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The Archive

June 2002

Milan clinch Dalla Bona deal
30.6 || webmaster

The Rossoneri have reached an agreement with Chelsea for midfielder Sam Dalla Bona, according to today’s ‘Gazzetta dello Sport’.

The San Siro side has been in talks with the Premiership club for several months and appear to have clinched a deal at last.

Last week Milan had offered French winger Ibrahim Ba plus cash for a total £8m bid, but it is claimed Chelsea preferred co-ownership of young midfield starlet Donadel.

Dalla Bona, who admitted his desire to return home next season, should sign a five-year contract on Monday.

The move comes 24 hours after Milan signed Croatian defender Dario Simic from Inter in a swap deal with Turkey’s Umit Davala.

“I spent three years at Inter,” said the World Cup star, “but I am satisfied with this transfer because I am moving to a great club. I hope to be useful to Milan.”

It’s believed that with the arrival of Simic, veteran Alessandro Costacurta (pictured) can now leave for either Parma or Fulham. He will be out of contract this summer.

World Cup Final: Brazil 2 - 0 Germany
30.6 || webmaster

Ronaldo 67, 79

Ronaldo has won the Golden Boot and cast aside the memories of 1998 by handing Brazil their fifth World Cup.

This was the seventh Final for both nations, but throughout the 72 years of World Cup history the two teams had never previously met. Marcos Cafu also set a new World record at the starting whistle as the Roma man became the first man ever to play in three consecutive Finals.

Germany were classed as the underdogs in this clash and the absence of the suspended Michael Ballack suggested a defensive approach.

However, the Brazilian defence has been shaky throughout the tournament and Miroslav Klose brought a desperate clearance out of Edmilson as the Germans had an aggressive start to the match.

Italian referee Pierluigi Collina immediately stamped his authority on the game to prevent it descending into petty fouls.

Brazil only created their first chance on 18 minutes when Ronaldo ran onto Ronaldinho's splendid through ball, but the Inter hero incredibly turned wide with only Oliver Kahn to beat.

Ten minutes later Il Fenomeno again failed to beat the 'keeper from close range as Kahn scrambled onto the ball. Just before the break Kleberson also turned wide for Brazil before thumping the crossbar from distance with a fierce right foot effort.

The personal battle between Kahn and Ronaldo continued as on the stroke of half time he made a reaction save from the six-yard box.

At the dawn of the second period Jens Jeremies could have given Germany the lead when his free header was fortuitously deflected. Soon after Oliver Neuville's extraordinary free kick from 30 metres was palmed onto the near post by Marcos.

Up the other end of the field Kahn bravely threw himself onto Gilberto Silva's header and follow-up.

The deadlock was finally broken when Kahn could not control Rivaldo's powerful effort and Ronaldo pounced on the loose ball. Il Fenomeno sealed his Golden Boot status with this, his seventh goal in as many games, but more importantly sent Brazil on their way to their fifth World Cup.

Former Milan striker Oliver Bierhoff and Gerald Asamoah were thrown on for the final German push, but it was too late as Ronaldo netted his second of the game.

Il Fenomeno was left completely unmarked to sweep Kleberson's pass in from the edge of the box.

That goal was also his 12th in all World Cups, equalling Pele as Brazil's most prolific striker in this competition.

It still wasn't over as Bierhoff brought a fantastic save out of Marcos with a strong half-volley.

Germany: Kahn; Frings, Linke, Ramelow, Metzelder; Schneider, Jeremies (Asamoah 77), Hamann, Bode (Ziege 84); Neuville, Klose (Bierhoff 73)

Brazil: Marcos; Lucio, Edmilson, Roque Junior; Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Kleberson, Ronaldinho (Juninho 84), Roberto Carlos; Ronaldo (Denilson 89), Rivaldo

Ref: Collina (Ita)

OFFICIAL: Simic to Milan, Umit to Inter
29.6 || webmaster

MILAN - AC Milan informed that Croatia's defender Dario Simic signed for the Rossoneri a 3-year contract (until June 30, 2005). In exchange for Dario Simic, Inter Milan asked for Umit Davala, the Turkish midfielder, who will play (on loan) with Galatasaray next season. Dario Simic will join the Rossoneri around the middle of July, as he disputed the World Cup in Korea/Japan.

Milan move in on Marquez
29.6 || scharatz

Milan are closing in on Mexican World Cup revelation Rafael Marquez to boost their troubled defence.

The 23-year-old made quite an impression on Serie A sides when the Central Americans drew 1-1 with Italy.

Marquez is also a target for Inter and Juventus, but the two giants appear to be pouring all their energies into signing Alessandro Nesta from Lazio.

The Rossoneri are taking advantage of that bidding war by preparing a swoop for the £10m-rated Monaco man.

Failing that, Brazilian international Edmilson – currently with French side Lyon - has asked his agent to discuss a possible move to Milan.

Claudio Guadagno also represents current Rossoneri central defender Roque Junior and the two could resume their World Cup partnership at the San Siro.

Milan are also ready to engage in advanced talks with Fiorentina duo Enrico Chiesa and Daniele Adani.

Next week the two clubs will meet to discuss the fate of their stars. Chiesa turned down a move to Lazio after admitting “Milan have made a better offer.”

Parma and Inter have cooled their interest in former Italian international Adani, but Fiorentina need to sell quickly in order to boost their finances.

The Viola must balance the books by the end of July, or the club will not be allowed to enter the new Serie B Championship.

Inter-Juve pact for Nesta
29.6 || scharatz

As the race to sign Alessandro Nesta hots up, Juventus and Inter have agreed not to enter a bidding war to raise his £37m price tag further.

The two clubs are both in talks with Lazio this week, but so far neither side has been able to offer a strong enough package to sign the defender.

Bianconeri transfer guru Luciano Moggi and Nerazzurri President Massimo Moratti met on Friday evening to discuss the situation.

The two clubs agreed not to raise the cash sum above £15m, with the remaining bid to consist of players in a partial swap deal.

Judging by latest reports, Inter have offered £15m cash plus midfielder Cristiano Zanetti.

Juventus are said to have laid down a bid of £15m plus Alessio Tacchinardi or defender Mark Iuliano.

Milan were also thought to be in the running with an offer of the same cash sum in addition to Portuguese playmaker Manuel Rui Costa, but the Rossoneri remain a peripheral figure to the negotiation process.

Now that this pact has been struck, we should see Lazio forced to make a decision on Nesta’s future by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, that pact to keep the cash sum low could force the financially troubled Biancocelesti into selling more top stars.

Hernan Crespo’s talks with Spanish sides do not appear to be reaching a conclusion, while Atletico Madrid are yet to complete the signing of Claudio Lopez and Diego Simeone. Barcelona are also stalling on Gaizka Mendieta.

President Sergio Cragnotti could now be forced to sell Jaap Stam, a target for Milan and Leeds United, Juventus favourite Dejan Stankovic and Argentine international Juan Pablo Sorin.

Midfielder Sorin impressed during the World Cup, but could leave Lazio before even setting foot in the Stadio Olimpico.

Baresi wanted me at Fulham, claims Albertini
28.6 || webmaster

AC Milan midfielder Demetrio Albertini has revealed he turned down an offer to team up with former team-mate Franco Baresi at Fulham.

"Baresi called me over the course of the summer to ask if I would be interested in an offer from Fulham," explained the Italy star.

"I thanked him but told him that my first thought was with my recovery. That is the only certain thing for the moment. Transfer rumours are all part of the game.

"As for my future, in football there are no certainties, but my wish is to finish my career with the Milan. I have always said that and continue to think so," Albertini told the Milan web-site.

Albertini, 30, was forced to miss Italy's World Cup campaign after injuring his Achilles tendon just two months before the tournament.

The elegant midfielder is a close friend of Baresi, who was appointed director of football at Fulham in May. He enjoyed many a successful season alongside the defender in the Milan team after making his debut for the Rossoneri in 1988.

Baresi admitted last month that he had only agreed to join the west London club after receiving guarantees that they were ready to match his lofty ambitions.

"Mohamed Al-Fayed's programme is so serious and ambitious. He has convinced me," explained the Italy legend.

Baresi's prime duties include scouting and youth development, while his appointment allows Fulham manager Jean Tigana to concentrate exclusively on coaching the first team.

Pirlo promises to shine
28.6 || webmaster

Andrea Pirlo is confident that he will get his opportunity to shine for Milan this season – despite the stiff competition for places.

The now former Under-21 international wasn’t guaranteed first team football last term but says he has the full backing of the club.

"I know that there is great competition for places and it will be hard work. But I have spoken with both the club and the Coach and they have relayed their faith in me," he told the official Milan website.

"I’m happy that we will soon be getting back to training, especially because I can feel that there is a great deal of enthusiasm around the club. Personally I think that I ended the last campaign well and I’ll look to continue where I left off."

The attacking playmaker also believes that the Rossoneri will be a major force to contend with over the season after a number of new purchases.

"We are a strong side in all departments and have added to the squad with Jon Dahl Tomasson and Clarence Seedorf," he continued.

"They will be excellent signings and I don’t see that many clubs who have strengthened more than us."

Pirlo was also questioned on whether he could feature on the international stage after he became ineligible for the Under-21 side.

"To arrive in the national team you need to play on a regular basis with your club," he replied.

"For the time being I think talking about my possible presence in the squad is premature even if I admit that I do think about it."

Prince Albert wants Maldini at Monaco
26.6 || webmaster

Prince Albert of Monaco has urged coach Didier Deschamps to do everything to bring former Italy captain Paolo Maldini to the Principality.

"I want Paolo in my side," he boomed. "We have made deals with AC Milan in the past and this should be our next one. It would give Paolo the chance to end his great career without stress and without betraying the Rossoneri."

Deschamps is nonetheless wary of signing players from the San Siro after difficulties with former Milan players in the past.

The former Juventus midfielder signed Oliver Bierhoff from Milan last summer, but the Germany striker has so far failed to settle in Southern France.

Another former Milan player, Marco Simone, was already at the club when Deschamps arrived, but the coach failed to see eye to eye with Italian and soon sent him back to the San Siro on loan.

Nevertheless, Prince Albert has a strong influence over the comings and goings at Monaco and could yet convince Deschamps to use his contacts in Serie A to strengthen the squad.

The Prince also admitted that he had tried to lure Roma boss Fabio Capello to the club prior to Deschamps' appointment.

"I contacted Capello a few years ago, but he turned us down," revealed Albert. "I think he is the best man around, although there are plenty of good coaches in Italy.

"I like Dino Zoff a lot, but we still have Deschamps and I am not the Monaco president."

Baresi apprehensive over step into unknown
26.6 || webmaster

Italy legend Franco Baresi has admitted trepidation as he leaves AC Milan to begin his new life as director of football at Fulham.

"I'm starting from the beginning after 30 years," he said. "I'm a little worried, but above all I feel curious about the future."

There are few similarities between Milan and Fulham and Baresi is quick to clutch at anything which might make him feel more at home.

"The Fulham colours are white, red and black. It's a strange coincidence, isn't it?" he said. "Of course I'll miss the love of the Milan fans, but now I only want to think about this new adventure.

"I won't be able to walk around in front of the Duomo or in Via Montenapoleone, but the centre of London is just as magical as that of Milan and I will soon get used to it.

"London is a very amusing city. The weather is a little warmer than in Milan, with only a touch of fog, which will remind me of home."

Hardest of all is the language barrier. "I have packed many English books in my suitcase and I will quickly have to learn, but it looks like it could be a real battle," he said.

