrawn from the Wales Under 21 squad due to a thigh injury.

Miroslav Stoch has been named in a Slovakia Under 21 squad to contest a tournament in which they will face Italy.

Ryan Bertrand, Jack Cork and Scott Sinclair are in an England Under 20 squad to play Italy next Tuesday at Loftus Road.

Jeffrey Bruma and Patrick van Aanholt are in Netherlands Under 19 squad for matches against Serbia and Romania and Nic Heimann is involved with Germany Under 18s for two matches against France.

Chelsea schoolboy Josh McEachran is in the England Under 17 squad to play a European Championship qualifying tournament in Hungary. They play Portugal, Serbia and Hungary. Aliu 'Kaby' Djalo is in the Portugal squad at the same tournament.

Recent arrival Gokhan Tore is in Turkey's Under 17 squad for a similar tournament involving Wales, Romania and Finland.

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