England-Turkey tie leads busy Euro qualifying night

LONDON: England take on Turkey in the pick of today's 17 Euro 2004 qualifiers, with control of Group Seven at stake. 

Other intriguing games include holders France playing Israel in Sicily, the Czech Republic against Austria, and Albania, on a high after beating Russia, at home to Ireland. 

Turkey have continued the form that took them to last year's World Cup semi-finals, winning their first three Euro 2004 qualifiers. 

England, on the other hand, have been far from impressive. They beat Slovakia in their opening game but were then held to a 2-2 home draw by Macedonia and gave a lacklustre display in beating Liechtenstein 2-0 on Saturday. 

Manager Sven-Goran Eriksson has promised there will be a different attitude for today's game at Sunderland, and history is certainly with England, who will go top of the group with a win. 

They have played Turkey eight times, all between 1984 and 1993 in World Cup and European championship qualifiers, winning seven, drawing one and scoring 29 goals without conceding. 

France have put a poor World Cup well behind them with their flying start to the defence of their European title. 

Saturday's sparkling 6-0 thrashing of Malta took them to 12 points – they have scored 17 and conceded just one goal – and they will virtually secure top spot in Group One with a win over Israel, second on four points. 

The match is being played in Palermo because of the unstable political situation in the Middle East. 

The Czech Republic's incredible run of 15 successive European championship qualifying wins going back to 1995 was ended with a 1-1 draw with Holland on Saturday and the two teams remain locked together on seven points at the top of Group Three. Both are in action again today. 

The Czechs host Austria, still in the hunt in third place on six points, while the Dutch travel to Moldova, who are pointless after three games. 

Group Two is similarly poised. Denmark moved top on seven points after their impressive 5-2 win in Romania and they will expect another three points at home to Bosnia. 

Norway, also on seven, should match them away to Luxembourg while Romania, third on six points and reeling from the resignation of manager Anghel Iordanescu and captain Gheorghe Popescu in the light of their worst home defeat for 25 years, don't play. 

Scotland began their campaign with a 2-2 draw against the Faroe Islands but go into Wednesday's game in Lithuania top of Group Five on seven points, above Germany on goal difference. 

The Scots beat Iceland 2-1 but know they will be in for a tough away test against a Lithuanian side who drew 1-1 with Germany in Nuremberg at the weekend. 

Ireland also began badly with two defeats but Albania's stunning 3-1 win over Russia has thrown them a lifeline and opened up Group 10. 

Ireland, 2-1 winners in Georgia on Saturday, now face the Albanians in Tirana. Switzerland, who lead the group on seven points, play in Georgia. 

Croatia had one of the best results of the weekend programme when they thrashed Belgium 4-0 to resurrect a Group Eight campaign that had started with a goalless draw and a defeat. 

They should claim another three points at home to Andorra and will hope Estonia can do them a favour at home to Bulgaria, who top the group on nine points after three wins. 

Spain and Ukraine drew 2-2 in Kiev to keep Group Six a likely fight between the pair of them. 

Spain, who lead the way with seven points, should move to 10 after a home game against Armenia, while Ukraine, second on six, are not playing. – Reuters 

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