Football: Zoff backing Buffon for Swiss showdown

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The Independent Online
DINO ZOFF, the Italian coach looks certain to draft new young players into his side, for tonight's Euro 2000 qualifier with Switzerland in Udine (live on Channel 4).

With first-choice goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi of Juventus injured, Internazionale's Gianluca Pagliuca, on duty in France 98, would have been expected to deputise. But Zoff has put his trust in Parma's 20-year-old Gianluigi Buffon. Buffon made his debut as a substitute a year ago and travelled to the World Cup as Italy's third-choice keeper, but tonight's match should mark his full international debut.

He lines up behind an Italy side dominated by Parma players. Fabio Cannavaro will play at the heart of the Italian defence, Dino Baggio is set to keep his place in the centre of midfield and Diego Fuser, a favourite of Zoff's from their days at Lazio, looks likely to line up on the right.

Baggio said: "It's not so surprising to find so many Parma players here. There were four of us at the World Cup too and since then the club has bought Fuser, who's very highly regarded by the boss."

Zoff's dilemma is who to field up front. Christian Vieri, so reliable for Italy at France 98, is injured and the in-form Juventus striker Filippo Inzaghi looks certain to replace him. Zoff must then decide whether to couple Inzaghi with his Juventus team-mate, the brilliant but enigmatic striker/playmaker Alessandro Del Piero, who has scored just one goal in his last 17 games, or throw in Roma's uncapped forward Francesco Totti.

The Swiss coach, Gilbert Gress, has to do without the Fenerbahce defender Murat Yakin, who picked up an injury in his club side's Uefa Cup tie against Parma. Borussia Dortmund's Stephane Chapuisat will lead the Swiss attack alongside David Sesa, who plays his league football in Italy with Serie B side Lecce.

ITALY (from): Buffon; Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro, Panucci, Pessotto, Baggio, Di Biagio or Albertini, Fuser, Di Francesco, Inzaghi, Del Piero or Totti.

SWITZERLAND (from): Hilfiker, Henchoz, Regis Rotenbuehler, Vega, Stefan Wolf, Vogel, Sforza, Wicky, Muller, Chapuisat, Sesa.