Football: Sensini determined to banish bad memories

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The Independent Online
NESTOR SENSINI has seen it all in the World Cup - but the memories are not so good. A member of a select group of players in their third World Cup finals, the Argentina and Parma defender hopes the outcome will be far better than the disappointments of 1990 and 1994.

"I'm not looking at this one as a chance for revenge, but rather a new opportunity to show I'm a player capable of winning the World Cup," he said.

"The past is over. I don't think about what happened in 1990 or 1994," he said at Argentina's base at L'Etrat, outside St Etienne in central France.

Sensini, then a Udinese player, had a torrid time in his first World Cup in Italy, starting with the surprise defeat by Cameroon on his debut in the opening game.

He did not play again until the final and had the misfortune of giving away the penalty from which Andreas Brehme scored the only goal in Germany's victory in Rome.

Sensini would probably not even have been picked for the final, but Carlos Bilardo's 1986 champions were decimated by injuries and suspensions after an ignominious passage through to a repeat decider with the Germans.

Four years later, Argentina made a brilliant start to the finals in the United states, beating Greece 4-0 and Nigeria 2-1.

Comparing Alfio Basile's 1994 side with the present Daniel Passarella vintage, Sensini said: "Both got to the finals in good shape, but then in 1994 things happened that put us out [of the tournament]."

Then their captain, Diego Maradona, tested positive for drugs and was thrown out of the finals, leaving Argentina as a rudderless ship, and they lost 3-2 to Romania in the second round. "That team was very much an attacking team, this one is perhaps more balanced," Sensini said. "Also, we don't have Maradona."

One of just two players in the Argentine squad in his third tournament, and the only one to have taken part in a final, Sensini has always been a versatile player from his beginnings with Newell's Old Boys in Rosario.

At Parma, where he moved in 1993, Sensini usually plays in midfield and has often scored in the last two seasons, although for Argentina he has yet to get off the mark after 44 internationals.

Sensini played as an attacking right-back in a 4-4-2 formation under Basile, but now operates as last man in what is usually a three-man defence.

"I've got no problem with my position," he said. " We've been working at it for two years and now we're coming together as a team."

Another veteran, Michael Laudrup, will win his 100th cap in Denmark's World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia in Lens tomorrow - a remarkable achievement for a player who refused to play for his country for three years.

Laudrup, the team captain, becomes only the third Dane to reach the century landmark after the 1986 captain Morten Olsen (102) and goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, who played his 100th game last Friday in a 2-1 defeat by Cameroon.

"It's a special day," acknowledged Laudrup, the last link to Denmark's scintillating 1986 finals team. "But maybe it's because, first of all, the game is so important as it's the first game in the World Cup for us, and also because we didn't do so well in the last three games." Those friendlies - against Norway in April, Sweden in May and Cameroon - all ended in defeat. But the Cameroon game claims a special place in Laudrup's memories - because it was his last in Denmark before he retires after the World Cup.

"The 99th was in Denmark in the Parken, my home ground, so I don't think so much about my 100th game. But when I stop I'll always remember the day," said Laudrup, who celebrates his 34th birthday on Monday.