A Weird Week in European Action: Streakers Murder Strawberries and Turkey

Soccer news from around Europe this week includes some unique news stories:

STREAKER GETS 2 YEARS IN JAIL FOR INTERRUPTING WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
RIGA Latvia (Associated Press) - A streaker who interrupted a World Cup qualifier between Latvia and Portugal by running topless onto the field and hugging a Portuguese defender was charged with hooliganism and could be sentenced to as long as two years in jail Latvia police said Monday.

As is customary in Latvia police identified the woman by her first name Liene adding that she went by the nickname "Strawberry."

Her topless run onto the field in the 54th minute of Saturday's game drew a roar of approval from the crowd but appeared to unsettle the Latvian team as Portugal scored two goals just minutes after play resumed. Latvia lost 2-0.

The streak the first at a Latvian soccer game appeared to leave police unsettled too. The woman waited on the field for nearly a minute before officers escorted her off.

Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari who was shown on television laughing throughout the incident jokingly credited the woman's run as the game's turning point at a post-match press conference.

Latvian prosecutors and soccer officials were not amused and charged her with hooliganism. If convicted she could be sentenced to two years in jail community service or a fine.

A court date was not announced.

Strawberry told police she ran on the field in the name of art saying it made her happy to have brought so many smiles to the fans and to Scolari.

Some fans posting on the popular Latvian Web forum Delfi on Monday thought the charges were severe.

"This is funny but it's actually tragic wrote one contributor calling himself Cidons. "For an action that didn't harm anyone and made people laugh they're going to open a criminal case?"

Others thought Latvia should learn from the incident.

"When we play in Portugal we need to get a Portuguese Strawberry to run on the field to mess with the minds of their locals. Then we'll score three goals wrote one contributor called Smins.

ALBANIAN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNS MURDER OF FAN IN GREECE BY AMERICAN
TIRANA Albania (Associated Press) - Parliament held a minute of silence Monday in memory of an Albanian fan stabbed to death in Greece after the victory of his country's national team at a World Cup qualifier last weekend.

Gramoz Palushi 20was stabbed Saturday just hours after Albania upset European champion Greece 2-1 in Tirana Saturday. A Greek-American suspect from Chicago identified by police as Panagiotis Kladis-Xifitas 22 was arrested early Sunday.

Parliament also passed a resolution asking the Greek government to undertake immediate "concrete steps" to punish soccer hooligans found guilty of acts of violence against Albanian immigrants residing in Greece following the Greek team's loss.

Albania "is convinced that good relations with Greece are important and of bilateral interest but they will never be stable without a reciprocal respect of the dignity of citizens from both countries the statement said.

All Albanian television stations broadcast running battles between Greek and Albanian fans across the country and Athens police firing tear gas to disperse crowds.

Albania next plays Gerogia in another World Cup qualifier in Tbilisi while Greece hosts Turkey.

GREECE TURKEY LOOK FOR REDEMPTION
ATHENS Greece (Associated Press) -- Neighbors Greece and Turkey meet in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier hoping to regain some dropped points and lost pride.

Greece coach Otto Rehhagel believes a victory in Athens would soften the blow of Saturday's shock 2-1 defeat in Albania after which violent clashes erupted across Greece leaving one Albanian man dead and more than a dozen injured fans from both sides.

The Turkey match at Karaiskaki Stadium renovated for the Olympics was sold out after thousands of fans waited in line for hours last week.

Rehhagel asked his players to put the glory of their European championship behind them.

"This is the World Cup and we start from scratch he said.

Turkey coach Ersun Yanal had similar advice for his players who were held 1-1 at home by Georgia on Saturday.

A surprise World Cup semifinalist two years ago Turkey failed to qualify for Euro 2004.

"I trust my team to make up for the bad result against Georgia Yanal was quoted as saying by the Turkish daily Milliyet.

Bolton Wanderers striker Stelios Giannacopoulos scorer of Greece's only goal against Albania said the "defeat was a slap in our face which should serve as a wakeup call."