"In the past six months I have become a student and a teacher follows me wherever I go. It is very difficult to make improvements and I think it was easier for me to win the Scudetto or the Champions' League."

Baresi has been offered a flat by Fulham overlooking Hyde Park and he has quickly fallen in love with his new surroundings.

"It's a real jewel and the training pitch is close," he said. "That's important, because when I tried to use a car the terrible traffic and driving on the left confused me, so I got lost."

Baresi, however, has not felt out of place in the milieu he knows best. "I like English football," he said. "Their philosophy is to play and let the opponents play and I like it.

"The club is small, but very well organised. I'm not like Arrigo Sacchi, who can do what he wants at Parma.

"I must fit into the existing structure. Now I have to get to know our players and after that I'll share my ideas with those of Jean Tigana. I will be working as a member of staff.

"In the squad we have some good young players and two of them [Zatyiah Knight and Sean Davis] are first choices in the England Under-21 side. The keeper is Edwin van der Sar.

"Of course Fulham are not Manchester United, but we are looking forward to playing in the Intertoto Cup. We must start to taste the experience of playing in Europe in a serious way."

Baresi is expected to use his influence to bring Italian prospects to the club and admitted his disappointment at missing out on the chance to sign Under-21 striker Massimo Maccarone.

"We signed Antonio Benarrivo from Parma and his experience will help us a lot. I would also like to bring to London some young prospects - Maccarone, for instance, who unfortunately went to Middlesbrough."

Baresi has been brought in to allow manager Tigana more time to concentrate on the first team. His prime duties will include scouting and youth development and judging by his success with the youngsters at Milan, Fulham's future is in safe hands.

"I did what I could for the club," Baresi said. "The Milan youth team won two Viareggio tournaments under me and that is something like winning the World Cup for younger players. The youth team were doing well."

Baresi embodied Milan for two decades - something the club acknowledged when they took the No 6 shirt out of service on his retirement; nobody else could possibly have filled it.

He joined the club in 1974 as a 14-year-old and, four years later, made his Serie A debut. "Boy, it's your turn to play," coach Nils Liedholm said to him before the game with Verona on April 23, 1978.

And Baresi did not disappoint, turning in a fine performance as Milan won 2-1. The following season the Scudetto arrived and Baresi had the first entry on what was to prove a long list of honours.

In all, Baresi appeared 716 times for the Rossoneri, winning six Scudetti, three European Cups, three European Super Cups and two Intercontinental Cups.

Since retiring as a player, Baresi has been running the Milan youth set-up.

World Cup: Brazil 1 - 0 Turkey
26.6 || webmaster

Ronaldo 49

A second-half goal from Ronaldo was enough to ensure Brazil’s place in the World Cup Final against Germany. The Inter man struck just four minutes after the break to defeat a Turkish side that didn’t disgrace themselves.

It was a bright start to the game and Turkey did excellently in the first 20 minutes. Emre tested Marcos with a low shot before the ‘keeper was forced into an excellent save from an Alpay header.

But that sprung Brazil into life as Turkish ‘keeper Rustu had to be at his very best. He somehow kept this side in it with a wonderful block from a Cafu angled drive. He then performed one of the double saves of the tournament.

A Rivaldo angled drive was parried by Rustu into the path of Ronaldo. But the Inter man couldn’t get enough contact onto it and Rustu got onto the striker’s weak effort. The goalkeeper then made a further two saves in the space of a minute before Rivaldo did beat him – but his shot ended wide of the post.

The half ended with a powerfully struck Emre free-kick that cleared the wall but also the crossbar.

Neither Coach decided to change anything at half-time and that suited Brazil who took just four minutes to take the lead. Ronaldo turned his marker, accelerated into the penalty area and toe-poked the ball into the far corner past Rustu for his sixth goal of the tournament.

Turkey did try to hit back but in doing so left themselves exposed at the back. And Brazil missed chance after chance to virtually seal the tie. Kleberson missed from a favourable position before Luizao saw his acrobatic effort hit the ground and fly over the bar.

That could have proved costly as Ilhan forced a save from Marcos after his cross looked as if it could just sneak under the bar. While Marcos made a wonderful 81st minute save as Sukur hooked a volley on target. Ilhan then wasted a 92nd minute chance when his header cleared the goal.

Brazil will meet Germany – for the first time in World Cup history – in the final on Sunday. Turkey face South Korea in the third place play-off 24 hours earlier.

Brazil : Marcos; Cafu, Lucio, Roque Junior; Edmilson, Roberto Carlos, Gilberto, Kleberson (Belletti 85), Edilson (Denilson 75); Rivaldo, Ronaldo (Luizao 68)

Turkey: Rustu; Akyel, Korkmaz, Alpay, Ergun, Davala (Izzet 74), Basturk (Arif 88), Tugay, Emre (Ilhan 62), Sas, Sukur

Ref: Milton Nielsen (Den)

Inzaghi keen to return
26.6 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi is eager for the new season to start in a bid to archive his disappointment at Italy’s World Cup exit.

The Milan striker was one of the 23-man squad that were controversially eliminated from the Orient tournament when they lost to a golden goal in the last 16 against South Korea.

"After the Finals I am really enthusiastic to start the new campaign with Milan," he told Milan Channel.

"I, like my Azzurri teammates, are eager to do well and make up for the disappointment of the last month."

Inzaghi started two games at the Finals and did prove a handful but failed to get on the scoresheet – even if he did have a strike against Mexico wrongly ruled out for offside.

"That goal would have been so important for me," he added. Inzaghi was subsequently dropped from the first team in favour of Alex Del Piero for the Korea encounter.

Cesare Maldini set for office role
26.6 || scharatz

Cesare Maldini has announced that he is unlikely to get back into Coaching after he quit as Paraguay boss.

The Italian has returned to Milan to take up a position as the chief scout for the Rossoneri after guiding the South Americans to the last 16 of the World Cup.

"I think that I’ve finished with the playing side of things. I think that I will just continue working from my office in Milan from now on," he maintained.

Maldini took the Paraguay job just six months ago and is content with what he achieved in the Japan and Korea tournament.

"I think that I did a relatively good job with Paraguay at the World Cup and that was also because I had a good squad of players and good support staff."

The former sweeper also appeared at the France ’98 tournament when he led Italy to the quarter-finals.

But that wasn’t enough to save his job as he was shown the door. A consequence that Maldini believes will not occur to Giovanni Trapattoni – despite only guiding the Azzurri to the last 16.

"When a side loses then the Coach can sometimes lose his job," Maldini added. "But I think Trap has done enough to save his place."

Simone returns to Monaco
24.6 || scharatz

Marco Simone will spearhead Monaco’s attack next season after his loan spell at Milan ended.

The Italian went back to the San Siro club last season after he fell out with Monaco Coach Didier Deschamps.

However, the former Como striker was rarely used by both Fatih Terim and then Carlo Ancelotti for the Rossoneri despite the four-month absence of injured Pippo Inzaghi.

"I’m feeling great at the moment and I have a massive desire to play again and win a major honour or two," Simone said.

"I still have two years left on my contract with the club and I hope to play at my highest levels once more.

"I am just focused on having a good campaign with Monaco and to give my very best to the rest of the side."

Meanwhile, as Simone heads out of Milan, Cesare Maldini has returned.

The former national boss has been appointed as the chief scout for the San Siro giants after his brief spell as Paraguay boss.

Maldini senior took the South Americans to the last 16 of the World Cup before they were finally beaten by a late goal against Germany.

Ba to bring Dalla Bona back
24.6 || scharatz

It has been reported that Ibrahim Ba will join Chelsea as part of Milan’s swoop for Samuele Dalla Bona.

The French winger has returned from a loan spell in his homeland but has not found space at the San Siro.

He could now be handed over to the Premiership club as the Rossoneri continue to negotiate for Italian youngster Dalla Bona.

The midfielder has confirmed his desire to return to Serie A this season, but despite interest from Juventus, Inter and Roma his £8m price-tag has frightened off most clubs.

Milan appear to have found the answer, as Ba’s move would lower the price considerably.

Should that move fail, then Ba could be used to tempt Simao away from Benfica, although the Portuguese side does not seem to be confident of the deal.

Terim calls Rui to Turkey
24.6 || scharatz

It’s claimed that Manuel Rui Costa could join his former Coach Fatih Terim at Galatasaray.

‘The Emperor’ has returned to his homeland after a two-year spell in Serie A with mixed results.

Fired from both Fiorentina and Milan despite some entertaining play, the Turkish tactician struck up an excellent rapport with Rui Costa at both clubs.

Now it has been reported that Terim has called the Portuguese international to link up once more.

This offer could tempt the creative midfielder, who is in need of a boost to his morale following a truly dismal season.

Rui Costa disappointed Milan since joining the club last summer in a record £27m deal as a succession of injuries took their toll.

The problems continued during the World Cup as Portugal were eliminated in the first round and often saw the representative player on the bench.

Next season does not look promising for the former Viola captain, as Andrea Pirlo and new buy Clarence Seedorf could push him out of the squad.

According to reports in the Italian press, communications between Terim and Vice-President Adriano Galliani are open and would favour a loan move to help Rui Costa regain his form and confidence.

Spanish side Atletico Madrid has also shown interest in the 30-year-old fantasista, also for a loan spell.

Milan have already engaged in one swap deal with rivals Inter – exchanging Francesco Coco for Seedorf – and could enter into another move.

The Nerazzurri have enquired after Brazilian Serginho, although Atletico Madrid are again interested in the pacey winger.

For Inter Serginho would be the alternative to Kily Gonzalez, as talks for the £17m-rated Valencia star have all but broken down.

Roma and Real Madrid are closing in on a target for both Inter and Milan: Ajax’s Romanian international Christian Chivu.

Rui Costa vows to get fit and hit form
23.6 || webmaster

Manuel Rui Costa has insisted he will be back to his best for AC Milan next season following an injury-ravaged first 12 months at the San Siro.

The Portugal star signed for Milan last summer in a £27 million deal from Fiorentina.

But his season was hampered by ankle and elbow injuries and he failed to rediscover the form that had made him one of the most feared attacking midfielders in Europe.

Now, after a disappointing World Cup with Portugal, the former Benfica star is fully focused on Milan's forthcoming Serie A campaign. "Milan haven't seen the real Rui Costa yet," he said. "I'll be like a new signing next year.

"I've been massacred by injuries. Just ask the doctors and they will confirm it. Next season Milan don't need a revolution, we just need to be a bit more lucky and avoid injuries to key players."

The 30-year-old went on to praise the signing of Holland midfielder Clarence Seedorf and Denmark striker Jon Dahl Tomasson for the new season and admitted he would also love to see Italy centre-back Alessandro Nesta join the club.

"Clarence is a great player and I also want to give my congratulations to Milan's directors for signing Tomasson. They were both intelligent deals. As for Nesta, he's a great talent and would be a top signing.

"There are a lot of teams looking at him but sometimes our president Silvio Berlusconi is able to surprise everybody. He did that last year by signing me and it could happen again."

Iuliano promises to stay with Juventus
23.6 || webmaster

Italy defender Mark Iuliano has insisted he will stay at Juventus despite reports linking him with moves to Milan and Roma. "There is no chance that I'll leave Juventus," he said.

The 28-year-old added: "I want to stay but it is nice to receive a lot of offers."

Iuliano, part of the Italy squad knocked out of the World Cup in the last 16, was reported to be part of a deal that could also see Edgar Davids leave Juventus for Roma with Francisco Lima moving in the opposite direction.

