Villarreal climb as Barça crash

<-- Villarreal have gone second in the Spanish top flight

Villarreal CF put themselves firmly in title contention by taking advantage of FC Barcelona's defeat at Real Betis Balompié to move above the Catalans into second place in the Primera División.

Villarreal's night
After Barcelona surrendered a two-goal half-time lead to lose 3-2 against Betis in Seville, Villarreal fulfilled their part of the bargain by beating Club Atlético de Madrid 3-0 at El Madrigal.

Betis fightback
Frank Rijkaard's Blaugrana looked to be keeping a tight grip on the coat-tails of leaders Real Madrid CF when Bojan Krkić and Samuel Eto'o scored within 15 minutes of kick-off. However, mid-table Betis staged a remarkable second-half comeback inspired by Edu. After reducing the deficit soon after the hour, the Brazilian forward first had a penalty saved by Víctor Valdés, then rifled in a superb winner after 78 minutes. Betis had conjured an equally impressive equaliser through Juanito only two minutes before.

Atlético outplayed
That result kept Barcelona four points behind Madrid – and allowed Villarreal to overtake them with victory over fourth-placed Atlético. Manuel Luis Pellegrini's men benefited from uncertain defending by the visitors to establish a 2-0 interval advantage, with Santi Cazorla and Nihat Kahveci scoring after 39 and 43 minutes. When Nihat struck again in the 66th minute, the contest was over. Only three points separate Villarreal from Madrid, who host Sevilla FC on Sunday.

Cup of joy for PSG, despair for Lens

<-- PSG celebrate with the League Cup

A 93rd-minute penalty from Bernard Mendy gave Paris Saint-Germain FC a 2-1 victory over RC Lens in the French League Cup final at the Stade de France.

Paying the penalty
With the game seemingly destined for extra time, PSG striker Péguy Luyindula fell under the challenge of Lens captain Vitorino Hilton and Mendy coolly converted the spot-kick. The win, PSG's third in the competition, earned a UEFA Cup place for Paul Le Guen's men while shattering their Ligue 1 relegation rivals – the capital club sit third-from-bottom in the table, with Lens one place and two points better off.

Shifting fortunes
PSG started the brighter of the sides and took a 19th-minute lead through Pauleta. The former Portugal forward finished with a delicious lob over goalkeeper Ronan Le Crom after the ball dropped to him in the Lens area. Yet Jean-Pierre Papin's team got stronger as the match wore on, equalising when Eric Carrière angled a shot perfectly beyond the reach of Mickaël Landreau after 52 minutes. Lens then looked the more likely winners, with Olivier Monterrubio hitting the post and Yohan Demont forcing a late tip-over from Landreau. However, Lens' dream was then broken with PSG's last attack of regulation time.

Victory for Bordeaux
In Ligue 1, the drama was limited to the meeting between second-placed FC Girondins de Bordeaux and AS Nancy-Lorraine in third, which Laurent Blanc's men came from behind to win 2-1. Trailing to a 29th-minute header by Monsef Zerka, Bordeaux drew level eight minutes after the interval when Fernando Cavenaghi found space to score. Bordeaux then gained the initiative in an increasingly open contest with a second yellow card for Jonathan Brison. However, there were only eight minutes left when the hosts found the deciding goal, a Cavenaghi penalty, the forward's 12 of the campaign. Nancy's defeat was sealed by the sending-off of Frédéric Biancalani, again for two bookings. Bordeaux moved to within six points of leaders Olympique Lyonnais who play on Sunday.

Arsenal recover to beat Bolton at death

<-- William Gallas takes the plaudits at Bolton

Arsenal FC gained a vital victory by overturning a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 at Bolton Wanderers FC – but they still trail Premier League leaders Manchester United FC by six points.

Title race
A stoppage-time own goal from Jlloyd Samuel snatched the points for Arsenal who had started the day in third place yet moved into second. However, Manchester United remain in charge of the title race after defeating Aston Villa FC 4-0 at Old Trafford in the Saturday evening kick-off. Chelsea FC, in third, host Middlesbrough FC on Sunday.

