Football: World Cup - Italy face test of ebb and Flo

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ITALY ENTER the World Cup second round tonight against a side that conjure plenty of bad memories for the coach, Cesare Maldini, and his players.

Maldini has good reason to be wary of Norway, and not just because they defeated the world champions Brazil 2-1 on Tuesday to book their place in the last 16 and extend their unbeaten run to 19 matches.

Maldini was coach of the Under-21 side which was humiliated 6-0 by the Scandinavians in an extraordinary match in Stavanger in 1991, a defeat which almost cost the Italy coach his job. But there is little chance that the Azzurri will be caught unawares this time in the Stade Velodrome in Marseilles.

"Norway are a very good team indeed. They were one of the teams we predicted would get through the group stage," Maldini said. "That's why I sent one of my assistants to see their game against Brazil."

Maldini was not the only one to have suffered in Stavanger, as the midfielders Demetrio Albertini and Dino Baggio were two of the team on the wrong end of that 6-0 defeat.

Goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca and Inter's veteran defender Giuseppe Bergomi have also good reason to wince at past matches against Norway, as Pagliuca was sent off in their first-round game at USA 94 and Bergomi was dismissed in Italy's 2-1 defeat in Oslo in the qualifiers for the 1992 European Championship.

"That's not a game I want to dwell on," Bergomi said, who is likely to start as a replacement for Alessandro Nesta, who tore cruciate ligaments in Italy's 2-1 defeat of Austria on Tuesday.

Bergomi, who won a World Cup winners' medal in 1982, is likely to be given the task of marking Norway's towering striker Tore Andre Flo and has no doubts about the difficulty he faces.

"Norway are a very physical and well-organised team," he said. "They all play behind the ball and we will have to play really well in order to beat them. Flo is a great player, both for his physique and his skill. He will be very difficult to mark - he is a real centre-forward and excellent with his head."

Cesare Maldini does have the choice of using his son, Paolo, to help the centre of defence keep Flo quiet, leaving Gianluca Pessotto to play left-back, but the coach's real wealth of options lie up front with Christian Vieri, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi.

All four forwards appeared sharp against Austria, and all are fit. Del Piero set up Vieri for one of Italy's goals while Inzaghi created the other for Baggio.

Italy are likely to employ the same tactics again with either Baggio or Del Piero starting alongside Vieri, who is the joint top scorer in the competition with four goals.

Egil Olsen, the Norway coach, said he was looking ahead, not to the past, after leading Norway to its first-ever qualification for the second round of the World Cup.

"I believe we have a 50 per cent chance of reaching the quarters. I expect Italy to take the initiative and attack. We will wait for them and be ready to strike back," he said.

"They're always waiting for one mistake from the opposition," added Kjetil Rekdal, scorer of Norway's controversial winning penalty on Tuesday. "If we want to beat them we have to play to the same level as against Brazil."

Olsen included one change from his starting line-up against Brazil, with Erik Mykland, a second-half substitute, replacing Roar Strand in Norway's five-man midfield.