However, he said: "Right now I can say that there is no chance that I'll leave Juventus. Nobody has told me about a possible transfer. I haven't spoken with the Juventus directors but my marriage with the Bianconeri is strong, working well and I've no reason to leave."

After six seasons in Italy's lower divisions with Salernitana, Bologna, Monza and Salernitana for a second spell, Iuliano proved an able replacement for the injured Ciro Ferrara after he arrived in Turin.

However, Juventus showed every player has a price following Zinedine Zidane's £48 million move to Real Madrid last summer.

Coco determined to repay Inter faith
21.6 || webmaster

Francesco Coco is hoping to prove Internazionale have got the better half of the bargain after signing from AC Milan in a swap deal that saw Dutch midfielder move to the Rossoneri. "I hope so, as that would mean that I will have a great season," he said.

Inter presented Coco to the press at the Pinetina training centre on Friday with the Italy centre back still sporting a plaster above his eye from the knock he took during the Azzurri's World Cup defeat to South Korea.

With Italy still reeling from the shock of that loss, Coco admitted he had hoped that the announcement of his arrival at Inter might have been delayed.

"To be honest, I had hoped to come back a little later, let's say in ten day's time," he said. "But what happened has happened and now I'll have a short holiday before beginning my new adventure with the Nerazzurro.

"I'm very happy," he added. "The transfer has been spoken about for some time and I can't wait to begin. It will be a challenge here and I have always loved challenges in my career.

"Both Milan's clubs are important sides and if they agreed on this deal, they had their reasons," Coco added. "I'm 25 and I want to show my ability by playing in Italy at the top level. Inter are a top team, they are always looking for stars and I hope to be one of them."

Coco forced his way into the Italy side after missing the opening match against Ecuador and vowed to do the same at Inter.

"The first objective is to win a place in the side, because no-one has a right to one at Inter," he said. "Once I have claimed a shirt I will have to fight to keep it."

Inter ruled themselves out of the race to sign Lazio defender Alessandro Nesta and Valencia midfielder Kily Nerazzurri on Thursday, but sports director Gabriele Oriali was delighted to have sealed the signing of Coco.

"We had been looking at Coco for a long time and we believe he can fix the our main problem last season, the left side of defence," he said.

"I'm sorry that we decided to organise this press conference just a few hours after one of the worst defeats in the history of Italian football, but at the same time we are delighted to have signed a player as great as Coco."

Coco spent the 2001-02 season loan at Barcelona despite having impressed sufficiently at Milan to force his way into the Italian national team. Fatih Terim, then coach at Milan, professed a preference for Serginho on the left and deemed Coco to be surplus to requirements after just one game of the 2001-02 season.

World Cup: England 1-2 Brazil
21.6 || webmaster

Owen 23, Rivaldo 45, Ronaldinho 50

Ten-man Brazil are through to the World Cup semi-finals after a 2-1 win over England. Despite going a goal down, strikes from Rivaldo and Ronaldinho have set up a last four clash against Senegal or Turkey.

In a very tight first half it was England that had the first effort on goal, even if Heskey’s fourth minute header was easy for Marcos. But it was Brazil that seemed to take control of the tie. Rivaldo had an effort from 30 yards but failed to trouble the target.

On 14 minutes, Roberto Carlos had a thunderbolt free-kick deflected for a corner before Seaman was troubled after a Ronaldo – Rivaldo – Ronaldo move ended with the ball in the Arsenal ‘keeper’s hands.

But somewhat against the run of play it was England that took the lead. A defensive lapse from Lucio gifted Michael Owen a chance that the striker didn’t throw away. He cooly lifted the ball over Marcos to give his side the lead.

England seemed totally in control after taking the advantage and Brazil were finding space increasingly difficult to come by. But in first half stoppage time, the South Americans hit back. Ronaldinho ran with the ball from his own half to play in Rivaldo who swept the ball past Seaman into the corner of the net.

And it didn’t take too long after the break for Brazil to take the lead in bizarre circumstances. A free-kick from the corner of the penalty area was taken by Ronaldinho whose cross come shot caught out Seaman and flew straight into the top corner.

But the English received a boost on 57 minutes when Brazil were reduced to 10 men. Ronaldinho was shown a straight red card for a foul on Danny Mills that did seem a bit harsh on the South Americans.

But to their credit, Brazil kept their shape and gave England very few opportunities to get back into the game. Best effort fell for Mills but he saw his left foot shot deflected over the bar for a corner. Before Butt saw a late header also fly over.

England: Seaman, A. Cole (Sheringham 80), Ferdinand, Campbell, Mills, Sinclair (Dyer 56), Butt, Scholes, Beckham, Owen (Vassell 79), Heskey.

Brazil: Marcos, Cafu, Lucio, Roque Junior, Edmilson, Roberto Carlos, Gilberto, Kleberson, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo (Edilson 70)

Ref: Ramos Rizo (Mexico)

Sent off: Ronaldinho 57

Galliani promises to avert Serie A strike
20.6 || scharatz

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has vowed to avert a strike by Serie A clubs next season if he is elected as president of the Italian League on Monday.

"As things stand 16 clubs will boycott the start of the campaign unless a TV deal is arranged," he said.

"It's time to go to work but it will be impossible to have a unanimous decision. I have already written to 38 presidents in Serie A and Serie B.

"Obviously, I know now 8 Serie A clubs and the majority of the 20 Serie B clubs currently don't have a TV contract.

"I was asked to stand for president by a group of club chiefs and was happy to put myself forward."

The 55-year-old is expected to be named the new League chief at a meeting next Monday although he faces competition from former Uefa vice president Antonio Matarrese.

Rui Costa regrets black season
19.6 || scharatz

Manuel Rui Costa has admitted that Portugal’s shock exit from the World Cup has brought to an end his worst season in football.

The Milan man watched in amazement as his national side failed to navigate their way through to the Second Round despite being in a group consisting of Poland, USA and South Korea.

"The only positive side of our exit from the World Cup is that my worst season ever has finally come to an end," he said.

"I am so angry inside because of our defeat in Japan and Korea. After our second game we really did think that we could do well.

"To be knocked out in the first round is terrible to take. And it is even worse to watch it from the bench when your teammates are struggling to get back into the game. We paid the price for our poor start against USA when we lost 3-2."

Much was expected from Rui Costa both at home and abroad after his £27m move to Milan from Fiorentina.

But the playmaker had a poor first season at the San Siro as he struggled with form and fitness.

Rui Costa’s international teammate Nuno Gomes – currently of Fiorentina – has also admitted that the 2001-02 season was one to forget after his club side were relegated.

"It has been the worst year of my life. I’m saddened by our exit at the World Cup and also because of the disastrous term at Fiorentina," he confirmed.

"I need to take a break now but I know that if I receive no offers then I am aware of where my future lies. If no one contacts my agent I will continue playing for Fiorentina."

The striker has been linked with moves back to his homeland as well as a move to the Premiership.

Arrivederci Paolo: A Tribute To A Legend
19.6 || scharatz

Italian hearts worldwide are still crying, and I am as numb as I have ever been. The tears in my eyes are accompanied by the haunting feeling in my heart that someone has died. But, I have to live with it…I have no choice! I also have to live with the fact that the whole world seems to have turned against Italy and cruel jibes are the only condolences being offered. But, I cannot live with the fact that this is the last I have seen of Paolo Maldini in that beautiful "Azzurra" shirt.

At a time that can only be described as bizarre, I implore fans all over the planet to step aside from their prejudices, beliefs and perceptions of the "Squadra Azzurra" and spare a thought for the legend…the warrior…the symbol of defensive genius: Paolo Maldini.

"It is not an easy decision after 15 years wearing the Azzurra shirt," he had said earlier this year when he made public his decision to quit international football after the World Cup 2002. "It has been a long, rocky ride." And, how true his words were. Sent on as a substitute versus Yugoslavia in Split on March 31, 1988, Maldini made his debut at the tender age of nineteen. His club debut came at an even earlier age (sixteen) when Nils Leidholm decided that it was time to give the son of legendary defender Cesare Maldini a shot on the big stage. An astonishing 16 years later, he is recognized as perhaps one of the greatest defenders of all time and definitely one of the finest left-backs ever to grace the green.

But, for the man who has won everything imaginable at club level, things have not gone right internationally. In a career littered with 6 Scudetti (Italian championships), 3 European Cups, 4 Italian Super cups, 3 European Super cups and 2 World Club Championships, all Maldini has to show for his record-breaking 126 Italy caps are two losing finalist medals (World Cup 1994 and Euro 2000).

He was the youngest Italian at both Euro 88 and Italia 90, and until recently claimed that the saddest moment of his life had been the shoot-out elimination at the hands of Argentina in the semi-final of Italia 90. But, how things have gone sour for him over the years? First the despair of the shoot-out loss to Brazil in the World Cup final in 1994, then a similar disappointment versus the hosts in the quarter-finals of France 98, more recently the heart wrenching last-gasp defeat to France in the Euro 2000 final, and now the humiliating expulsion from World Cup 2002 at the hands of South Korea.

"If I had won today, I would have retired," said a notably subdued Maldini in an interview hours after going down in the Euro 2000 final. "It is strange how the Maldini family (his father Cesare, and he) have won so much at club level, yet have nothing to show with the Italy shirt," he lamented. Of course, victories are not dependent on the credentials of one man or on the sum of all the individuals in the team for that matter. World Cups and European Championships are won through teamwork, luck and a touch of inspiration. However, one look at this charismatic leader tells tales of how wrong it is to see him go this way.

When David Trezeguet put the ball in the back of Toldo's net and took off to celebrate what was the best moment of his career, few had a chance to see the expression on Maldini's face. It was that of a man who had been stabbed in the heart. He stood there with the grieved look that not even a widow mourning over her husband could have emulated. Tears streamed down the eyes of the veteran who had seen his team come within eight seconds of what would have been a deserved winners' medal, but in the blink of an eye, it was all lost!

Yet, in the minutes that would follow, the world was to witness the most amazing sights that one could ever conjure. A disconsolate Maldini was asked to lead his team on to the podium to receive the runners-up medals. And before my eyes, he stepped forth, looked the presenter squarely in the eyes and gave him his broadest smile. He accepted the medal with grace, firmly shook hands and acknowledged a few words of consolation. And yet, as he stepped down from the podium, one could see the smile disappear and the distraught expression return to his face. He was broken, but he didn't share it. Such was the class of this warrior!

With perhaps the best Italian team available since 1982, many thought that this was going to be Italy's year. It was not meant to be. But the piece of the puzzle that seems most awry is not that Italy have followed in France, Argentina and Portugal's footsteps and gone home, but the fact that the good Lord didn't spare Maldini even in his last game. As Ahn Jung-hwan rose to head the winner that would send Korea through and Italy home, Maldini watched from barely a foot away as his international career was brought to a sudden halt in the most cruel of ways. It should have ended differently, it could have ended differently, but it didn't.

San Paolo is done with international football, and considering his luck, he's probably glad that he is. Thankfully, we can still witness his prowess in defense and his renowned forays down the left for a few more years in Serie A, but what a shame that one of the true legends of Italian and world football, has to go in this way.

All we can hope for now is that he finds solace in the one place that won't let him down: his family. And who knows, fifteen years or so from now, two more Maldinis shall rise as Christian and Daniele Maldini will take the field to represent their country. And an old man by the name of Paolo Maldini will watch from the stands with pride as they do what he was not able to do: win something with the Azzurri.

