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Rediff.com  » Sports » France face Irish test, Portugal without Ronaldo

France face Irish test, Portugal without Ronaldo

November 13, 2009 16:49 IST

France face a severe test of their resolve in Dublin on Saturday when Raymond Domenech's under-achieving side take on Ireland in the first leg of their World Cup playoff at what will be a raucous Croke Park.

The 1998 world champions and runners-up in 2006 were beaten to automatic qualification by Serbia and must now take their chances along with seven other European sides hoping to take a second chance at qualifying for next year's finals.

Cristiano RonaldoFailure to overcome the Irish would leave Domenech almost certainly looking for a new job.

Portugal, another glamour nation in danger of missing out, must get past Bosnia and will look for a healthy lead from Saturday's first leg to take to the Balkans for the second leg on Wednesday.

Russia host Slovenia on Saturday while Euro 2004 champions Greece start at home against Ukraine.

Ireland were impressive in their qualifying campaign and pushed Italy hard to the top spot. Defender Richard Dunne believes they can break French hearts.

"I think over the last World Cups and Euros, they haven't run smoothly for France but they've always got through and maybe it's time we put a stop to that," the Aston Villa player said.

Portugal would be more comfortable taking on Bosnia, who are bidding to qualify for their first major finals, had Cristiano Ronaldo been declared fit. However, they will have to do without the Real Madrid winger after he was ruled out of both legs with an ankle injury.

Even so they will start big favourites.

"I've never been more worried in my life because this is the biggest test of my career and it will take a world class performance over two legs to eliminate Portugal," Bosnia coach Miroslav Blazevic said.

Injured Lampard to miss Brazil friendly

England coach Fabio Capello will be without both his first choice central midfielders for Saturday's friendly against Brazil in Qatar after Chelsea's Frank Lampard injured his thigh.

"We can confirm that Frank Lampard picked up an injury to his thigh whilst training today and will be returning home this evening. There will be no further call-ups to the squad," an FA spokesman said on Thursday.

Liverpool's Steven Gerrard, who has been troubled by a groin injury, did not travel to Doha with the squad despite playing in his side's 2-2 draw with Birmingham City on Monday.

Gerrard's Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson also withdrew from Capello's squad while midfielder David Beckham misses the game because of playing commitments with LA Galaxy.

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