Arsenal revival
Arsène Wenger's men endured a miserable first half at the Reebok Stadium with two goals for Matthew Taylor sandwiching the 31st-minute sending-off of Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby. But the Gunners' ten men fought back after the interval. William Gallas reduced arrears before Robin van Persie's penalty restored parity and then Cesc Fabregas forced the decisive own goal. The result ended a five-match winless run for Arsenal in the Premier League.

United response
United responded to the news from Bolton by beating Villa with two goals in each half. A home victory looked likely from the moment Cristiano Ronaldo put United in front on 17 minutes with an outrageous flick between the legs of a defender. Carlos Tévez and then Wayne Rooney with a brace were also on target. Villa, seeking European qualification, missed several opportunities with Shaun Maloney the most culpable.

Derby relegated
If the Arsenal scoreline left Bolton four points adrift in the bottom three, the draw in the meeting of the two sides below them suited neither. Derby County FC scored first and last in the 2-2 home draw with Fulham FC but were relegated despite Emanuel Villa's late equaliser. The home victories elsewhere for Birmingham City FC and Sunderland AFC could also prove costly for Bolton and second-from-bottom Fulham. Birmingham survived the sending-off of Franck Queudrue to beat Manchester City FC 3-1 with two goals from Mauro Zarate. Sunderland owed their 2-1 success against West Ham United FC to an added-time strike from Andy Reid.

Portsmouth prevail
FA Cup semi-finalists Portsmouth FC consolidated sixth place courtesy of a 2-0 home win over strugglers Wigan Athletic FC. Blackburn Rovers FC sit three points behind them following a 0-0 draw at Reading FC.

Bayern profit amid dropped points

<-- Lukas Podolski earned a point for Bayern

A combination of results elsewhere in Germany and Lukas Podolski's equaliser in a 1-1 draw at 1. FC Nürnberg kept FC Bayern München on course for the Bundesliga title.

Favourable scorelines
A share of the spoils against struggling Nürnberg might not have been the ideal outcome but it was enough for the leaders because none of their potential pursuers won. Second and third-placed Hamburger SV and FC Schalke 04 both drew while there were home defeats for Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Werder Bremen. So Bayern maintained their seven-point advantage thanks to substitute Podolski's 81st-minute equaliser against Nürnberg. The home team had led in the Franconia-Bavaria derby through Zvjezdan Misimović's 44th-minute strike.

Points aplenty dropped
Hamburg, meanwhile, slipped up against a DSC Arminia Bielefeld side who sit two points above Nürnberg in the third and final relegation place. HSV also needed a late leveller, from Paolo Guerrero on 82 minutes, to cancel out a Markus Bollmann opener ten minute before. Schalke, with three successive victories before today, had to settle for a point at Karlsruher SC. Which was more than Leverkusen and Bremen managed between them. Leverkusen lost 2-0 against Eintracht Frankfurt who climbed into the top six courtesy of strikes from Stefan Kiessling and Evangelos Mantzios; the Weserstadion witnessed a 2-1 success for MSV Duisburg which lifted the victors out of the drop zone. Diego scored for Bremen after Duisburg had the cushion of a half-time lead earned by Ivica Grlic and Manasseh Ishiaku.

Six-goal thriller
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, VfL Wolfsburg won 1-0 at FC Hansa Rostock on Friday, before Saturday's mid-table collision between VfL Bochum 1848 and BV Borussia Dortmund finished in a 3-3 draw. Stuttgart, who had started the weekend in sixth position, visit Hannover 96 on Sunday when bottom club FC Energie Cottbus host Hertha BSC Berlin.

Madrid and Hamburg awarded 2010 finals

<-- The Santiago Bernabéu home of Real Madrid

The Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid will host the 2010 UEFA Champions League final, with UEFA awarding the same season's UEFA Cup final to the Arena Hamburg.

