World Cup qualifying

After trouncing Barbados in the first leg of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. National Team has been placed in a semifinal group with Cuba, Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago. The top two teams advance to next year's regional finals, which will produce three World Cup qualifiers and a fourth team that goes to a playoff against the No. 5 nation in South America.

The United States opens the regional semifinals on Aug. 20 at Guatemala, then plays Sept. 6 or 7 at Cuba, the first match there for the U.S. soccer team. The first American home game is Sept. 10 against Trinidad and Tobago at Bridgeview, Ill.

The U.S. hosts Cuba on Oct. 11 at Washington, plays at Trinidad and Tobago four days later and closes the round Nov. 19 against Guatemala at Commerce City, Colo.

Euro refs selected

At least one Italian has benefited from his country's failure at the European Championship.

Roberto Rosetti was chosen Monday as the referee for the final.

With his country losing to Spain in the quarterfinals, any chance of bias on Rosetti's part was removed and UEFA put him in charge of Sunday's match at Ernst Happel Stadium.

Switzerland's Massimo Busacca will work Wednesday's semifinal match between Germany and Turkey, while Belgium's Frank De Bleeckere will run the second semifinal game between Russia and Spain the following day.

The final will be the 40-year-old Rosetti's fourth game at Euro 2008 and second at Ernst Happel Stadium. He took charge of the Czech Republic's 1-0 Group A win over co-host Switzerland in the opening game of the tournament; Russia's 1-0 victory against defending champion Greece in Group D; and last week's quarterfinal match between Croatia and Turkey.

Rosetti, a Turin-based hospital manager who also speaks English and French, will again be assisted by Alessandro Griselli and Paolo Calcagno. Sweden's Peter Frojdfeldt will act as the fourth official.

Rosetti has plenty of top-level experience. He earned his FIFA international badge in 2002 and officiated four matches at the 2006 World Cup, including a tense second-round meeting between Spain and France. He is also a regular in the Champions League.

Germany's progress cost Herbert Fandel the chance of running the final, despite his good performances throughout the tournament that included his firm handling of Sunday's quarterfinal match between Spain and Italy.

Headed to Spain

Russian playmaker Andrei Arshavin reportedly said he would like to play for a Spanish team.

Speculation about Arshavin's future has mounted due to his eye-catching performances in helping Russia reach the European championship semifinals.

"I know I have offers from England and Germany, but what I would really like is to play in La Liga, in the (Spanish) first division. It is a championship I have always followed. I like the football which is played there. But at the moment I have no offers from Spain," Arshavin was quoted as saying by Spanish sports daily AS on Monday.

Arshavin suggested that a transfer could happen this offseason.

"Perhaps the time has come (to change clubs)," he said.

English Premier League clubs Arsenal, Newcastle and Manchester City, together with Schalke of the Bundesliga, are said to be interested in the 27-year-old forward, who helped Zenit St. Petersburg win last season's UEFA Cup for the first time.

Arshavin was suspended for the first two games of Euro 2008 after being ejected in Russia's last qualifier, a 1-0 win over Andorra.

Since then, he starred and scored against both Sweden and the Netherlands to help Russia advance to its first semifinal since it became an independent state in 1992 following the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Arshavin is likely to pose the biggest threat to Spain when the teams meet in Thursday's semifinal. Russia will be seeking revenge for its 4-1 defeat against the Spaniards in its opening group game.

"The defeat hurt me as much as my teammates. There are 23 of us. We all lose and we all win. This team is like a family, it's young and ambitious," Arshavin said.