Football: Signori's solo strikes a chord for Italy: Henry Winter on the determined performance that saved Arrigo Sacchi from having to take the rap

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The Independent Online
BEFORE Italy's World Cup renaissance against Norway at Giants Stadium, the only pleasure Giuseppe Signori had derived from New York was an opportunity to indulge his love of rap music.

After Thursday's gutsy 10-man victory - a result that will assure qualification from Group E if Italy take a point off Mexico on Tuesday - Signori had further reason to enjoy Beatbox City, which was suddenly talking Italian again.

Ten miles west of Manhattan, on land where the Mob used to bury their enemies, Signori produced the performance of his career. Dino Baggio collected the award for 'most memorable play' - the citation reading: 'for scoring off the header in traffic' - yet, for most of the 74,624 privileged to be present, Signori stood proud as the catalyst for Italy's revival.

The first time Gianluca Pagliuca handled the ball he was outside his area, leaving Italy under- strength for 70 minutes. Signori, with a scurrying, skilful presence, refused to surrender and his bravura display on the left side of midfield won his team the match.

This leaves Arrigo Sacchi, whose career as coach was probably rescued by Signori, with an interesting dilemma. Lazio's forward has dominated Serie A scoring for the past two seasons, and his prolific contributions have assisted the national cause to the tune of a goal every other international. But for all Signori's striking prowess, Sacchi is expected to keep Italy's premier forward in midfield, appreciating the damage he can inflict by running from deep.

On withdrawing Signori from the front line, Sacchi may decide to start Daniele Massaro as lone striker in a 4-5-1 strategy, which should overpower the Mexicans, particularly if Roberto Baggio has recovered from a minor knock.

Italy's other main casualty, Franco Baresi, will miss the rest of the World Cup after twisting his right knee midway through the match against Norway. The Milan defender had a cartilage operation yesterday.

The Sampdoria midfielder, Alberigo Evani, is also unlikely to play any further part in the tournament after tearing a calf muscle in training, while Paolo Maldini is struggling after picking up an ankle injury in the closing stages of Thursday's game.

(Photograph omitted)