Arrivederci San Paolo, and God bless!

AUTHOR: Lo Scrivano

World Cup: South Korea 2-1 Italy
18.6 || webmaster

Vieri 18, Seol 88, Ahn 117

Italy are out of the World Cup after Perugia’s Ahn Jung-Hwan scored a golden goal in a shock victory.

The Azzurri were just three minutes away from winning the tie before the co-hosts netted a late equaliser as the Italians paid the ultimate price for their defensive tactics.

Although South Korea were playing in front of their own fans, Italy started the game as favourites. But the tie didn’t get off to the best of starts after the referee awarded Korea a penalty after a shirt pull by Panucci on a Korean in the box.

However, Perugia’s Ahn Jung-Hwan failed to give his side the lead when Gianluigi Buffon pulled off an outstanding save by diving to his right.

The first attacking glimpse of Italy came in the 10th minute but Vieri’s cross come shot cleared the bar despite Del Piero converging on goal. But Italy took the lead in the 18th minute through Christian Vieri.

A corner from Totti was beautifully flighted and Vieri stole in at the near post to powerfully put the Azzurri in the lead. It was Ahn who was proving to be a danger man for Korea but his shot on 36 minutes and the stroke of half time didn’t really trouble Buffon.

Italy were keen to defend their lead and invited the Koreans to attack them after the break. It looked to be a decent tactic as the Asian side rarely threatened.

It was Italy that had a number of chances to finish them off but Vieri missed three good openings in the space of six minutes. They were mistakes that would cost Italy as the Koreans sneaked a late equaliser. Seol played a one two and he got onto the end of it after a mistake by Panucci to draw things level.

Vieri did have one final chance in normal time but he unbelievably missed the target from a matter of yards after Tommasi had played a wonderful ball across the face of the box.

It went to extra-time and Korea nearly got the golden goal in the 12th minute as Hwang went close with a free-kick. Buffon did excellently to keep it out. But it was events two minutes later that gave this incredible game a new twist when Totti was sent off.

He was booked – his second of the game - for allegedly diving even though TV replays shows that could be adjudged to have been harsh.

With 10 minutes of extra time left Tommasi had a goal disallowed for offside before Gattuso missed a wonderful opportunity to send them through. But it was South Korea that got the golden goal as Ahn made up for his penalty miss to header in the winner.

South Korea: Lee Woon-Jae; Choi Jin-Cheul, Hong Myung-Bo (Cha 83), Kim Tae-Young (Hwang 63); Song Chong-Gug, Kim Nam-Il (Lee SC 68), Yoo Sang-Chul, Yong-Pong Lee, Park; Ahn, Seol Ki-Hyeon

Italy: Buffon; Coco, Maldini, Iuliano, Panucci; Zambrotta (Di Livio 72), Tommasi, Zanetti; Totti; Del Piero (Gattuso 61), Vieri

Ref: Moreno (Ecu)

Missed penalty: Ahn 4

Sent off: Totti 102

Milan Legend Costacurta Parma-Bound
17.6 || scharatz

AC Milan's veteran sweeper Alessandro "Billy" Costacurta is reportedly on the verge of signing for AC Parma, reports in Italy confirm.

The 36-year old, who has spent an astonishing 15 years at the club is unlikely to see any playing time at the club and has been requested by Parma technical director, Arrigo Sacchi, who coached Costacurta as a member of the world-dominating Milan team of the early 90s.

Milan president Adriano Galliani has repeated on numerous occassions that due to financial problems, the club will trim its roster to a 23-man squad. With Mark Iuliano joining from Juventus, they have had to rid themselves of one defender and Costacurta seems to be the man.

Milan fans will sorely miss Billy who is a crowd favorite at the San Siro and is considered one of the true servants of the club. This (along with the arrival of Iuliano) will also end all hopes of either Cannavaro or Nesta arriving at the club.

World Cup: Brazil 2-0 Belgium
17.6 || scharatz

Rivaldo 67, Ronaldo 87

Brazil have set up a quarter-final against England after they beat Belgium 2-0 in Kobe. A lack lustre South American outfit had to thank Rivaldo and Ronaldo as they netted the goals to see off an impressive Belgian side.

Having won all three group games, those that thought Brazil’s game with Belgium would be a walk in the park were instantly reminded that may not be the case. In the very first minute Mpenza forced Marcos to concede a corner after he floated a shot that was creeping under the crossbar.

Brazil weren’t as fluent as in previous matches but were causing concern around the penalty area. Juninho hit a left foot shot wide of the post after five minutes before Roberto Carlos fired in a free-kick after 10 minutes but he couldn’t keep his shot down.

Ronaldo then went close after some good work from Ronaldinho. The latter skipped past two defenders to release the Inter man but his curling effort just cleared the bar with the ‘keeper beaten.

Brazil got a scare on 36 minutes when Belgium had the ball in the back of the net. A cross from the right was headed in by Wilmots, but the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Roque Junior. Brazil went close twice in the last minute of the first half when Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos tested the Europeans.

But it was Belgium that started the better in the second half and Wilmots twice went close. On 53 minutes, Marcos needed his fingertips to divert a low drive that seemed destined for the corner. Before he tried his luck with a left foot curler but that was also expertly dealt with by the ‘keeper.

But Brazil did finally break the deadlock on 67 minutes thanks to a moment of brilliance by Rivaldo. With his back to goal he chested down the ball only to turn and fire his side in front with a lethal drive that took a slight deflection off a defender.

Belgium did try to hit back and both Goor and substitute Sonck did get in advantageous positions but failed to capitalise on their chances. Brazil made it 2-0 thanks to Ronaldo’s fifth goal of the tournament following a quick counter attack in the 87th minute.

Brazil play England on Friday at Shizuoka for a place in the World Cup semi-finals.

Brazil: Marcos; Cafu, Lucio, Roque Junior, Edmilson, Carlos, Gilberto, Juninho (Denilson 57), Rivaldo (Ricardinho 90), Ronaldinho (Kleberson 81), Ronaldo

Belgium: De Vlieger; Van Kerckhoven, Van Buyten, Peeters (Sonck 73), Simons, Wilmots, Goor, Verheyen, Vanderhaeghe, Walem, Mpenza

Ref: Prendergast (Jam)

Iuliano Milan deal done
17.6 || scharatz

Milan have agreed terms with Juventus over the proposed transfer of Mark Iuliano.

The latter has been hotly linked with the Rossoneri in recent times and reports suggest that a 10m Euro fee has been ironed out.

The San Siro club have been looking for a new central defender for some time after talks to buy Lilian Thuram (Juventus) and Fabio Cannavaro (Parma) stalled over the respective asking prices.

Sources suggest that Iuliano will be offered a three-year deal and the move will be completed once he agrees personal terms after the World Cup.

The 29-year-old, who signed for Juventus from Salernitana in 1996, could be handed his first World Cup appearance on Tuesday as Italy have Cannavaro suspended.

"I’m ready if required," said the central defender. "I’ve been ready since May 12, the day we got together for the tournament, to be honest."

Italy have been heavily criticised in some quarters for having a lack of quality cover for first choice defenders Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta. A claim that Iuliano doesn’t believe is fair.

"I don’t accept the statement that the reserve defenders are not up to the job in hand. After all the Coach picked his players after watching them in the Italian championship and he has chosen the best Italian defenders available."

Asked whether Iuliano was expecting to play in the Second Round game against South Korea, he replied: "It is disappointing to not play even if the most important aspect of the game is that we qualify.

"But then if I play and do well it will be hard for me to accept a place on the bench for the next match."

Serie A sides chase Sytchev
17.6 || webmaster

Milan and Parma are battling it out to sign Russian international Dmitri Sytchev.

The 18-year-old prodigy hit the headlines this week when he scored in Russia’s 3-2 defeat to Belgium and was one of his side’s most impressive players.

Born in 1983, the teenager already has an illustrious record of eight goals in 12 League appearances for Spartak Moscow, plus two strikes in just six international games.

The Rossoneri are favourites to sign the striker at a cost of £5.6m, as they would leave him in Moscow for a year on loan before sweeping him off to Serie A.

Sytchev would increase Milan’s Eastern European contingent after signing Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko (pictured), Georgian Kakha Kaladze and Belarus teenager Vitalii Kutuzov.

However, Parma and Bayern Munich are also on the trail of the striker already known as ‘the Michael Owen of Moscow’.

Meanwhile, the San Siro looks set to lose Jose Mari. The Spaniard should return to his homeland as Deportivo La Coruna have made an offer of £6m.

However, Milan want at least £9m, having paid £12m for the former Atletico Madrid striker as a 21-year-old in the summer of 2000.

Maldini quits Paraguay for Milan return
16.6 || webmaster

Cesare Maldini resigned as Paraguay manager after they were knocked out of the World Cup in a 1-0 defeat to Germany, revealing he will return to a role at AC Milan after now finishing his brief tenure with the South Americans.

The former Italian boss only took over in Paraguay at the turn of the year, replacing Sergio Markarian.

"It has been a great job, they are a very professional side and I am very happy to take them to this point,' said Maldini, who was in charge of Italy at France 98.

"I will go back to Milan because I have an observer's job there. We have a group of people who go around watching the different games and I am one of them, so that will be my job in the future."

Maldini though was pleased with his team's performance in his final game in charge.

"It was a very equal game until the end,' said the 70-year-old. "There weren't very many scoring opportunities from either side.

"Most parts of the game were in midfield but then there was a great run down the right and then a beautiful goal from the Germany No. 7."

Parma plan summer sales
15.6 || scharatz

Parma President Stefano Tanzi has confirmed that there will be no new buys this season, but some big name sales are planned.

“We won’t be making any more important buys on the transfer market,” commented Tanzi as the 2002-03 season ticket sales began.

“The team that you see today is essentially the one that will start the season. There could be some notable departures, just as there could not.”

The main candidates for a move away from the Stadio Tardini are Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Di Vaio and Hidetoshi Nakata.

The Japanese international was one of two Parma stars – Brazil’s Junior was the other – who have scored during the 2002 World Cup.

“This proves that we do choose the best possible players,” added the President, “and we are pleased to see our men do well.”

Cannavaro has been on the departure list for some time, but interested parties Juventus, Milan and Lazio have so far failed to find the £25m required.

Roma have now dived back into the bidding war. This club had been in pole position for the 29-year-old last season, but pulled out at the last minute when Parma changed their terms.

The Giallorossi are staging another assault on the Italian international with an offer of £19m cash plus the loan of teenage prodigy Antonio Cassano or Marcos Assuncao.

Meanwhile, Parma are already planning on how to replace their captain in central defence. The main candidate appears to be veteran Alessandro Costacurta.

Commonly known as ‘Billy’, the 36-year-old has not yet renewed his contract with Milan. It is increasingly likely that after 15 years in a Rossoneri shirt – in which he won six Italian titles and three European Cups – Costacurta will move on.

The former Italian international is also a target for Franco Baresi’s Fulham, but former Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi also holds sway as the director of sport for Parma.

Chiesa move could collapse
15.6 || scharatz

Enrico Chiesa’s agent has warned the move to Lazio is not complete as Milan are ready to intercept.

This week Fiorentina confirmed that they had agreed terms to loan the striker to Lazio for £1.5m with a further £5m coming in at the end of the season for the permanent buy.

That decision to buy the player outright is not an option, but a mandatory clause in the contract at the end of the loan period.

“I have not discussed this in detail with the Biancocelesti,” revealed his agent Rispoli on ‘Radioblu’. “Enrico is not 18 years old and I wouldn’t call the loan of such an important player to be the best choice.”

