Sacchi and his sacrifice

CHAMPIONSHIP COUNTDOWN: No 7 Italy
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The Independent Online
Roberto Baggio, Gianluca Vialli, Christian Panucci, Giuseppe Signori, Gianluca Pagliuca, the names roll off the tongue - unless that is, you are Arrigo Sacchi, in which case they catch in the throat. All five have been omitted from Italy's Championship squad, primarily because they, or their opinions, do not fit into the coach's grand plan.

When Sacchi announced his squad, he said: "A lot of players whom I admire and respect are not on this list. I tried to prefer players who deserve it on a technical and personal level. It is important to have players with a total vision, who run and combine perfectly with others.

Alessandro Del Piero, 21 years old and extravagantly gifted, is Sacchi's proof that he can accommodate flair players - if they are prepared to work for the good of the side. With Italy, Del Piero plays on the left flank, wider and deeper than he does for Juventus. He said Sacchi explained to him: "Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to succeed". The request, and the assent, sum up the approaches of both men.

Not that Sacchi has had to make many sacrifices off the pitch, nor his players. The coach has just signed a new contract taking him to the end of 1998 at pounds 700,000 a year after tax. His squad are on pounds 600,000 a man to win Euro 96, 10 times England's bonus.

The final 22 have been distilled from an 80-strong cast capped in Sacchi's five years at the helm. Thirty-seven were used in the 10 qualifying games as he searched for the right players to fit his 4-4-2 system. The result is a relatively settled side: Angelo Peruzzi in goal; Luigi Appoloni and either Ciro Ferrara or Alessandro Costacurta in central defence flanked by Moreno Torricelli and the wonderful Paolo Maldini.

The midfield is anchored by Demetrio Albertini, Del Piero is on the left and a clutch of players contest the other two places. The attacking berths, claimed from an embarrassment of riches, have gone to Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianfranco Zola.

Despite their rich heritage and many great players, the Azzurri have only won this competition once, in 1968, when the final stages were in Italy. Even then they only beat the Soviet Union in the semi-finals on the toss of a coin and needed a controversial equaliser to secure a replay in the final against Yugoslavia.

A second success seemed unlikely when Croatia outplayed Italy in Palermo early in qualifying but, with mass changes, Sacchi's English-style pressing game has been justified despite its unpopularity. It would be ironic if it was to succeed in England just as the home team are adopting a Continental approach.

Player to watch

Fabrizio Ravanelli

(Juventus)

Not the most skilled striker but perfect for Sacchi's mould. The second thing one notices (after his silver hair) is his enthusiasm. When Juventus were easing up against Rangers in the Champions' League, Ravanelli was still eagerly chasing another goal. Hard working, a good finisher and a true team man.

SQUAD

Goalkeepers

Angelo Peruzzi Juventus

Francesco Toldo Fiorentina

Luca Bucci Parma

Defenders

Roberto Mussi Parma

Moreno Torricelli Juventus

Alessandro Costacurta Milan

Ciro Ferrara Juventus

Luigi Apolloni Parma

Paolo Maldini Milan

Amedeo Carboni Roma

Midfielders

Angelo Di Livio Juventus

Diego Fuser Lazio

Demetrio Albertini Milan

Roberto Di Matteo Lazio

Fabio Rossitto Udinese

Dino Baggio Parma

Forwards

Alessandro Del Piero Juventus

Roberto Donadoni Milan

Gianfranco Zola Parma

Enrico Chiesa Sampdoria

Fabrizio Ravanelli Juventus

Pier Luigi Casiraghi Lazio

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