Europe the focus of world football
Europe will be the focus of the football world this week when no fewer than 23 qualifying matches for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea / Japan will be played on 2 and 3 September, a few days after a crucial meeting to hatch out the future of the international transfer system in Zurich on 31 August.
On 16 August, Estonia kicked off Europe's 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a 1-0 home victory in Tallinn over Andorra, but now almost the whole of Europe will enter the fray and attempt to get well out of the starting blocks in the race for one of the coveted World Cup berths. Notable absentees will be defending world champions France (automatically qualified), who embark on their series of friendlies with a high-profile game at the Stade de France against England. For England it will be the last test before meeting Germany in a Group 9 match on 7 October, the last to be played at Wembley.
The likes of Italy, the Netherlands and Germany will have to overcome their various Euro 2000 traumas and attempt to revive their fortunes under the guidance of a new coach in the person of Trapattoni, van Gaal and Voeller respectively. Turkey, on a high after Euro 2000 and Galatasaray winning the 2000 UEFA Cup, will seek to extend their run with a qualification for 2002, which would be the first time since their sole participation in 1954 in Switzerland.
Elsewhere, in South America and in the Concacaf region, action will continue unabated with the next round of matches also scheduled for 2 and 3 September. Brazil find themselves in a particularly uncomfortable situation after the 0-3 defeat at the hands of Chile a fortnight ago and will be seeking to restore confidence with a win over Bolivia.
In Concacaf's semi-final Group C, Canada will embark on a do-or-die mission with the away game against group leaders Trinidad & Tobago. If Canada, proud Gold Cup winners earlier this year, fail to win this game, they will have virtually no chance to qualify for the final round.