Baggio determined to bag points for Italy

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The Independent Online
Italy face Poland tonight with the chance of opening a six-point advantage over England at the top of Group Two of the World Cup qualifiers.

Italy's 3-0 victory over Moldova on Saturday made Italy the clear leaders, and an away victory over the Poles halfway through the group stage would make Cesare Maldini's team favourite to be the first European team to qualify.

"We can win and we have to win," Dino Baggio, the Parma midfielder, said. "We're not starting out with the idea of being content with a draw. A win at Chorzow would bring us very close to closing the deal on qualification for France."

The Germans, who face last-place Albania in Group Nine, have some ground to make up after starting with one win and two draws. Even victory would not put them into the top two. A World Cup finals without Germany would be almost unthinkable, however, and their captain, Jurgen Klinsmann, wants the 1998 competition in France to be a memorable last hurrah in international football.

"The 1998 World Cup will be a wonderful end to my national team career, but I'll probably play club football for another two years," said the 32-year-old who is leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

Germany's coach, Berti Vogts, whose team trail Portugal and Ukraine by four points and Northern Ireland by one, knows his side have to start winning soon. "The standings in our group will have to be changed and for that we need three points," said the man who led Germany to the European Championship title last summer in England.

"We'll be under time pressure to score the first goal quickly. This game can be compared to a cup tie between a first division team and an amateur side."

Albania is officially the home team but the game will be played in the southern Spanish city of Granada, because of the civil unrest in Albania.

n Two goals by Mark Kennedy

overpowered Macedonia helped the Republic of Ireland to a convincing victory yesterday in their European Under-21 championship qualifier in Kavadarci.

The Liverpool reserve secured victory with his second goal after 34 minutes and the Republic never relinquished control of the game. The Wimbledon goalkeeper, Brendan Murphy, saved the Irish early on when turning away Argend Bekiri's drive for a corner. But Kennedy was at the heart of Irish endeavours, his first goal coming after 10 minutes as he drove home Steve Carr's well-judged pass.