Key criteria
The UEFA Executive Committee confirmed the selection of the two stadiums after its meeting in Liechtenstein on Friday but postponed a decision on the venues for the 2011 finals to allow members more time to consider the bids. The home stadiums of Real Madrid CF and Hamburger SV were chosen on the basis of capacity, facilities, accommodation and security among other considerations.

Famous finals
Now boasting a capacity of 71,569, the Santiago Bernabéu has staged three previous European Champion Clubs' Cup finals. Real Madrid won the first of them, beating AC Fiorentina 1-0 in 1957, before AC Milan had a memorable night in the Spanish capital when they defeated AFC Ajax 4-1 in the 1969 edition. More recently, Nottingham Forest FC overcame Hamburg 1-0 in the 1980 final.

International finals
The Santiago Bernabéu has also held the home legs of two UEFA Cup finals and two European/South American Cup games involving Madrid, together with several major international matches – notably the final of the 1964 UEFA European Championship where Spain beat the Soviet Union 2-1, and the 1982 FIFA World Cup final which Italy won 3-1 against West Germany.

Important games
Seating 51,680, the Arena Hamburg opened in 2000 on the site of Hamburg's old Volksparkstadion and was the setting for matches at the 2006 World Cup. The Volksparkstadion also hosted group-stage games at the 1974 World Cup and the semi-final of the 1988 UEFA European Championship, where West Germany lost 2-1 to the Netherlands.

Super Cup
Meanwhile, the Executive Committee confirmed that the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Super Cup matches will be played at the Stade Louis II in Monaco, as is the custom. The 2010 UEFA European Under-19 Championship was awarded to France, and the same year's U17 event to Liechtenstein, while Nyon will stage the 2009 UEFA European Women's U17 Championship.

Milito replaces Puyol as Barça concern

<-- Carles Puyol and Gabriel Milito are both nursing minor injuries

Gabriel Milito may be unavailable for FC Barcelona's UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg at FC Schalke 04 on Tuesday because of a groin problem, but captain Carles Puyol expects to get a clean bill of health.

Groin problem
Milito has been ruled out Saturday's Primera División game against Real Betis Balompié after missing Argentina's friendly victory in Egypt on Wednesday. Barcelona have now started a rehabilitation programme which they hope will see the 28-year-old Milito feature in Germany. Fellow central defender Puyol could even be back for tomorrow despite being injured during Spain's 1-0 friendly defeat of Italy in midweek. The 29-year-old was taken off after 17 minutes amid fears he had damaged ligaments in his right ankle.

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Glorious Germany aim even higher

<-- Germany celebrate their 4-0 win against Switzerland

Philipp Lahm has warned that Germany will be "an even better team" at UEFA EURO 2008™, despite registering an impressive 4-0 victory over co-hosts Switzerland in Basel on Wednesday.

'Even better'
With goals from Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski either side of two strikes from Mario Gómez, Germany bettered their recent 3-0 win against the other UEFA EURO 2008™ host nation Austria in Vienna, but FC Bayern München defender Lahm feels his side have not hit top gear yet. "We can still improve in the run-up to the EURO, then we will be an even better team," he said.

Questions answered
Coach Joachim Löw was also pleased with the friendly performance, and as he prepares to announce his finals squad on 16 May it now seems likely that Klose and Gómez will be his first-choice strike partnership. That would mean a supporting role in midfield for the industrious Podolski. "We have found answers to some open questions," explained Löw. "It was a EURO qualifier for every single player."

Westermann praise
It was not just the strikers who impressed the coach, however, with 24-year-old FC Schalke 04 defender Heiko Westermann demonstrating his versatility and work-rate. Just seven weeks after making his international debut in the 3-0 win in Vienna, he seems a certain choice for the finals, with Löw saying: "Westermann played very well – this was a very convincing and pleasing display."

