Football / World Cup USA '94: Sacchi seeking Italian show of strength: Trevor Haylett reports from Boston on today's challenge for Roberto Baggio

THEY talk in Boston of Yekini and Amokachi and Oliseh, exotic Nigerian names guaranteed to lift the hearts of supporters the world over. Elsewhere in this delightful city they talk of Roberto Baggio and, with the first mention of his name, comes a dramatic mood change among followers of Italy.

Baggio is a superstar in crisis, his problems magnified by Italy's far-from-convincing start in this World Cup. After the game with Mexico which brought qualification to the second round and a glamour pairing today with the African Super Eagles he decided it was time to speak out.

Baggio complained he was being denied the freedom to express fully his talents. That playing with his back to the goal was good neither for player nor for country.

The coach, Arrigo Sacchi, has made his reply, reminding the Juventus star of stars that his best games over the past two seasons have been in the blue of Italy. 'It is not a problem of freedom,' he said. 'Baggio has not been playing at a high level but he has to find his best condition and we will help him in every way we can.'

Known throughout the world for their high technique and polished, easy skills Italy are being challenged by Sacchi to show this afternoon in the Foxboro Stadium that they can compete in physical terms as well. 'We are looking for the players who can give us the most physically because this is where the Nigerians are strongest,' Sacchi said. 'We are playing opposition who are both fast and have great stamina.'

His opposite number, Clemens Westerhof, believes the best of Nigeria is still to come and, never inclined to fall back on managerial platitudes, is already casting an eye towards future opposition. 'If we beat Italy, we meet Spain. If we beat Spain we have Germany,' he said. 'It is normal, you have to think ahead.'

Only Daniel Amokachi's spectacular injury-time goal against the Greeks assured Nigeria of a place on top of their group. Crucially it meant they could stay in Boston, where they are comfortable and where they do not have to accumulate more air miles until the final, should the prediction that they can become the first African winners of the event work out.

'Boston is our home town,' Westerhof said. 'People know us already and the boys are happy in the hotel.' Not even the presence of thousands of passionate Italians in the stadium can prick the balloon of optimism. 'My boys like that. The more other colours they see, the more challenged they are.'

First and foremost the Nigerians are playing for their country, but they are not unaware that an outstanding performance today could lead to lucrative transfers to bigger clubs in Europe. That is one target already in the bag for the 19-year-old midfield prodigy, Sunday Oliseh, who next season will be a new force in Serie A for Reggiana.

Oliseh's astute passing ability was a major factor in Nigeria's spring coronation as the African champions. 'If you had told me a few months ago that I was going to Italy and that I would play in Nigeria's winning team at the Nations' Cup and then on to the World Cup, I would never have believed you,' he said.

ITALY: Marchegiani (Sampdoria); Mussi (Torino), Costacurta, Maldini (both Milan), Benarrivo (Parma), Berti (Internazionale), Albertini, Donadoni (both Milan), Signori (Lazio), R Baggio (Juventus), Massaro (Milan).

NIGERIA: Rufai (Go Ahead Eagles); Iroha (Vitesse Arnhem), Okechukwu (Fenerbahce), Keshi (no club), Nwanu (Anderlecht), Okocha (Eintracht Frankfurt), Amokachi (Club Bruges), Oliseh (Reggiana), George (Ajax), Yekini (Olympiakos), Amunike (MSV Duisburg).

Referee: A Brizio Carter (Mexico).

Mexico, the surprise winners of Group E, are confident they can overcome Bulgaria today to set up a World Cup quarter-final meeting with the champions, Germany.

BULGARIA (probable): Mikhailov (Mulhouse); Kremenliev (Levski Sofia), Iliev (Rennes), Hubchev (Levski Sofia), Kiryakov (Lerida), Borimirov (Levski Sofia), Lechkov (Hamburg), Balakov (Sporting Lisbon), Kostadinov (Porto), Sirakov (Levski Sofia), Stoichkov (Barcelona).

MEXICO (probable): Campos (UNAM); Rodriguez (Toluca), Suarez, J Ramirez Perales (both UNAM), R Ramirez (Santos Torreon); Ambriz (Necaxa), Bernal (Toluca), A Garcia Aspe (Necaxa), L Garcia (Atletico Madrid); Alves (America), Hermosillo (Cruz Azul).

Referee: J Al Sharif (Syria).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us