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Champions Cup for 2004 Taking Shape

June 18, 2003|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

It has been only three weeks since the 2003 European Champions Cup was won by AC Milan, but already the groundwork for next season's tournament is being laid.

With David Beckham having been traded from Manchester United to Real Madrid on Tuesday, the prospect of another clash between the former European champions is the series every fan wants to see. It won't happen in the early rounds though.

When UEFA this week announced the seedings for the 2004 tournament, Manchester United and Real Madrid were among the top eight teams, meaning they will be kept apart until later in the competition.

Also seeded among the leading clubs were AC Milan, Italian champion Juventus, Lazio, German champion Bayern Munich, English runner-up Arsenal and Deportivo la Coruna of Spain.

The draw for the tournament's first two qualifying rounds will take place at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, on Friday.

Blatter vs. Spain

Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, FIFA's president, criticized the Spanish soccer federation and the Spanish league for disregarding the international soccer calendar and thus harming the eight-nation FIFA Confederations Cup, which begins today in France.

"There is still a league in Europe which is playing now, and this is a lack of respect for the FIFA rules," Blatter said at a news conference in Paris. "This is also a lack of discipline from this league.

"The calendar voted by the Congress of the FIFA in 2000 and implemented since 2002 set specific dates for national teams from June 15 to the end of July."

The Spanish championship will not end until Sunday, with two teams, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad, still in contention for the title. That has left the Confederations Cup without Zinedine Zidane of France, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos of Brazil, and Nihat Kahveci and Tayfun Korkut of Turkey.

"When I talked to the Spanish federation's chairman [about the problem], he closed his ears, he closed his eyes and he closed his mouth," Blatter said, indicating that FIFA might sanction Spain.

Bolivia's Choice

Nelson Acosta, who coached Chile to the 1998 World Cup in France, was named coach of Bolivia's national team.

"The Bolivians need some success, so we've left our hopes in the hands of a man who has a great record in South American football," Walter Castedo, president of the Bolivian Football Federation (FBF), told Reuters.

"I will do everything possible for Bolivia to get to a World Cup once again," said Acosta, who quit as coach of the Chilean club Cobreloa to accept the position.

Quick Passes

Nuno Capucho, the 31-year-old FC Porto forward who helped the club win the UEFA Cup, the Portuguese championship and the Portuguese Cup this season, has been traded to Scottish champion Rangers for a reported $1.3 million.... Jupp Heynkes, who coached Real Madrid to its European Cup triumph in 1998, quit as coach of Bilbao in Spain to become coach of Schalke '04 in Germany.... Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie has been banned from driving for one year in England after being stopped while traveling 106 mph and then being found to be 1 1/2 times over the legal alcohol limit.... Former Colombia national team coach Javier Alvarez was named coach of Deportivo Cali.... Poland's 2002 World Cup coach, Jerzy Engel, was named technical director of Legia Warsaw.... Two Gremio players, midfielder Gaviao and forward Christian, have been suspended for 90 days and 60 days, respectively, by the Brazilian league's disciplinary committee for pushing referee Alicio Pena Junior while protesting a call during a game against Figueirense.... The Scottish Football Assn. denied having been contacted by Greek champion Olympiakos, which is said to be interested in acquiring Scotland Coach Berti Vogts.

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