Proper result
Having been flattered by the scoreline in Vienna, this was a far more complete performance from the Germans, and goalscorer Gómez feels his team fully merited the result. "Recent matches have not been convincing, but tonight we had an absolute will to win challenges, everyone worked for each other and it paid off," he said. "It's important to travel to the finals with such momentum behind you, but in the end all that matters is what happens in June."

Cannavaro upbeat despite Spain defeat

<-- Fabio Cannavaro (right)

On familiar turf in Spain, Italy defender Fabio Cannavaro was left to reflect on a performance that showed promise ahead of UEFA EURO 2008™, even if they did lose to a "beautiful, unstoppable shot".

Stunning goal
With a close-fought game seemingly meandering to a draw in Elche last night, David Villa finally ended Italy's resolve. With 12 minutes remaining, the Spain substitute unleashed a sumptuous volley, giving goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon no chance as it fizzed into the top corner. "Villa's goal was very beautiful, an unstoppable shot," said Real Madrid CF centre-back Cannavaro, his thoughts echoed by his coach Roberto Donadoni who added that "when you see a goal like Villa's you just have to stand up and clap your hands".

Unique style
Italy had a first-half effort from Luca Toni scrubbed out due to a foul by Cannavaro, and the man now in his second season in Italy believes he and his team-mates can draw a lot of positives from the game. "We proved we are a good team even if we lost," said the Azzurri captain. "We have our own style. Perhaps we don't always retain possession like Spain but we try to go deep and we caused a lot of problems with our tactics here."

Harsh defeat
Italy's next outing will be against Belgium in Florence on 30 May, ten days before they open their UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign against the Netherlands. Donadoni believes his charges are on track to add the European crown to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. "We had our chances [against Spain] to score but unfortunately we didn't capitalise," said the 44-year-old. "Spain also created a few opportunities but I don't think our defeat was merited. I'm not worried because we played well."

Impressive run
Spain counterpart Luis Aragonés will have few worries either as the Selección extended their unbeaten run to 14 matches at the Manuel Martínez Valero Stadium. It also made it five games without conceding, though they were perhaps more impressed at beating Italy's back line. "Italy are an impressive team with the best defence in the world," said Aragonés, who gave a debut to Liverpool FC defender Álvaro Arbeloa. "We were up against a great team, physically stronger than us, and the only way we could win was by dominating possession. We did, and that's where Spain were commendable."

Breadth of Croatian talent pleases Bilić

<-- Slaven Bilić

Slaven Bilić was satisfied with Croatia's 1-1 draw in Scotland although forward Ivan Klasnić felt his side "didn't make the most of our chances" at Hampden Park.

Klasnić criticism
In Croatia's first game since Eduardo da Silva was ruled out for UEFA EURO 2008™ with a broken leg, Klasnić returned to international action after missing much of the season following two kidney transplant operations. The Werder Bremen man was paired with Igor Budan up front, and concluded: "We dominated but in the end we didn't make the most of our chances. I can't be completely happy with this result. We played better than Scotland, but after we scored the first goal, we slowed down a little bit."

'A competitive match'
Croatia took an early lead through Niko Kranjčar, but Scotland were on level terms by half-time thanks to a Kenny Miller goal. The UEFA EURO 2008™ contenders showed plenty of composure on the ball, and produced some dangerous moves but were unable to re-establish their lead, though Bilić insists that had nothing to do with the lack of Eduardo. Having scored ten of Croatia's 28 goals in qualifying, many feared that his absence would be a severe brake on the national team's ambition, but the coach was impressed with the depth of talent in Glasgow. "The players who came on as substitutes brought a lot of positives to our play. Both forwards [Klasnić and Budan], Jerko Leko and Ognjen Vukojević played well. It's nice to see we have strength in depth. On the bench we have players who can maintain and raise our tempo, and that's a great thing to know."

Burley glad
In his first game as Scotland manager, George Burley had to do without talismanic captain Barry Ferguson, but was happy enough with the outcome, saying: It was a good performance against a top quality side. As a unit, we worked hard and it was very much a team performance. It was a competitive friendly and the boys all gave it 100 per cent. We saw the spirit and togetherness of the side and we need to keep that going and fine tune it."