Fiorentina are in dire financial straits and must find cash quickly in order to register for the new Serie B Championship.

“The club will certainly not boost their bank balance with this deal,” continued Chiesa’s representative, “so it isn’t the best solution for them either.”

“Other teams, and in particular Milan, want Enrico and in the next few days we will decide what is to be done.”

Another sticking point regards Chiesa’s wages as Lazio would expect him to take a pay-cut upon arrival at the club Coached by his former Sampdoria teammate Roberto Mancini.

The 30-year-old has not yet resumed full training after suffering a devastating knee injury in September 2001.

Meanwhile, Fiorentina are under administration and risk being relegated to Serie D if they are unable to balance the books before the June 25 deadline.

All clubs must prove their finances are in relatively sound order before they will be admitted into the Serie B Championship.

“I don’t see anything that increases our optimism,” warned court-appointed administrator Enrico Fazzini. “I really wouldn’t say we have a great chance of registering for the new season.”

“I maintain that without an intervention to increase the club’s capital, Fiorentina’s position could become very delicate indeed.”

A meeting will be held with patron Vittorio Cecchi Gori next week, but the administrator did not seem optimistic on the outcome.

“I wouldn’t want the fans to get their hopes up.”

World Cup: Denmark 0-3 England
15.6 || scharatz

Ferdinand 4, Owen 22, Heskey 44

England have booked a Quarter-Final date with Brazil after confidently disposing of Denmark.
England emerged unscathed from the Group of Death, but now had to face the side that vanquished France. However, the game was over by half-time thanks to some good finishing and goalkeeping howlers.

Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen practically handed England their opener after just five minutes. The Dane fumbled a Rio Ferdinand glancing header into his own net, although the effort was effectively meant to be an assist for his teammates. The ball had come in from a David Beckham corner kick.

Denmark's luck took another blow when Milan's Thomas Helveg was stretchered off with a thigh injury.

Emile Heskey had a good opportunity to double their lead, but this time Sorensen was prepared for the Liverpool star.

His club teammate Michael Owen did rather better soon after when he sprung the offside trap on Nicky Butt's intelligent pass. It was England's first goal of the tournament from open play.

Denmark fought back but Ebbe Sand's solo effort squeezed past the near post. The Scandinavians maintained possession, but again it was England who took advantage of their chances.

Heskey was left unmarked to drill home from the edge of the box, although once more Sorensen could have done better as the shot squirmed under his body in the driving rain.

Thomas Gravesen brought the first save out of David Seaman just before the break with a piledriver from midfield.

At the dawn of the second half a scuffle broke out when Danny Mills reacted to a foul.

David Beckham was much improved from his other games in this World Cup and forced Sorensen to tip his lob over the bar.

Soon after Denmark put Seaman under pressure as he spilled Niclas Jensen's shot, while in the final ten minutes the veteran goallie tipped a Claus Jensen effort over.

Denmark: Sorensen; Henriksen, Laursen, Helveg (Bogelund 6), N Jensen; Tofting (C Jensen 58), Gravesen, Gronkjaer, Rommedahl; Tomasson, Sand

England: Seaman; Mills, A Cole, Ferdinand, Campbell; Sinclair, Beckham, Scholes (Dyer 48), Butt; Owen (Fowler 46), Heskey (Sheringham 68)

Ref: Merk (Ger)

World Cup: South Korea 1-0 Portugal
14.6 || scharatz

Park Ji Sung 70

South Korea will face Italy in the last 16 of the World Cup after they knocked nine-man Portugal out of the competition. A goal from Park Ji Sung proved to be the winner which ensured a place in the Second Round for the first time in their history.

The first half belonged to South Korea even if goal chances were few and far between. The Korean pressing game was causing Portugal a lot of problems, who were finding it difficult to employ their natural passing game.

First opportunity fell to Yoo but his long distance effort was allowed to drift past the post by Vitor Baia. But the game took a major twist in the 26th minute when Joao Pinto was dismissed. The attacker saw red for a high challenge from behind that deserved its consequences.

Four minutes later Korea did have the ball in the back of the net but it was correctly disallowed, after Baia had been fouled while attempting to catch a corner kick.

Korea picked up the pace after the break and went close on two occasions but both Seol and Yoo saw their headers fly wide of the target. Then on 54 minutes it was Kim Nam-Il who threatened but his shot also failed to trouble the Portugal No 1.

But things soon got even more difficult for Portugal went they were reduced to nine men. Full-back Beto was sent-off for two bookable offences. And things went from bad to worse just four minutes later when Korea took the lead. Park skipped past Conceicao and drilled the ball between the legs of Baia to make it 1-0.

Portugal did try to get back on level terms in a bid to still qualify and did go close on two occasions. Figo fired a free-kick just wide of the post before Conceicao struck it with a powerful drive in the 89th minute. Had that gone in Portugal would have gone through.

South Korea: Lee Woon-Jae; Choi Jin-Cheul, Hong Myung-Bo, Kim Tae-Young; Song Chong-Gug, Kim Nam-Il, Yoo Sang-Chul, Yong-Pong Lee, Park; Ahn, Seol Ki-Hyeon

Portugal: Vitor Baia; Beto, Couto, Jorge Costa, Rui Jorge (Xavier 73); Bento, Petit (Nuno Gomes 77), Conceicao, Figo; Joao Pinto, Pauleta (Andrade 68)

Ref: Sanchez (Arg)

Sent off: Joao Pinto 26, Beto 66

Galliani Reaffirms Stance On Nesta
14.6 || scharatz

Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has again stated that the chances of the Rossoneri signing Lazio defender Alessandro Nesta are slim.

Just last month Galliani revealed that the Italian international was out of their price-range and that Juventus had a much better chance of signing the centre-back.

"You ask if Alessandro Nesta will move to AC Milan? He is great, we all know it. I would like him to play for us, but it's a very remote chance," he told the Milan channel.

Seedorf has Rijkaard ambition
14.6 || scharatz

Clarence Seedorf has revealed that he joined Milan in a bid to emulate his idol Frank Rijkaard.

The Dutch midfielder has been presented to the Press by the Rossoneri following his move from city rivals Inter.

"Rijkaard was always my idol as a man and a player. He is one of the players imprinted in the Milan history books and it would be a great honour for me if I could do something similar," he told Milan Channel.

"These are particular moments in a footballers life when they make a move such as this. But I understood what Milan could signify for me and what I could signify for Milan. This is what convinced me to come here."

Seedorf did think carefully about the move after the two clubs agreed a deal which will see Francesco Coco – currently on loan at Barcelona – transfer to Inter as part of the deal.

"Before deciding to make the move I thought long and hard. But I’m delighted to be part of such a great side. The fact that the club wanted me so badly was very important for me," he added.

"I spoke to Ruud Gullit before I decided to sign and he spoke very highly of Milan. I’m very hopeful for the future and believe in the project which Coach Carlo Ancelotti has presented to me."

Some reports claim that Seedorf asked for specific guarantees from Ancelotti after failing to command a regular starting shirt under Hector Cuper at the Nerazzurri last term.

"I have never asked the Coach for any guarantees. I have spoken with Ancelotti on two occasions and I thank him for his honesty," he continued.

"I’ve not turned my back on the Inter fans. I’m sure they can understand my decision. After all I’m joining a side that after Real Madrid have won the most European Cups in history."

Seedorf is set to wear the No 20 shirt next season.

Maldini Makes History
13.6 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini made history today as he surpassed German international Uwe Seeler's record of having played 21 World Cup matches in a row without leaving the field for a single second.

In these days of three substitutions a match that is quite some achievement. Fortunately for Maldini the day wasn't marred by elimination from the competition as Croatia's defeat to Ecuador saw them take their place in the second round.

World Cup: Italy 1-1 Mexico
13.6 || scharatz

Alessandro Del Piero took exactly 9 minutes to put himself on the headlines of every sports newspaper in the world by saving Italy from what would have been a disgraceful exit from the World Cup. However, it was Mexico that deserve all the credit as Javier Aguirre's men absolutely dominated the Italians for 85 minutes and rightly qualify for the second round as winners of Group G.

But, Italy don't have only the Juve front man to thank for their qualification. Edison Mendez and Ecuador did the unimaginable in a World Cup where upsets are now commonplace. They beat Croatia 1-0 in Yokohama to deny the Eastern Europeans even a chance of qualifying for the second round. In reality, had Italy lost 1-0, they would have still made it, but all's well that ends well for the two qualifiers. As the closing five minutes of the game indicated, the two teams were more than satisfied with the draw (the Mexicans passed the ball among themselves whilst the Italians calmly stood in their own half).

The game kicked off at a much slower pace than expected. Giovanni Trapattoni opted for the two-man attack with Totti tucked in behind Vieri and Inzaghi. However, his tactics still left a lot to be desired as an overtly defensive lineup once again lacked the bite and creativity in the middle of the field. Italy were overrun by a barrage of Mexican attacks and with Panucci (who started on the left) rushing between his defensive and offensive duties, Italy's three man midfield struggled to cope with the likes of Torrado and Arellano.

Javier Aguirre once again proved what a fine coach he is and Osasuna fans should be relishing the thought of having "El Vasco" on their bench next season. The former Mexican international's plans worked like a charm and his crowded 5-man midfield was brilliant, winning every 50-50 ball and running the Italians ragged. Up front, Jared Borgetti was the man on-song and he proved it by being a handful for the most touted defense at the World Cup.

Mexico controlled the game right from the start, but it was the Italians who had more shots on goal in the opening forty-five. Italy seemed to be playing their usual game of wait and strike (How on earth do you do that in a must-win game???) and were made to pay the price when the great Cuauhtemoc Blanco found Jared Borgetti in the box and the lanky striker struck gold with a "eyes-in-the-back-of-your-head" header, running to the near post and gently flicking the ball across and in to the top corner of the far post with Buffon nowhere near it.

However, Italy had their fair chances to score and should have taken the lead on a number of occasions themselves. Controversy again in the 12' minute as a through ball found Inzaghi in the box and the Milan striker made no mistake as he lifted the ball beyond Oscar Perez and in to the net. But once again, it was the cursed offside flag (though, it was a wee bit more debatable this time) that denied Italy the go-ahead goal.

On 19' minutes, the Italians had perhaps the best chance that they would have for the whole game as Inzaghi beautifully found Totti all alone in front of goal, but the Roma man (who was having a torrid day) incredibly curled it wide of the post from six yards out! Trapattoni watched in disbelief and Vieri stood with his hands on his hips as Totti could only manage a distraught look towards the heavens.

Italy had a few more chances with Zambrotta, Vieri and Totti all going close in the first half, but none of them could find the target, primarily due to the excellently marshaled Mexican back line. Mexico took the deserved lead with the Borgetti goal and could have made it 2-0 when a superb long-range effort from Salvador Carmona went inches wide of Buffon's right hand post.

That brought the first period to an end and Azzurri fans around the world were expecting Trap to realize what a blunder he had made by playing four defenders and three defensive midfielders. Del Piero and Gattuso were some of the names thrown out since Italy were most notably lacking creativity and fight in midfield. However, to the surprise and disgust of many (like myself), Trap chose to stick with his formula, instead simply instructing his men to push further forward. "El Vasco" had a simpler task at hand. His men were up in a must-tie game and were completely outplaying the opposition and having a pretty good time out there.

