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 May 2, 2002 | 1159 IST

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Anxious wait for Voeller, Sono

Injuries to key players just before the start of the World Cup are a coach's worst nightmare.

England's Sven-Goran Eriksson is sweating over the fitness of David Beckham and now Germany's Rudi Voeller and South Africa's Jomo Sono have been handed some sleepless nights ahead of the finals which start on May 31.

Germany and Bayer Leverkusen central defender Jens Nowotny suffered a knee injury in Tuesday's Champions League semifinal against Manchester United and could miss the finals.

Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmoeller said it was suspected his captain had damaged a cruciate ligament.

Voeller is already without Bayern Munich midfielder Mehmet Scholl, with Hertha Berlin midfielder Sebastian Deisler a doubtful starter because of a thigh muscle injury.

South Africa captain Shaun Bartlett could also miss the trip to South Korea and Japan through injury, Sono said on Wednesday.

Bartlett has told officials he has aggravated an ankle injury, which he first suffered during the African Nations Cup finals in Mali in January.

The Charlton Athletic striker, who is South Africa's all-time leading goal scorer in internationals, has not played since the continental championships.

But at least there was good news for Sweden coaches Tommy Svensson and Lars Lagerback after national captain Patrik Andersson announced he was ready to return to action for club side Barcelona.


The 30-year-old defender, capped 94 times by Sweden, has been out for 11 weeks with a knee ligament injury.

Svensson and Lagerback are due to name their World Cup squad on Friday.

Eriksson, though, will delay naming his World Cup squad until after the end of the premier league season, the English Football Association (FA) said.

Eriksson had been due to announce the 23 players selected for the finals in South Korea and Japan on May 7, but has put the decision back two days to attend one of the final two premier league games -- Manchester United v Arsenal and Liverpool v Blackburn.

Meanwhile, Mexican striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who played a key part in qualifying his country for the World Cup, has left Spanish club Valladolid and rejoined Mexico City club America.

Blanco scored nine of Mexico's 16 goals in the World Cup qualifiers despite only starting four games and coming on as a substitute in another three because of a knee injury.

He made his name in France '98 with a piece of trickery known as the "Cuauhtemoc hop" which involved leaping through a gap between opposing defenders clutching the ball between his ankles.

Japanese midfielder Junichi Inamoto believes his Arsenal future is in the balance after a frustrating first season at the premier league club.

Inamoto said that he had no desire to leave Arsenal but told reporters he could be sold by manager Arsene Wenger unless he produced the goods for co-hosts Japan at the World Cup.

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