Moments of madness temper Dutch joy

<-- Marco van Basten

Netherlands coach Marco van Basten admitted to mixed feelings after watching his team come back from three goals down to complete a historic 4-3 victory against Austria in Vienna on Wednesday night.

Individual mistakes
Klaas Jan Huntelaar scored the winner with his second of the night four minutes from time, with Johnny Heitinga and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink also on the scoresheet as the Dutch turned a three-goal deficit into victory for the first time in their history. "I saw some good things and some less good things," said Van Basten. "I'm glad we at least got the win, but the beginning was not good and that's an understatement. The three goals we conceded were very poor and came down to individual mistakes. Joris Mathijsen and Henk Timmer simply didn't do what we asked of them."

Tactical changes
Unsurprisingly, former international striker Van Basten was far more satisfied with the second half, in which his charges hit three unanswered goals: "After [Wilfred] Bouma replaced Mathijsen, there was an improvement. He was more resolute, sharper and faster. It was also better when Wesley Sneijder moved into Demy de Zeeuw's position and [Clarence] Seedorf moved into Sneijder's. We dictated the game in the second half and had a little luck at the end as well. We knew there were still 45 minutes left, and that's what I told them. We played a lot faster too, which was pleasing."

Mental resilience
With UEFA EURO 2008™ rapidly approaching, Van Basten will have been delighted by his team's mental resilience. "I've never been involved in such a crazy game with the Oranje," he added, scratching his head to come up with a comparable achievement. "The craziest I can remember was a [1984 UEFA European Championship qualifier] I played in against Ireland in Dublin, when we came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2."

Russia ready to return to action

<-- Igor Akinfeev

Russia are relishing their first game in four months as they prepare to face fellow UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifiers Romania in Bucharest tonight, a match coach Guus Hiddink is hoping to use to unearth some fresh talent for this summer's finals.

Key absentees
Hiddink's side have not played since booking their place in Austria and Switzerland with a 1-0 defeat of Andorra on 21 November, a win that secured second place in qualifying Group E thanks to Croatia's 3-2 victory in England the same night. The joy at reaching the finals was somewhat tempered by a red card – and subsequent two-match ban – for talismanic striker Andrei Arshavin, scorer of three goals in qualifying. The FC Zenit St. Petersburg forward has been left out of the squad while Aleksandr Kerzhakov has also been overlooked to give him more time to adapt following his move to FC Dinamo Moskva from Sevilla FC. Marat Izmailov, who had been suggested as a potential replacement for Arshavin, misses out for personal reasons while Konstantin Zyrianov has a thigh injury.

High-class opposition
With friendlies against Kazakhstan, Serbia and Lithuania remaining before UEFA EURO 2008™, at which Spain, Greece and Sweden will form the opposition in Group D, Hiddink is expecting a tough test at the Steaua Stadium, saying: "I've watched a few Romania games, including their win against the Netherlands in October and this is a team of high class. They don't have players of the calibre of Gheorghe Hagi anymore, but they have a lot of decent players." The Russia coach, who signed a contract until 2010 on Monday, is expected to field as close to his first-choice lineup as possible in Bucharest with Igor Akinfeev set to return in goal after a year on the sidelines with a knee injury behind the usual defence of Vasili and Aleksei Berezutski – the latter will captain the side for the first time – Sergei Ignashevich and Aleksandr Anykov. Igor Semshov, Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, Yuri Zhirkov and Vladimir Bystrov are likely to start in midfield, but up front is more of a dilemma for the coach in the absence of Arshavin and Kerzhakov.