The second half took over from where it had left off. Mexico continued to control the game and started to look more dangerous on the counterattack as Italy committed more men forward. Only the news that Ecuador had gone 1-0 up provided some relief to the troubled Italian tifosi hearts. Trapattoni continued to look frantic and scream at the Italian bench, but did little to remedy the situation, until finally he decided to put first Montella, and then Coco into the game. The injection of the Inter left-winger injected some added pace into the Italian flank and they started to look more dangerous.

On 63', Italy surely created a world record as they had their fourth goal in two games disallowed (this time correctly…. amazing, isn't it?) as Montella's delightful chip was adjudged to have been scored from an offside position. Then on 71', Vieri was released for the first time in the entire match. But, as he raced towards goal, he miscontrolled the ball and was unable to get off a shot from what was a downright easy goal scoring position.

For Mexico, Ramon Morales and Joahan Rodriguez both had great attempts on goal from outside the box, but both went wide. However, the play of the game came much earlier for them. Jesus Arellano embarrassed one of the masters of the game when he nutmegged Maldini clean between the legs, then played a delightful one-two with Blanco, tapped it past Buffon and had the ball hacked off the line by a fabulous Fabio Cannavaro to deny Mexico the two-goal cushion.

The turning point of the match however was to favor the Italians. A very disappointing Totti was substituted by Juve Golden Boy Alessandro Del Piero in the 76' minute. The initial reaction was that it was too little too late and that Del Piero should have been given a shot at half time. However, DP needed no second invitation. He came on and changed the game completely. His ball control and accurate passing breathed new life into a decaying Italian effort and after taking part in some delightful passing, he did what no one (at least at that moment) thought possible. With a diving header, Alex Del Piero scored the equalizer that would salvage Italian pride and allow Italy to remain composed for the remainder of the game.

Italy qualified for the second round behind Mexico and will play either Portugal, US or Korea Republic. However, if nothing else, Trap will have learnt a huge lesson today. His tactics were defenestrated by Sr. Aguirre and if Italy hope to lift that beautiful World Cup trophy in a few weeks time, they have to work on a system that allows their wingers to push further up and contribute to the attack. And if today's performance is anything to go by, then Del Piero should find himself starting ahead of Totti for the 1/16 round game. For there is nothing more a man can do to earn a start than save his country from utter humiliation.

Every Mexico player was outstanding. Blanco was unusually quiet, but worked so hard to provide his midfield with support (wonder why Totti didn't do that!). Rafael Marquez was simply flawless at the back and 23-year old Torrado was once again the most impressive player on the pitch. While the former kept a giant like Vieri quiet for most of the game, the latter can count on being picked up by a big European club in the near future.

For Italy, Nesta and Cannavaro were simply amazing at the back. True, Italy had their moments, but it was more due to the failures of their midfield and the ageing Maldini. Cannavaro will be sorely missed in Italy's next game (he picked up his second yellow today), but Italian fans can smile that Nesta is back doing what he does best.

Now, the two teams shall wait eagerly to see who their opponents for the round of sixteen will be.

Mexico 1-1 Italy (1-0)
34' Borgetti, 85' Del Piero

Mexico: 1. Oscar Perez, 4. Rafael Marquez, 5. Manuel Vidrio, 16. Salvador Carmona, 6. Gerardo Torrado, 7 Ramon Morales (3. Rafael Garcia, 76), 11. Braulio Luna, 18 Joahan Rodriguez (19. Gabriel Caballero, 76), 9 Jared Borgetti (17. Francisco Palencia, 80), 10. Cuauhtemoc Blanco, 21. Jesus Arellano

Italy: 1. Gianluigi Buffon, 2 Christian Panucci (4. Francesco Coco, 63), 3. Paolo Maldini, 5. Fabio Cannavaro, 13. Alessandro Nesta, 6. Christian Zanetti, 10 Francesco Totti (7. Alessandro Del-Piero, 78), 17. Damiano Tommasi, 19. Gianluca Zambrotta, 9 Filippo Inzaghi (20. Vincenzo Montella, 56), 21. Christian Vieri

POST MATCH COMMENTS (Football Italia):

Alessandro Del Piero is on top of the world after scoring the goal that put Italy through to the Second Round of the World Cup.

"I couldn’t dream up a better World Cup match than this," said the emotional Juventus man. "Our objective was to qualify and we achieved that. Seeing how things were shaping up for us I’d say it went brilliantly."

Del Piero has come in for a great deal of criticism for not delivering on the international stage, but with just 15 minutes on the field he was able to net the crucial goal. He also held his arm up to the sky to salute his father, who died last year.

"I am simply speechless," he stammered straight after the final whistle of the 1-1 draw with Mexico. "It’s a fantastic sensation."

Once again refereeing errors almost cost the Azzurri precious points in this group stage, but Del Piero cast aside the controversy. "If we have been penalised up until now then that means luck will be on our side next time."

Refereeing co-ordinator Raffaele Ranucci also commented on those offside rulings. "I realise that FIFA wants to allow in referees from all areas of the globe, but perhaps there should be a course before the tournament in order to improve certain standards."

Giovanni Trapattoni admitted that justice had been served after seeing four goals dubiously ruled out in the last two games. "God does exist," he said after the relief of the final whistle. "With five or six clear scoring opportunities and another goal struck off our tally, I can do nothing but applaud my players for what they did today."

"I realise that mistakes can be made and it is difficult to evaluate certain offside positions," added the Coach. "But you can’t keep making errors against the same team."

The tactician was under pressure to give in-form Del Piero more room in the squad. "He was never out of the running, not in my mind. We spoke ahead of the game and Del Piero did what we all knew he was capable of."

The Juventus man took the place of Francesco Totti. "We were so unlucky today as after going so close Mexico scored with their only shot on goal," he said.

"We are just relieved to have recovered from that now. Alessandro has also done well," noted the Roma captain, "and we will always be united with the desire to progress in this tournament.

"It wasn’t a great performance," he added, "but today the only thing that counted was qualifying."

Gianluca Zambrotta was one of the first Azzurri in the post-match press room and praised his Juventus teammate.

"Del Piero is a champion, it’s not as if we discovered this now," commented the winger. "As soon as he stepped onto the field you felt his presence.

"The situation was not looking good for us from the start, then when Mexico scored it got even worse. After the break we stayed more concentrated and knew that Croatia were losing in the other Group G game."

Added Zambrotta: "We created many chances and hope that fortune smiles on us a little more from now on. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy but we never gave up. This team is excellent and very united."

Pippo Inzaghi started his first World Cup game but lasted only 45 minutes. "It was a great first half with so many chances, yet we went into the break 1-0 down," said the striker.

"From the bench they told us that Croatia were losing and that gave us a real boost. Just getting through the first round was important considering what happened to France and Argentina. Any opponent will do now."

Italy will face the winners of Group D, which could be either the USA, South Korea or Portugal.

Vincenzo Montella provided the cross for Del Piero’s decisive header but missed several chances himself. "We haven’t been at all lucky so far between hitting the woodwork and seeing goals ruled out for no reason," noted the Roma hitman.

"Italy have real strength in depth and today the substitutes made the difference. We all have a real desire to make our mark and anyone can come on and do well."

Alessandro Nesta was playing with a painkilling injection for a foot injury he sustained against Croatia. "I was alright in the end and we took steps to sort it out quickly. It doesn’t matter who we face next as this tournament has shown that all teams play good football."

His teammate Fabio Cannavaro will not be on the field in that second round tie as he picked up a second yellow card. "It’s up to the Coach to decide who plays and who is in good condition," added the Lazio captain.

Milan quash swap rumours
13.6 || scharatz

Milan have issued a statement on their official website rubbishing a variety of transfer rumours involving the club.

The Rossoneri have been reported as being in talks with both Juventus and Inter over possible swap deals, but the club have denied the stories.

"There are no negotiations in progress with Juventus," read the statement. "We are not even thinking about offering Massimo Donati for Damiano Zenoni."

The San Siro giants signed Donati from Atalanta last summer but he failed to heavily feature in the last campaign and that eventually cost him his starting shirt with the Under-21 side.

Donati has interested Juventus and they were believed to have offered Zenoni.

The latter actually signed for Milan last August but immediately sold to Juve in the deal which saw Pippo Inzaghi move the other way.

The club also went on to dismiss claims that they were in talks with neighbours Inter over more transfer dealings.

"Talk that we will swap Manuel Rui Costa and Cosmin Contra for Inter duo Alvaro Recoba and Dario Simic are also inventions. For the time being Milan are well covered in all departments."

World Cup: Brazil 5-2 Costa Rica
13.6 || scharatz

Marin og 9, Ronaldo 13, Edmilson 38, Wanchope 39, Gomez 57, Rivaldo 62, Junior 64

Brazil maintained their 100 per cent record after a 5-2 win over Costa Rica ensured Group C top spot.

The Brazilians hardly broke sweat to take the lead. Good work down the left by Junior and Edilson resulted in the latter crossing towards Ronaldo. The Inter man caused enough confusion in the six-yard box for Marin to poke it into his own net.

But just minutes later in the 13th, Ronaldo did get his name on the scoresheet when Ronaldo got the better of two defenders to shoot the ball from the corner of the six-yard box in between the ‘keeper and the near post to make it 2-0.

Costa Rica had no option but to push forward as news filtered through that Turkey had quickly taken a comfortable lead over China in the other game. And Centeno wasted a wonderful opportunity when he fired the ball over from close range.

On 38 minutes, Brazil extended their lead in spectacular style. Centre back Edmilson went forward and reacted to a Junior cross by acrobatically performing a scissors kick that Rivaldo would have been proud of.

But Costa Rica instantly hit back when some good work by Wanchope and Wright, created space for the Man City striker whose shot took a slight deflection off Lucio to make it 3-1. The half concluded with a Rivaldo free-kick that beat Lonnis but found the foot of the post.

The second period started favourably for Costa Rica. Wanchope went close to scoring when he went around Marcos but saw his shot cleared off the line. Castro tested the ‘keeper with a violent shot before Gomez got on the end of a Bryce cross to head in their second.

But that seemed to wake up Brazil and they scored twice in two minutes. Rivaldo firstly crept ahead of his marker to sweep the side further ahead. While Junior then broke the offside trap to tuck away his side’s fifth.

Costa Rica did hit the post in the 71st minute when Junior’s attempted clearance inadvertently struck the frame of the goal with Marcos beaten.

Brazil: Marcos; Lucio, Anderson Polga, Edmilson; Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Junior, Juninho (Ricardinho 60), Edilson (Kleberson 57); Rivaldo (Kaka 72), Ronaldo

Costa Rica: Lonnis; Wallace (Bryce 46), Marin, Wright; Martinez (Parks 74), Castro, Lopez, Solis (Fonseca 65), Centeno; Wanchope, Gomez

Ref: Ghandour (Egy)

AC Milan All But Ready With 2002-03 Squad
12.6 || scharatz

The official pages of AC Milan today announced that they are not in any negotiations for the coming season. The club have denied the acqusition of Atalanta midfielder Damiano Zenoni and have gone on to deny further Inter-Milan swap deals that the press have published in the past week. "The Rui Costa-Recoba and Contra-Simic swaps are pure fantasy."

It also appears that Milan are increasingly losing interest in signing a new central defender. With the club in significant financial difficulty, the likelihood of a Nesta or Cannavaro arriving are almost impossible. However, should contract terms be agreed, Billy Costacurta could stay for another season.

The club are also benefitted from the return of Cyril Domoraud (loan) and Fernando Redondo (injury) thought it still remains to be seen if the latter can play competitively.

