Sacchi in firing line

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The Independent Online
The likely future president of the Italian football federation said yesterday he would make a "painful decision" by the end of 1996 regarding the future of the national coach, Arrigo Sacchi.

Luciano Nizzola, head of the Italian league and expected to be elected as federation chief in December, said he would have to make a "problematic and painful decision" about Sacchi.

"We cannot play England in our World Cup qualifier next February unless we have some peace of mind, so the coaching question must be settled by then. Qualifying for the World Cup will be hard and we must do all we can to ensure Italy make it," said Nizzola, considered the inevitable successor to Antonio Matarrese, who was Sacchi's mentor before being ousted himself after Euro 96.

Sacchi, who led Italy to the 1994 World Cup final against Brazil, was given a new contract just before Euro 96. He refused to resign after Italy crashed out of the tournament, and the contract, which expires after the 1998 World Cup finals, is the main reason he has not been sacked.

Worth more than a $1m (pounds 670,000) a year after tax, the federation knows it would be economic madness to dismiss Sacchi, pay him off, and pay his successor.

On the Italian domestic scene, Bari's defender Paolo Annoni was recovering yesterday after being attacked by a gang of hostile fans late on Friday. Annoni's face was cut and bruised in the attack in the centre of the southern city but he was recovering at home after a brief hospital visit.

Fiorentina will be looking today for a win after losing to Bologna in the Italian Cup in midweek. Their task against AC Milan has been made easier as Franco Baresi, Dejan Savicevic, Demetrio Albertini and Edgar Davids are all missing for the second-placed team.

In Spain, John Toshack's summer spending spree has paid dividends as Deportivo Coruna are third in the table. Today they entertain Real Sociedad, Toshack's old club, who they will have to face without the injured striker, Mickael Madarl.

Romario, Brazil's World Cup hero, has rejoined Flamengo on loan after less than three months with the Spanish club Valencia. The two clubs agreed terms on Friday to end a transfer saga that had dragged on for nearly two weeks.

A riot involving around 500 angry fans of CSKA Moscow overshadowed the penultimate round of matches in the Russian league on Friday. There were reports of more than 55 injuries after CSKA supporters battled with police after watching their team lose 3-1 at home to the lowly Chernomorets Novorossisk. Police were forced to fire into the air in a bid to restore order.

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