Striking options
None of the four strikers in the squad – Roman Adamov, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Pavel Pogrebnyak and Dmitri Sychev – have found the net in the first two rounds of matches in the new Russian Premier-Liga season but Hiddink is adamant there is still plenty of time to impress him. "I keep my EURO squad in mind and have a fair idea of how we need to play, but that doesn't mean I am decided already," he said. "The players have enough time to persuade the coaches to change their minds." FC Moskva forward Adamov and Roman Shirokov, who has been successfully converted from a midfielder to a centre-back by Zenit coach Dick Advocaat this winter, are expected to win their first caps as substitutes.

Van Persie poised for welcome comeback

<-- Van Persie

Netherlands coach Marco van Basten has expressed his delight at having Robin van Persie back at his disposal tonight against UEFA EURO 2008™ co-hosts Austria following a five-month absence, but insists the Arsenal FC striker has some hard work ahead of him.

New bent
Traditionally the home of free-flowing, attacking football, the Netherlands that emerged from qualifying for this summer's finals are of a different ilk. Twelve Group G games produced a mere 15 goals, fewer than any of the 14 qualifiers, as defence took precedence. It speaks volumes for Van Persie's creative value that he was his country's top scorer, despite missing five games through injury.

The 24-year-old's last act in qualifying was to limp off with a knee injury in the 2-0 win against Slovenia in October, but he had already made his mark with four goals in the Netherlands' campaign and Van Basten is relieved to have him back. "Robin will be able to experience the atmosphere in the camp again," said the coach, who is likely to call on goalkeeper Henk Timmer in Vienna as Edwin van der Sar and Maarten Stekelenburg are unavailable. "We need to see what role will best suit him in our new playing style."

Full diary
That new style has led to a 4-2-3-1 system supplanting the 4-3-3 formation and Van Persie, expected to replace Ryan Babel in the starting lineup, could thrive in one of the three creative roles. All will be revealed at the Ernst-Happel-Stadion and having played just four games in the last four months, the Gunners forward needs to rediscover his form quickly. "Robin has trained hard in the past few weeks to get in shape," said Van Basten. "A lot of big matches await him and Arsenal before the end of the season – hopefully he will play in a lot of those and get in a good rhythm for the European Championship."

Klasnić relishing Croatia return

<-- Ivan Klasnić [right]

Croatia continue preparations for UEFA EURO 2008™ with a friendly against Scotland at Hampden Park tonight, a game invested with special significance for striker Ivan Klasnić.

Long-term absence
The 28-year-old Werder Bremen player won the last of his 26 caps on 7 October 2006, scoring Croatia's fifth goal in a 7-0 win against Andorra to take his national-team tally to eight. However, his career was then interrupted by a series of kidney transplant operations which sidelined the forward for more than a year before his triumphant return to the Bremen side. Three goals in four Bundesliga starts since his November comeback have caught the eye of Croatia coach Slaven Bilić and, with star striker Eduardo da Silva injured, they might yet earn Klasnic a place at this summer's finals.

'Everything's fine'
Klasnić, though, has learned better than to look too far ahead. "It's 18 months since I was last with the squad and that time hasn't gone too quickly – when I was in hospital, it went really slowly, to be honest," he said. "There haven't been many changes to the team, however, and everything's fine. I have worked so hard to get back into the squad and I really want to get back into the team – that has been my main goal. I'm not nervous. If I get the chance to play then great, if not it's also OK, I definitely won't be angry. The coach has recalled me and that's what is most important."

'Great atmosphere'
Klasnić has recent experience of Glasgow having attended the first leg of Bremen's UEFA Cup Round of 16 tie against Rangers FC on 6 March. That was a 2-0 defeat for the Bundesliga side and the forward is hoping for a happier outcome this time around – particularly after Bilić's team lost 3-0 at home to the Netherlands last month. "I was at Ibrox when Bremen played Rangers and the atmosphere was great so I hope it'll be the same for this match. We really want a victory, after all it is our last friendly before we begin final preparations for the EURO. We especially need the win after our defeat by the Netherlands in Split."