Milan Squad 2002-03:
GK: Abbiati, Dida, Fiori
DF: Laursen, Maldini, Kaladze, Contra, Chamot, Roque Jr., Domoraud, Helveg
MF: Rui Costa, Pirlo, Albertini, Redondo, Ambrosini, Seedorf, Serginho, Gattuso, Brocchi, Donati
FW: Shevchenko, Inzaghi, Kutuzov, Tomasson, Mari

Seedorf Says Yes To Milan
11.6 || scharatz

The proposed swap by Milan rivals of Francesco Coco for Clarence Seedorf is set to go through, after the latter finally agreed to give his blessings to the sensational deal.

The multi-talented Holland International midfielder – who joined Inter in December 1999 from Real Madrid - is set to put pen to paper on a three-year deal with his former sworn enemies AC Milan, after undergoing a routine medical scheduled for Thursday.

World Cup: France 0-2 Denmark
11.6 || scharatz

France have been humiliatingly eliminated from the World Cup at the first round stage after suffering a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Denmark, who qualify from Group A as winners with Senegal joining them in the second round after drawing with Uruguay 3-3.

Not only have France become the first reigning champions to fail to get past the opening round since Brazil in 1966, but they have also finished bottom of their group with just one point and no goals scored for their troubles.

Denmark were happy to allow France to dominate the possession in the early stages, as they were confident in their own ability to keep out Roger Lemerre's side, who were without Thierry Henry and had yet to score at this World Cup.

Disaster struck for France when Dennis Rommedahl capitalised on a rare chance for the Danes after being left alone at the back post to fire past Fabian Barthez after 22 minutes, leaving France facing an absolute miracle to progress if they didn't already.

David Trezeguet could be left to roe an act of selfishness after 17 minutes that saw him elect to shoot when a simple pass to Sylvain Wiltord would have surely give France the lead. Thomas Sorensen denied the Juventus striker and he did so again on the half hour mark to keep out and hold onto a low header by Trezeguet.

The expected onslaught on Denmark's goal simply didn't materialise and a shell-shocked France looked like a beaten side. An obviously far from fully fit Zinedine Zidane did show glimpses of his capabilities, but it was apparent that he conscious of aggravating his injury and that affected his influence on the game. The Real Madrid star did come close to giving Les Bleus a major lift prior to half time, but his fabulous attempt to curl the ball around Sorensen missed by no more than a yard.

Five minutes into the second half Marcel Desailly saw his header rebound off the face of the bar and that was perhaps a sign that this just wasn't going to be France's World Cup.

The expected onslaught on Denmark's goal simply didn't materialise and Morten Olsen's side sealed victory and France's fate after 64-minutes. Jesper Gronkjaer's low cross was clinically met by John Dahl Tomasson for his fourth goal of the World Cup.

France continued to chase a goal if for nothing else other than to restore some of their shattered pride. However, they were continued to be without any luck whatsoever. Second half substitute Djilbril Cisse was denied by Sorensen and Trezeguet saw his header rebound of the underside of the ball and for him land the wrong side of the post.

Denmark: Thomas Sorensen; Thomas Helveg, Rene Henriksen, Martin Laursen, Niclas Jensen; Dennis Rommedahl, Thomas Gravesen, Stig Tofting, Martin Jorgensen; Christian Poulsen, Jon Dahl Tomasson.

France : Fabien Barthez; Vincent Candela, Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly, Bixente Lizarazu; Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele; Sylvain Wiltord, Zinedine Zidane, Christophe Dugarry; David Trezeguet .

Referee: Vitor Melo Pereira (Portugal).

Under fire Maldini bites back
10.6 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has hit back at his critics by claiming that he is in better shape now than he was four years ago.

The Italian legend has come under attack from sections of the Italian Press for his performance in the shock World Cup defeat to Croatia. And some are even calling for him to be dropped for the crucial Mexico clash.

"I’m not playing at my full potential but I am in better shape than I was in the 1998 World Cup," said Maldini, who missed four months of the past season with a knee injury.

"As for whether I will be dropped, well the Coach is paid to make such decisions. But he will not be influenced by outside forces. He watches us closely and decides which will be the best team to select.

"I’ve been playing football for over 20 years and I’m not about to go to the Press to discuss whether I think I will start the match or watch from the sidelines."

The Azzurri are up against it as their shock defeat on Saturday leaves them with no option but to collect a victory against the Central Americans on Thursday. A task that Maldini has certain fears about.

"We are slightly worried because Mexico are playing well. They have excellent technical skills and can hold on to the ball well. Meanwhile, we did not envisage being in this position after two games," he added.

The Milan defender has played 124 times for Italy in his 14 year international career. He has already revealed that he will quit the international scene after the Finals at the age of 34.

He was hoping to finish his Azzurri stint in style after finishing second and third in previous World Cups.

World Cup: Portugal 4-0 Poland
10.6 || scharatz

Pauleta 14, 65, 77, Rui Costa 87

A Pauleta hat-trick has put Portugal back on course for a last 16 place after a 4-0 win over Poland. The Euro 2000 semi-finalists now require a victory against co-hosts South Korea to ensure qualification, while Poland are mathematically out of contention.

It was already clear from the opening exchanges that Pauleta could be the key man for his side on a very wet evening. The Bordeaux hitman was a real handful for the Polish defenders who failed to keep tight on him all night.

After eight minutes he tested Polish hearts when his curling effort finished wide of the post. Just moments later he controlled the ball on the edge of the box to unleash a volley that was comfortably dealt with by Dudek.

But on 14 minutes the Liverpool ‘keeper was picking the ball out of the back on the net. A cross ball from Joao Pinto caught out Hjato. Pauleta instantly controlled, cut inside the defender and shot low inside the near post.

The Poles couldn’t really attack with any significance and Pauleta and Figo had more chances to increase Portugal’s lead before Hugh Dallas blew for half-time.

Poland did try to increase the pressure after the break but they rarely threatened. And Portugal punished them in the 65th minute. Olisadebe lost the ball in the Portugal half. They broke with pace and a four man move ended with Figo crossing for Pauleta to make it 2-0.

Just minutes later Portugal could have made it three after Figo cut in from the left, only to see his curling effort from the edge of the box hit the post with Dudek convincingly beaten. But Portugal did make it three on 77 minutes when Rui Costa played in Pauleta who beat Waldoch to blast home.

Milan man Rui Costa, a second half substitute, knocked in the fourth late on as Poland seemed to give up the chase.

Portugal: Vitor Baia; Frechaut (Beto 64), Couto, Jorge Costa, Rui Jorge; Bento, Petit, Conceicao (Capucho 69), Figo; Joao Pinto (Rui Costa 60), Pauleta

Poland: Dudek; Kozminski, Waldoch, Hajto, M Zewlakow (Rzasa 71); Kryszalowicz, Swierczewski, Kaluzny (A Bak 16), Krzynowek, Olisadebe, Zurawski (Marcin Zewlakow 56)

Ref: Dallas (Sco)

Drop me if it will help, says Rui Costa
8.6 || scharatz

Portugal playmaker Manuel Rui Costa has offered to step down for the crunch game against Poland - if the coaching staff believe it will help the team.

Portugal were one of the favourites to win the World Cup going into the tournament, but after a stunning 3-2 defeat by the United States, they are now in danger of a shock exit.

And Rui Costa, who was heavily criticised for his role in the defeat, said no avenue must be left unexplored in Portugal's bid to defeat the Polish on Monday.

"We need to be better balanced, no matter what the team or the formation. No one likes to be on the bench but if I am dropped I have to accept it. The country comes first, not the players," said the AC Milan star.

He does not, however, accept all the criticism that came his way following the opening game setback.

"Saying that we played badly and lost because we didn't play with two central midfielders, and that I played too deep, and that I am responsible for our poor first half is unfair," he said.

"I won't accept that. I am just as responsible as the others, no more and no less. We must all pull in the same direction. I am not in top form but I don't feel inferior to the others."

Rui Costa also believes that Portugal can, and will, turn things around.

"Our country still believes in us, has faith in us and we hope that we won't disappoint them, whatever happens. We have two opportunities and if we win those two games we can forget what happened against the US.

"I believe that Poland are a better team than they showed against South Korea. We are not expecting it to be easy because we need to win to go through. Whoever loses the game will go home and that is difficult.

"I hope we will see a different Portugal against Poland and we have to be calm."

Rui Costa played for Portugal in the European championships of 1996 and 2000, and in both tournaments they won their openers, and could then play their next two games in a relaxed mode. Not this time though, a fact he recognises.

"We must now show that we are a strong team when face by certain difficulties. We are looking forward to forgetting the first game and turn things around in our favour. The defeat was hard for us to accept but our World Cup didn't end there."

World Cup: Italy 1-2 Croatia
8.6 || scharatz

The roles have been reversed. Croatia have bounced back from the brink of what was described as an "awful crisis" by Alen Boksic and Italy are in trouble after their mighty defense was breached by a few inspired men.

However, it was not football, but controversy that took center stage in Ibaraki, Japan. Two perfectly good Italy goals were disallowed as the Croats came from one down to beat the Italians 2-1.

Giovanni Trapattoni sprung a good number of surprises early on as he chose to bench Filippo Inzaghi and opted for a Vieri-Totti tandem up front. Paolo Maldini, who was expected to miss the game recovered in time to play, but Inter Milan midfielder Di Biagio did not and was replaced by club mate Cristiano Zanetti.

Jozic on his part dropped Suker and Prosinecki in favor of Rapaic and Vugrinec and replaced the suspended Zivkovic with Saric.

It was a story of two halves really, with the first forty-five being a rather scrappy affair. Croatia enjoyed the bulk of the chances, but were limited to shooting from the edge of the area as the Italians cut out every ball played into the box with immaculate precision. However, it was Cristiano Doni of Italy who had the best chance of the half when he stole the ball in the Croat box and kept his balance to shoot at goal, only for Pletikosa to make a precious save.

Italy's tactics were evident right from the start. They sat back patiently waiting for Croatia to make a mistake. Their play was unattractive, yet effective. Totti seemed to be having an off day and Vieri seemed isolated on the left side of attack. But, the Italian defense was impregnable until tragedy struck. In the 22nd minute, Alessandro Nesta picked up a knock and had to be substituted by Marco Materazzi. The Internazionale sweeper took his time to settle down and despite looking shaky managed to close off the first half well.

Jozic must have gone a long way in restoring his image before his fans. He showed that he was no "Lemerre" and made sweeping changes when they were needed the most. His tactics, which planted Davor Vugrinec and Milan Rapaic as supporting playmakers to Alen Boksic, worked like a charm as the Lecce and Fenerbahce forwards both had a great game, running the Italian defense ragged at times. However, it was not until late in the game that the pressure finally paid of for the red and whites.

Croatia's big chances in the fist half all came from long range shots from Vugrinec, Rapaic and Soldo respectively. In the 26th minute, only minutes after coming on, Materazzi had to keep his balance to clear off the line to deny Croatia the opener.

However, as the clock ticked over to signal the end of the first period, one could clearly see that the foul-filled half had witnessed two overly cautious sides afraid to commit too many men forward. Strange it seemed considering Croatia needed to be more direct in a must win game, while Italy could not (as they learnt later) rest on playing out a 0-0 draw.

Both Trapattoni and Jozic must have handed fiery lectures at half time for the second forty-five turned out to be an antithesis of the first as the two teams came out and started playing with a purpose. However, the world was to witness some truly amazing things in the coming minutes. Fluid football by the Croatians combined with some disgusting decisions by the assistant referee would hand the eastern Europeans all three points.

