Football / World Cup USA '94: Baggio's strike keeps Italy in the running

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The Independent Online
Italy . . . . .1

Norway. . . . .0

AMID tumultuous scenes of celebration, Italian honour was restored here yesterday. Embarrassed by the Irish in their Group E opener, the three-times World Cup winners appeared destined for renewed humiliation when Gianluca Pagliuca was dismissed early in an intense encounter.

However, by running themselves into the New Jersey ground their forefathers helped develop, Italy's 10 angry men secured a momentous victory through Dino Baggio midway through the second half.

How Arrigo Sacchi, the Azzuri's embattled coach, exulted at the conclusion of a captivating occasion. Booed extensively beforehand, Sacchi's tenure looked in danger of being curtailed until his players responded so magnificently to such a daunting challenge.

A majority of the Giants Stadium crowd saluted a host of Italian heroes: Dino Baggio finished a hobbling, if smiling, figure - his legs riven with cramp; - Paolo Maldini, too, limped through the closing quarters, his left foot heavily bandaged. Giuseppe Signori, Lazio's prolific attacker, dropped into the left side of midfield but still managed to surge forward to set up Baggio's goal.

The magnitude of Italy's achievement was captured by the fact that three of their most talismanic players failed to last the course. Pagliuca departed after 21 minutes for handling Oyvind Leonhardsen's shot after a rapid interchange between Erik Mykland, Sigurd Rushfeldt and Stig Inge Bjornebye. The Sampdoria man thus became the first goalkeeper to be sent off in the history of the finals.

'I was out of the box and those are the rules,' an uncomplaining Pagliuca said.

To introduce another keeper, Luca Marchegiani, Sacchi sacrificed Roberto Baggio, his European footballer of the year. 'I had changes to make,' Sacchi said, 'and they turned out to be the right ones. I took off Roberto Baggio for the sake of him and the team. We had to play virtually a whole game with just 10 men, and that would have put too much of a physical strain on him.'

Franco Baresi, injured in a challenge, also departed after the break and the later arrival of Daniele Massaro meant Sacchi had fielded three substitutes, a situation permitted by Fifa as Roberto Baggio became, technically, a goalkeeper during the interregnum following Pagliuca's expulsion.

Italy's response to their myriad mishaps was a rolled-sleeves' show of defiance. Marshalled admirably by Dino Baggio, they continually stifled the awkward, if below-par, Norwegians, who occasionally mixed short passes with more direct attacks to dangerous effect.

The main focus of Norwegian moves was the long ball to Jostein Flo, one of which allowed him to centre into the box where Jahn-Ivar Jakobsen's downward header bounced narrowly over. 'We didn't take our chances, or play well at all,' Egil Olsen, Norway's coach, said. 'Italy were much more direct than in other matches I have seen. We just didn't get enough players forward.'

Dino Baggio certainly seized his 69th-minute opportunity. Alf Inge Haland, the Nottingham Forest right-back, was booked for fouling Signori, who exacted an even greater punishment by curling over a free-kick from near the corner flag. Baggio, arriving late, headed powerfully past Erik Thorstvedt from eight yards.

The party in Manhattan's Italian district, as blue-shirted residents and visitors contemplated the unexpected ascension into the second phase, continued late into a balmy night.

ITALY (4-4-2): Pagliuca (Sampdoria); Benarrivo (Parma), Costacurta (Milan), Baresi (Milan), Maldini (Milan); Berti (Internazionale), D Baggio (Juventus), Albertini (Milan), Signori (Lazio); Casiraghi (Lazio), R Baggio (Juventus). Substitutes: Marchegiani (Lazio) for R Baggio, 22; Apolloni (Parma) for Baresi, 48; Massaro (Milan) for Casiraghi, 68.

NORWAY (4-5-1): Thorstvedt (Tottenham Hotspur); Haland (Nottingham Forest), Berg (Blackburn Rovers), Bratseth (Werder Bremen), Bjornebye (Rosenborg Trondheim); Rushfeldt (Tromso), Mykland (Start), Bohinen (Nottingham Forest), Leonhardsen (Rosenborg Trondheim), Flo (Sheffield United); Fjortoft (Swindon Town). Substitutes: Jakobsen (Young Boys Berne) for Rushfeldt, h-t; Rekdal (Lierse) for Mykland, 80.

Referee: H H Krug (Germany).

(Photograph omitted)

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