DANIELE MASSARO is set to start a match for the first time in the tournament tomorrow when Italy, three times the World Cup winners, take on the African champions, Nigeria, at Foxboro for a place in the quarter-finals.
Arrigo Sacchi, the Italian coach, hinted at the weekend that he will move Paolo Maldini from left-back to central defence and pick Massaro up front. The Milan striker, who has appeared as a substitute in all three of Italy's games so far, scored his first international goal in last Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Mexico shortly after coming on for Pierluigi Casiraghi.
Maldini, captain in the absence of the injured Franco Baresi, was switched from left-back to the heart of defence during a weekend training match, while Massaro was given the nod over Casiraghi.
Dino Baggio is struggling with a thigh strain and his midfield place for the practice game was taken by the experienced Roberto Donadoni. Sacchi said either Donadoni or the hard-running Antonio Conte would fill the vacancy should Baggio not recover in time.
In defence Sacchi paired Maldini and Costacurta with Antonio Benarrivo and Roberto Mussi, who has won only two caps, filling the full-back slots.
'I think we are better than them and I think I know how to beat them,' Sacchi said. 'But I'd rather not say how.'
Clemens Westerhof, Nigeria's coach, is expected to restore the full-backs, Augustine Eguavoen and Ben Iroha, to his starting line-up. Both were injured for Nigeria's 2-0 win over Greece in their Group D match at Foxboro on Thursday. The captain, Stephen Keshi, and Belgium-based Mike Emenalo are expected to make way for them, with Chidi Nwanu returning to his role as sweeper.
Westerhof also denied reports of an impending strike over outstanding bonuses and unhappiness over the restriction of visits from players' wives and girlfriends.
'There is lots of money. Do you want some?' he said to one reporter. 'My players and I agreed that the wives could stay with the team on the evening after the matches, but after that they leave.
'We have no problems in the team. Sure, some players are disappointed that they haven't played but I can't change a winning team. A winning coach is always right.'Reuse content