Football: Sacchi back under pressure

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An embattled Arrigo Sacchi woke up to a national caning yesterday after Italy struggled to an uninspiring 3-1 away win against Moldova in the opening match of their World Cup campaign.

The front pages of the country's sports newspapers led the attack, with an editorial in the respected Gazzetta dello Sport saying: "The same Sacchi, the same nothing. Every time we kid ourselves that we have hit rock bottom." It's match report spoke of "three goals full of nothing".

Corriere dello Sport said the Italian team's problems went beyond their manager but added: "Sacchi sure does a lot to make matters more complicated".

Saturday's game in Chisanau was Italy's first since their first round exit from the finals of the European Championship in England this summer. Though the win reaped three points, Italy are behind the group leaders England, who beat the Moldovans 3-0. The style of the victory, with Italy bogged down for an hour and overwhelmed in midfield, earned Sacchi scathing criticism.

He admitted that his decision to experiment with a three-man attack, reducing his midfield from four to three, was part of the problem and suggested he would not repeat the error when Italy face Georgia at home in Perugia on Wednesday.

"What was positive were the result and the fact that the team continued to play for a goal when they were 3-1 up but we did not play well for an hour and we laboured too much," Sacchi said.

He said his players were not physically or mentally at their peak, given the anticipated strength of the opposition, but admitted that he had made some wrong choices. "I'd like to apologise to the fans...we've taken a step backwards," he said.

The Middlesbrough striker Fabrizio Ravanelli put Italy ahead in the eighth minute from a free-kick but Moldova hit back two minutes later when midfielder Alexandru Curtianu capitalised on a defensive blunder.

Pierluigi Casiraghi headed Italy's second in the 68th minute with Ravanelli contributing the third from the penalty spot three minutes from time.

Sacchi abandoned his three-man attack for the second half, replacing Enrico Chiesa with Juventus midfielder Angelo Di Livio to restore a 4- 4-2 formation.

As well as the media, the manager's employers are also getting restless. "Sacchi won but I think the stiffer test will come on Wednesday in Perugia. Let's get both games over before judging," Luciano Nizzola, the chairman elect of the Italian FA, said.

Yugoslavia took a clear lead in Group Six, which includes Spain and the Czech Republic, when they defeated the Faroe Islands 8-1 in Toftir yesterday. The Juventus midfielder Vladimir Jugovic opened the goal festival in the seventh minute and scored twice more in the 37th and 45th minutes. Goran Djorovic scored two and Branko Brnovic, Nisa Saveljicand Slavisa Jokanivic, completed the scoring.

There was no place in Yugoslavia's starting line-up for either of the Aston Villa players, Sasa Curcic and Savo Milosevic. However, the young Sheffield Wednesday defender, Dejan Stefanovic, played.