Football: Italy look to rewrite history

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The Independent Online
Brazil and Italy meet tonight in one of the most eagerly-awaited matches of the Tournoi de France. Their confrontation is being billed as a the long-awaited rematch of their World Cup final showdown in Los Angeles three years ago, which Brazil won on penalties.

The Brazil coach, Mario Zagallo, said a revenge match was only possible in a World Cup setting, but he and his players are just as keen to win this match a year before the 1998 finals in France as the Italians might be to avenge the 1994 defeat.

If Brazil remain unchanged from Tuesday's 1-1 draw with the hosts, which is Zagallo's stated intention, Brazil will field six of the side that played in the 1994 World Cup final. However, with the goalkeeper Taffarel and the striker Romario both looking unlikely to start because of injuries, the defenders Cafu and Aldair and the midfielders Mauro Silva and Dunga may well be the sole representatives from that world-beating side.

The Italians could line up as many as five survivors from 1994. From their Tournoi squad, the defenders Paolo Maldini and Antonio Benarrivo, the midfielders Demetrio Albertini and Dino Baggio and the goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca all played for Italy in Los Angeles.

Italy, bottom of the Tournoi table after their 2-0 defeat by England, came to France depleted by injuries and, after that bruising encounter on Wednesday, Maldini has even more concerns over the fitness of several key players.

Chelsea's Roberto di Matteo, Juventus' Ciro Ferrara and Giampiero Maini of Vicenza look doubtful for tonight's match, and Angelo Peruzzi of Juventus, Italy's first-choice goalkeeper, may well be rested, which would allow Internazionale's Pagliuca to make a comeback after two years out of the team.

Asked how he thought the young central defender Fabio Cannavaro would cope with Brazil's formidable striker Ronaldo, Maldini said: "You may say he lacks experience but if you don't play you don't get experience. He has already come up against Alan Shearer at Wembley."

Brazil and Italy have met 10 times since 1956 with the Brazilians winning five times and the Italians four. The only draw was in the 1994 World Cup final. The goals tally is 15-14 in Brazil's favour.

Brazil (probable): Taffarel, Cafu, Celio Silva, Aldair, Roberto Carlos; Giovanni, Mauro Silva, Dunga, Leonardo, Ronaldo, Romario.

Italy (probable): Peruzzi; Panucci, Cannavaro, Maldini, Benarrivo; Di Livio, Fuser, D Baggio, Di Matteo; Del Piero, Casiraghi.

Referee: S Muhmenthaler (Switzerland).