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Sol searching in Valetta

Posted on 4 June 2000  - 12:00

English Barclays Premiership

It was a mixed bag for Spurs players as the countdown to Euro 2000 goes into overdrive. Our super skipper Sol Campbell came in for criticism from Sunday's newspapers after his display for England against Malta, Steffen Iversen was left out of the Norway side that beat Italy, while Allan Nielsen played 90 minutes in Denmark's draw against Belgium.

With England's opener against Portugal just around the corner, doubts are being cast over Campbell. Certainly, Malta cut open England's defence on too many occasions and to add to Big Sol's woes, he missed an absolute sitter of a header in the second half.

But there was a positive point as he was handed the captain's armband for the first time on the departure of Alan Shearer on the hour. Manager Kevin Keegan was clearly unhappy about his defence though.

"We need to improve as a defensive unit," he said. "I didn't like to see three or four long balls go over the defence and be reached by the Malta forwards. That surprised me. I picked what I thought was a solid unit."

With Tony Adams an apparent certain starter and Keegan leaning towards a 4-4-2 formation, it looks like Campbell will have to battle it out with Martin Keown for a central defensive spot against Portugal.

There are no such problems for former Spur Nicky Barmby, who seems to have played his way into Keegan's starting line-up after a man-of-the-match display down the left flank. Barmby, now at Everton, was constantly involved and denied by Maltese keeper Barry on three occasions before setting up the winning goal for Emile Heskey.

Our top scorer last season Steffen Iversen, who usually plays a withdrawn role behind Tore Andre Flo and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was left out of the Norway side that beat Italy 1-0 thanks to John Carew's goal.

Midfielder Allan Nielsen, seemingly out of George Graham's plans at White Hart Lane, played a full match for Denmark in the 2-2 draw against Belgium.

Stephen Carr is expected to win his 10th international cap when Republic Of Ireland kick-off their Nike USA Cup campaign against Mexico in Chigaco tonight (10.30pm). Gary Doherty is also in the Irish squad.