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Barnaby Chesterman

Strachan uninspired but relieved to be through

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan insisted it was the overall result and not the performance that mattered after Celtic sneaked into the Champions League knock-out stages despite a 1-0 defeat at the hands of AC Milan. Veteran forward Filippo Inzaghi scored his 63rd goal in European competition to break the great Gerd Muller's long-standing record.

Big guns looking to knockout stages in Europe

European giants Barcelona, Manchester United and Arsenal can all take a huge step towards qualifying for the Champions League knockout phase if they win their respective matches on Tuesday. All three have a perfect six points from their first two matches and another victory will leave them virtually assured of progression.

Japan, Canada in dramatic draw

Japan scored a last-gasp converted try to earn a dramatic 12-12 draw against Canada in their final World Cup pool-B match in Bordeaux on Tuesday. Substitute Koji Taira crossed in the right-hand corner after sustained late Japanese pressure and then Shotaro Onishi held his nerve to slot over the conversion.

Ireland have Georgia on their mind as they stutter again

Ireland barely withstood a late onslaught to scramble over the line against a dogged Georgia by 14-10 on Saturday. Despite fielding a second-string side, Georgia stayed with their lauded opponents all the way and never tired in the second half as they did in their 33-3 defeat to Argentina in midweek.

Fiji hold off spirited Japan in thriller

Fiji overcame sweltering conditions in Toulouse and stubborn Japanese resistance to win their opening pool B World Cup match 35-31 on Wednesday. Japan thrilled the crowd by fighting all the way to the final whistle against their more experienced and bigger opponents, who picked up a crucial bonus point for scoring four tries, before agonisingly coming up just short.

Namibian rugby chief banned from World Cup

Namibian rugby union president Dirk Conradie and his entire executive committee have been barred from attending the World Cup in France, organisers confirmed on Sunday. Conradie has been accused of complicity in the irregular sale of World Cup tickets, a charge he denies.

Make or break for McClaren and England

England, and in particular manager Steve McClaren, face a make-or-break test against Estonia in Tallinn on Wednesday. Victories for their three main Euro 2008 qualification rivals on Saturday left England fourth in group E and trailing leaders Croatia by five points.

France and Italy in the driving seat

France top the European Championships qualification group B after a 2-0 win over Ukraine in Paris on Saturday but Italy are hot on their heels following a 2-1 win over the Faroe Islands. While France's second half performance, in which goals from Frank Ribery and Nicolas Anelka earned them a deserved three points, exuded panache, world champions Italy were a shadow of their normal selves.

Safin desperate for disaster year to end

In one month's time Russia will contest the Davis Cup final against Argentina in Moscow, but Marat Safin would rather be anywhere else. Safin is expected to take a leading role in the final from December 1 to 3, just as he did in September's semifinal victory over the United States.

England, France look to bounce back

It's make-up time for two of Europe's big guns as the latest round of Euro 2008 qualifiers get under way on Wednesday. England and France have it all to do to erase the memory of severely disappointing results on Saturday. Having limped to a feeble 0-0 draw at home to the anything but mighty Macedonia, England travel to Croatia for a considerably more testing examination.

France exact some revenge for World Cup loss

France gained a small measure of revenge for their World Cup final defeat by toppling Italy 3-1 in Paris in the heavyweight clash of the Euro 2008 qualifiers on Wednesday. But it was Germany who made most heads turn, recording the biggest victory on their travels with a 13-0 demolition of hapless San Marino.

Milan, Liverpool progress in Champions League

It was a mixed night for former European Cup winners as Liverpool, AC Milan, Hamburg and Benfica progressed to the Champions League group stages but Red Star Belgrade bit the dust. The 1991 champions will have to settle for Uefa Cup football this season after they went down 2-1 at home to Milan, to lose 3-1 on aggregate.

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