One major problem for Rehhagel was the fitness of AS Roma stopper Traianos Dellas who was sidelined in Tirana by a thigh injury.

Turkey's injured defender Servet Cetin was reportedly fit for Wednesday's game but striker Hasan Sukur was a doubtful starter.

SCOTLAND'S PRESSLEY LIKELY TO MISS QUALIFIER
AYR Scotland (Reuters) -- Scotland are likely to be without injured defender Steven Pressley for their opening World Cup Group Five qualifier against Slovenia at Hampden Park on Wednesday.

The Heart of Midlothian captain missed Friday's 1-1 draw with Spain in a friendly in Valencia due to a back injury and will find out results of a scan later on Monday to determine his fitness.

Manager Berti Vogts' assistant Tommy Burns told reporters that the former Rangers defender's prospects of being ready are "less than 50-50."

"There is a doubt about him and I wouldn't think the manager would risk him if he isn't 100 percent because we need everyone on the button for this game said Burns.

Midfielders Barry Ferguson and Jackie McNamara did notjoin the rest of the squad for training at Ayr on Monday but Burns said Pressley was the only major doubt.

Goalkeeper David Marshall Russell Anderson and Andy Gray have rejoined the squad after injury forced them out of the Spain match.

Pressley's Hearts' team mate Andy Webster is likely to partner Norwich's Malcolm Mackay in defence after impressing against Spain.

Slovenia opened their qualifying campaign with a 3-0 win against Moldova on Saturday and lead the section alongside Italy after their 2-1 win against Norway.

The group's other side Belarus open their campaign at Norway on Wednesday while Italy visit Moldova.

Vogts hopes to extend an unbeaten record in competitive games at Hampden.

The Scots completed their Euro 2004 qualifying without losing at the national stadium and are aware of the importance of winning at home if they are to reach their first major finals since the 1998 World Cup in France.

"Slovenia are a good side and are physically very strong but the most important thing is how we play added former Celtic manager Burns.

"I most definitely believe we have enough to win this game."

"WE'RE WORSE THAN I THOUGHT" SAYS COACH OF SPAIN
MADRID (Reuters) -- Spain coach Luis Aragones has been surprised at just how badly his team have played in their two friendly matches under his charge.

"Yes we're a good deal worse than I first thought Aragones told ABC newspaper. "We've been bad in the first half in both our games and we've only improved when our opponents have tired."

Aragones took over from Inaki Saez after Spain's first-round exit at Euro 2004 -- the country's latest big disappointment at an international tournament.

They managed a shaky 3-2 win over Venezuela in Aragones's first game last month before coming back to scramble a 1-1 draw with Scotland on Friday in a game that had to be abandoned after an hour because of floodlight failure.

Spain begin their World Cup qualifying campaign away to Bosnia on Wednesday and the coach is already concerned about the task that awaits his side.

"It's going to be difficult...(but) my morale is intact Aragones said.

"To say that we've played badly and we've failed in this this and this is normal. I believe in the national team and in the players I've got and I think that little by little they're believing in what I tell them."

Spain will also play against Belgium Lithuania Serbia and Montenegro and San Marino in qualifying Group Seven for the 2006 World Cup.

CZECHS DECIMATED BY INJURIES AGAINST DUTCH
PRAGUE Czech Republic (Associated Press) -- The Czech Republic will take on the Netherlands in their Group 1 World Cup qualifying opener without four first-choice midfielders after Karel Poborsky joined captain Pavel Nedved Vladimir Smicer and Tomas Galasek on the sidelines due to a lower back injury.

The 32-year-old Poborsky the country's most capped player with 100 appearances for the national team suffered the injury last Monday when lifting his daughter and has been ruled out of Wednesday's game in Amsterdam.

Nedved of Juventus is focusing on club duties while Galasek and Smicer are unavailable due to knee injuries leaving only Dortmund's Tomas Rosicky from the Czech Republic's Euro 2004 first-choice midfield.

The Czechs have been drawn in Group 1 with Finland Armenia Macedonia Romania and Andorra and the Netherlands.