Football: Salas' skills crucial to Chile's step forward

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The Independent Online
MARCELO SALAS has his country's goalscoring record in his sights today while his Chilean striking partner Ivan Zamorano fixed his gaze further into the future - to a possible second round meeting with Brazil and the chance to put one over on Ronaldo.

Victory in Nantes against Cameroon, the back-markers in Group B but who still harbour hopes of qualification from a tight section, will be enough to take Chile a stage further and the dynamic Salas, having scored all three of their goals, is the man to deliver that prize.

The 23-year-old goes into the game requiring one more goal to establish a new mark for his South American country, having scored 29, the same as Carlos Caszely, from 48 internationals. "It is not important to me that I break this record," said Salas. "What is important is that Chile qualify for the second round."

Italy hold a two-point advantage in the group and conclude today against Austria in the Stade de France, a match that comes under the jurisdiction of the English referee, Paul Durkin. Another victory will assure them of top spot and a ticket to a possible meeting with Scotland on Saturday, should tonight's results go in favour of the British side and give them the second qualifying position in Group A.

Chile's runners-up berth would earn them a crack at the defending champions Brazil, a date Zamorano would relish especially as it brings him face to face with Ronaldo, his team-mate at Internazionale.

"He told me before the World Cup that Chile wouldn't make it past the first round," Zamorano said. "My dream would be to play Brazil, win the match and then exchange jerseys with Ronaldo."

The Chileans, making their seventh World Cup final appearance but their first for 16 years, have been encouraged by the football they have played, but disappointed that they have only two points to show for it.

"We are one of the teams that plays the best football," said Zamorano. "We are champion players and we combine well as a team, even though we lack a little experience at this level."

With just a single point, Cameroon must win to stand a chance of qualifying for the second round while a third successive draw could be enough for the South Americans.

Claude Le Roy, the Frenchman in charge of Cameroon, predicted that his team will roar tonight even though "we are wounded Lions". He added: "Morale is good and I have complete faith in my players. They've promised to pull out all the stops to qualify."

Despite their strong position the Italians are unhappy with the form they have displayed so far and believe they have to discover a killer instinct if they are to taste championship glory for a record-equalling fourth time.

Their problem has not been in landing an early blow - both against Chile and again in the 3-0 follow-up win over Cameroon, Italy gained an quick advantage - but in building on it. Against Chile only a dubious late penalty saved them a point after Salas had worked his goalscoring magic.

There must be no such lapses in St Denis if Italy are to avoid a return match with Brazil in the second round, the side who beat them to the 1994 crown in a penalty shoot-out. Austria have twice saved themselves with last-minute equalisers and this time they have to go full-out for victory.

Paolo Maldini, the Italian captain and his father Cesare, the national coach, agree the problem comes down to self-confidence. "It's something we need to work on. We seem to have a psychological block once we take the lead," said Cesare.

"We have been struggling despite our better technique. We must be more determined. We are a great team of great players, with impressive physical and technical qualities.

"But we must improve our self-confidence to give ourselves a boost. We must feel great but we mustn't think we are in the second round already because that's dangerous."

A hat-trick claimed by Alessandro del Piero in a friendly at the weekend against a local French side has intensified the debate over who should partner Christian Vieri in attack. The Juventus star is still struggling with a groin problem but even so many Italians would have him in ahead of Roberto Baggio.

Austria's coach Herbert Prohaska also faces a striking problem as he and his side seek the victory they will surely need to qualify. He has to decide whether to allow Toni Polster - who will win a record 94th cap - to continue to plough a lone furrow up front.


The top two teams qualify for the second round, where they will meet the top two teams from Group A on 27 June. Qualification decided by (in order): points, goal difference, number of goals scored, outcome of encounter between the two sides, drawing lots.

1 Italy beat Austria; Chile beat Cameroon: Italy win group and Chile are runners-up.

2 Italy beat Austria; Chile draw with Cameroon: Italy win group and Chile are runners-up.

3 Italy beat Austria; Cameroon beat Chile: Italy win group and Cameroon are runners-up.

4 Italy draw with Austria; Chile beat Cameroon: Italy and Chile both finish with five points. Depending on the goals Italy score today, Chile would have to win by a margin of three or four goals to top the group.

5 Italy draw with Austria; Chile draw with Cameroon: Italy win group and Chile are runners-up.

6 Italy draw with Austria; Cameroon beat Chile: Italy win group and Cameroon are runners-up.

7 Austria beat Italy; Chile beat Cameroon: Austria and Chile both finish with five points. As long as Austria beat the Italians by a bigger margin, they will finish as group winners.

8 Austria beat Italy; Chile draw with Cameroon: Austria win group and Italy are runners-up.

9 Austria beat Italy; Cameroon beat Chile: Austria win group and Italy's superior goal difference makes them likely to finish runners-up. Depending on the goals Italy score today, Cameroon would have to at least overturn a goal differential of six to beat Italy to second place.