Eduardo absence
This will be Croatia's first game without Eduardo, who faces at least a 12-month lay-off after suffering a double compound fracture to the left leg playing for Arsenal FC on 23 February. In his absence, Bilić is likely to start with Mladen Petrić and Ivica Olić up front with Klasnić in contention to get his chance as a late substitute. Midfielder Jerko Leko is rated doubtful with a toe injury while captain Niko Kovač may play a restricted role as he recovers from flu.

Portugal eager to explore options

<-- Luiz Felipe Scolari

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has no qualms about testing the strength-in-depth of his squad in tonight's friendly against Greece in Dusseldorf.

Stepping up
Scolari's men take on the European champions in a repeat of the UEFA EURO 2004™ final without key performers such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Deco and Nani. However, the coach is demanding that the replacements – including a midfield of Fernando Meira, Miguel Veloso and Carlos Martins – prove both their own value and that of a squad bound for Austria/Switzerland.

Squad game
"We are missing Ronaldo, Nani, Deco and other players but we have to get by without them," said the Brazilian. "If we can't, then we are not a real team. We can't just depend on three players. We need a group that is capable of covering for absentees, however brilliant they may be. Ronaldo is a great player who makes the difference, but his absence gives us an opportunity to watch somebody else in action."

No guarantees
Failure to heed Scolari's words could mean missing the trip to UEFA EURO 2008™. "I have a good idea [about my squad] but that can change subject to performances," he warned. "Players who feel their place is safe could be wrong and much will depend on the work they put in." One player who is destined for this summer's finals is goalkeeper Rui Patrício – the 20-year-old from Sporting Clube de Portugal could win his first cap against the Greeks. "I still don't know if Rui Patrício will play on Wednesday," added the coach.

'Not a favourite'
Rui Patrício should provide competition for Ricardo and Quim when Portugal tackle Turkey, the Czech Republic and Switzerland in their Group A matches in June. Of their chances of ultimate success in the tournament, Scolari is rather less effusive. "We are one of 16 finalists, of whom 15 will lose, and I have already said we are not among the favourites."

Beckham to bring up England century

<-- David Beckham

David Beckham will become only the fifth player to win 100 caps for England when he features against France in Paris tonight.

Illustrious club
The LA Galaxy midfielder will follow in in the footsteps of Billy Wright, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Peter Shilton when he brings up his century at Stade de France and, having been left out Fabio Capello's first match in charge against Switzerland at Wembley last month, the Italian coach is now backing Beckham to extend his England career until the 2010 FIFA World Cup. "I know Beckham well and I know what he can give me and what he can give the team," said Capello, who coached the 32-year-old at Real Madrid CF last season. "He will play. I couldn't possibly make him come from the United States and not play him, that would be very cruel. As for the future we will have to see, but the David Beckham I know can certainly get to 2010 if he carries on training as he has done. He has always been a very good professional and only people like that can last so long."

World Cup ambition
Beckham made his England debut in 1996 and, having survived being dropped by first Steve McClaren and now Capello, is hoping to prolong his international career for as long as possible. "[The World Cup] is something I want to reach," said Beckham, who was part of the England squad at the 1998 and 2002 tournaments and was also involved in the UEFA European Championship in 2000 and 2004. "I would love to play and be part of the squad in 2010. But I'm taking it as it comes – who knows what's round the corner?"

Capello impact
Having won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups, the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League and European/South American Cup with Manchester United, and added the Primera División title under Capello at Madrid last season, Beckham is perfectly placed to assess what creates success – and he believes the new coach has brought a new atmosphere to the England squad. ""He's started off well; the regime has totally changed and players have recognised that," he said. "If you're not playing well and don't respond, you won't be in the team. We've a manager with strong beliefs. He is, without doubt, the right man for the England job.

'What we need'
"He's got his own ways, he knows how to get teams playing. That's what our country needs. We need to get the confidence of the nation back. It's embarrassing when we promise things and say how good we are as a team and don't fulfil that potential. But we do have some of the most talented players in the world and now we've got a manager who knows how to get the best out of players."