In the 52nd minute, Christian Vieri (who had been moved back to the center from the left) scored the opener with a brilliantly taken header at the far post. The ball was initially played to Gianluca Zambrotta, who was well onside, who's overhead kick barely nicked the ball and found Vieri at the far post. Replays showed that Vieri had been a good two feet behind the ball when it was played to him and all he got for his brilliant effort was a yellow card for dissent.

However, the big Italian was not to be denied his goal as three minutes later he rose highest to meet a lovely Cristiano Doni cross to give his side the lead and notch up his third goal of the tournament in the process.

This injected the missing passion into the game as Croatia, forced to look for goals, committed men forward. Milan Rapaic was in ominous touch, running like a madman, creating chances and taking shots from all parts of the pitch. The normally reliable Italian defense started to look pressured and started to lack the movement that had ensured the closing of spaces outside the box earlier in the game. Both Rapaic and Vugrinec started to push down the center of the pitch with Niko Kovac and Robert Jarni providing support on the wings. Ivica Olic, who should never have been on the bench, came on to provide the extra firepower up front and Italy were slowly forced into a shell.

And, as much as they are touted, they did crumble. A minute after a swift Italian counterattack yielded nothing for Vieri, Robert Jarni was released on the right wing and he sent in a curling cross that found Olic in the box: 1-1! The first mistake by the mighty Azzurri defense as three defenders were guilty of ball watching allowing Olic to sneak in and equalize.

Three minutes later, another mistake by the Italians and all hell broke loose. Rapaic stole the ball and burned Materazzi (who continued to have a nightmare at the back) and shot brilliantly at goal. The shot was headed out by Fabio Cannavaro, but only to be sent back in by Niko Kovac to Rapaic and this time the Fenerbahce midfielder made no mistake. He controlled the ball delightfully before chipping it back over his head while falling to score perhaps one of the best goals of the World Cup thus far: 1-2.

With barely fifteen minutes left on the clock, the script for the finale was already written. The tired (but brilliant) Rapaic was taken off for Dario Simic as Croatia looked to protect their lead. It was now Italy's turn to show that they could attack. Filippo Inzaghi was unleashed onto the field to do the damage.

From then on, it was to be all Italy and some serious controversy. First Francesco Totti smacked the post from a free kick from all of 35 meters that had Pletikosa beaten all ends up and then Gianluca Zambrotta came close to scoring the equalizer with a shot from just inside the box.

A plethora of crosses and shots ensued and with barely a minute left on the clock, a long ball into the box was chased down by Pippo Inzaghi and the Milan striker sneaked it by the keeper to send the Azzurri faithful into delirium. However, it was once again going to be the fateful assistant referee's flag that denied Trap's men the right to celebrate. This time the Italians were penalized for a foul that never was and denied the chance to earn a well-deserved draw.

The final whistle brought another chapter in World Cup controversy to an end and it will be days (and years should Italy get eliminated) before these decisions are laid to rest. Croatia played brilliantly in the second half and full marks to Mirko Jozic, who was relentlessly criticized before the game, for having the balls to make the changes when they were needed most.

However, the fact remains that Italy can consider themselves extremely unlucky to not have come away with at least a point, and maybe even more. Now, it will be Giovanni Trapattoni's turn to be under scrutiny as the Italian press is sure to have a field day with his choice of formation and his decision to leave Montella, Del Piero and (for some time) Inzaghi on the bench.

Italy (4-4-2): Gianluigi Buffon; Christian Panucci, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta (Marco Materazzi 24'), Paolo Maldini; Gianluca Zambrotta, Damiano Tommasi, Cristiano Zanetti, Cristiano Doni (Filippo Inzaghi 79'); Francesco Totti, Christian Vieri

Croatia (4-5-1): Stipe Pletikosa; Daniel Saric, Josip Simunic, Robert Kovac, Robert Jarni; Niko Kovac, Stjepan Tomas, Davor Vugrinec (Ivica Olic 57'), Zvonimir Soldo (Jurica Vranjes 63'), Milan Rapaic (Dario Simic 79'); Alen Boksic

Surprise: Inzaghi Benched Against Croatia
8.6 || scharatz

Italy boss Giovanni Trapattoni made a last minute change of mind and decided to play with the same 4-4-2 formation the Azzurri beat Ecuadror 2-0.

Inzaghi will therefore take a seat on the bench, while Totti and Vieri will start up front.

The only switch compared to Italy's successful opener is Zanetti in the place of his Inter team-mate Di Biagio who is suffering from neck pains.

Del Piero demands room
7.6 || scharatz

Alessandro Del Piero is once again relegated to the bench, but insists he wants at least 30 minutes to prove himself against Croatia.

“At this point in time all I can do is hope that I do well coming off the bench,” he sighed. “But I hope to play at least half an hour this time.”

The Juventus star stepped onto the field for the final 15 minutes in the 2-0 win over Ecuador. By that time the match was all but over.

Del Piero has been pushed out of the side by former teammate and rival Filippo Inzaghi as Giovanni Trapattoni returns to the 4-3-1-2 formation.

The Milan man made matters worse when he suggested to the press that “Del Piero can be Italy’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a striker who makes the difference in the final minutes.”

The Bianconeri hero did not take kindly to the comparison with the Manchester United super-sub.

“Inzaghi said that? Well I hope to be decisive from the outset thanks to a spot in the starting line-up.”

Del Piero and Inzaghi have one of the most notoriously brittle relationships in Italian football. Ex-Juventus Coach Carlo Ancelotti confessed that he was often forced to break up rows between the pair.

Meanwhile, Paolo Maldini has confirmed optimistic news on his injured left ankle.

“If the ankle does not swell overnight then I can play against Croatia,” revealed the captain after sustaining the injury in training.

Should the veteran fail to recover then it is likely that Francesco Coco will take his place.

Maldini doubt for Italy
7.6 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini is a doubt for Italy’s game against Croatia after he picked up an ankle injury in the Azzurri’s final training session.

The captain remained grounded after he slipped in a practice game as Coach Giovanni Trapattoni fielded his first choice XI against the rest of the squad.

"We’re hopeful, the staff and the player, that he will be fit enough for Saturday’s game," revealed Trap. "But if Maldini doesn’t make it then I could make changes to the starting side. I could insert a defender, a midfielder or change the whole system completely."

He continued: "I’m not saying that this injury has dampened enthusiasm but it is a setback. But we will have to wait until tomorrow to see how swollen it is. I need time to evaluate because I don’t want to waste a substitution after half an hour."

Trap had already outlined who will start the game as the Azzurri look for another win after their victory against Ecuador in the opener.

He was set to play with a 4-3-1-2 formation but that may change if Maldini doesn’t make it.

Trap had selected: Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Maldini; Zambrotta, Di Biagio; Totti; Inzaghi, Vieri

Jose Mari open to Atletico
7.6 || scharatz

Milan man Josè Mari has admitted that he is willing to return to former club Atletico Madrid.

The Spaniard is believed to be on the Rossoneri departure list this summer and is being eyed by his previous side.

"I would gladly return there and would have no problems at all in doing so," said the 24-year-old. "But I’m still under contract with Milan and so far no bid has been made."

The attacking player was signed by the San Siro club in December 1999 for £9m, but his lack of goals haven’t seen him become a regular first team player.

He spent three years in the Spanish capital with Atletico after impressing with Sevilla.

Should the newly promoted Liga club put in an offer for Mari then he could team up again Javi Moreno.

The latter has returned to Spain after just one season at Milan. The former Alaves star never settled with the Rossoneri and is hoping to re-find his scoring touch in his homeland.

"He is a great player," continued Josè Mari. "And I’m positive that he will do really well next season."

Gattuso: Football needs me
7.6 || scharatz

Gennaro Gattuso has defended his style of play claiming that players like him have always existed in football.

The Milan midfielder is criticised by some for his aggression and rather limited technical ability but he insists he deserves his place in Giovanni Trapattoni’s World Cup squad.

"I don’t get offended when people say that I can’t control the ball properly because I haven’t got the technical skills of Vincenzo Montella," said the former Salernitana man.

"But we can’t all be like Roberto Baggio or Francesco Totti. Players like Lodetti, Benetti and me have always been around and will always be needed. If 11 Gattusos played 11 Montellas then we may not win but for sure we wouldn’t lose."

Gattuso did make an appearance in Italy’s first game of the World Cup against Ecuador and has been working hard in training on brushing up his skills. Something he is not ashamed of.

"I haven’t got a problem with people trying to improve me technically because the Coach always tells me that you can keep learning things until you reach 80 and he’s right," he added.

Gattuso has made his name in Italian football in the past couple of seasons after moving to the San Siro in the summer of 1999. But he believes his time at Perugia and Rangers were fundamental for his development.

"At the age of 13 I left for Perugia and I must thank the club who put me up in with other young players. I learnt the fundamental things in the game from Walter Novellino (currently the Sampdoria boss).

"Then a Rangers scout tracked Marco Negri for four months and decided to take me to Scotland too."

Maldini halts Italian enthusiasm
6.6 || scharatz

Azzurri captain Paolo Maldini has told his troops to keep their feet on the ground despite their 2-0 opening game win against Ecuador.

The defender has eagerly pointed out that they have yet to assure themselves a place in the next round as enthusiasm around the national side continues to increase.

"We must not forget that we haven’t booked our place in the second round yet. If we start to think that way and believe we are better than our opponents then we could cause ourselves some real problems," he stated.

"I was at Euro ’96 when we won our first game and everyone thought that we had done enough. Instead we went out in the group phase."

Italy are currently top of their group along with Mexico who beat the Azzurri’s next opponents Croatia in their opening game. But Maldini has failed to dismiss Croatia as a faltering football force.

"They may have lost their first game but I don’t trust them. They are an important footballing nation and they beat us at Palermo a few years ago in a World Cup qualifier. They have a host of quality players to choose from," he maintained.

"You can’t really make any serious judgements after just one game because all of the sides are still in with a chance of qualifying. The only thing we need to be concentrating on is beating Croatia and making sure of qualification."

Maldini received a surprise visit today from his former Milan teammate and Croatia legend Zvonimir Boban. And the latter was complimentary to Italy’s prospects in the tournament.

"I thought Italy were excellent in their game against Ecuador," said the former playmaker. "They were tactically good and very aggressive in the first half. They are a side that could win it."

Inzaghi to face Croatia
6.6 || scharatz

Pippo Inzaghi is hopeful that he can successfully contribute to Italy’s World Cup campaign after it was confirmed he would start against Croatia.

The Milan striker is once more available for selection after he shrugged off a minor knee problem that had initially jeopardised his place in the squad.

Azzurri boss Giovanni Trapattoni today confirmed that the former Juve man would return to the team in place of midfielder Cristiano Doni.

"If we have no problems in the remaining training sessions then Inzaghi’s inclusion will be the only change from the team that beat Ecuador," revealed the tactician.

Italy are set to dump their 4-4-2 system on Saturday in favour of a more potent 4-3-1-2, with Francesco Totti playing just behind Inzaghi and two-goal hero Christian Vieri.

"I’m delighted to be available for selection once more. I am looking forward to playing part in the tournament and giving my contribution to the team. I’m 100 per cent fit and that is important," said the 28-year-old.

"We have seen in the last few days that playing in this tournament is a real challenge and I just hope that we can give a good account of ourselves."

When asked about his personal objectives for the campaign, Inzaghi maintained that he had no interest in rivalling teammate Vieri as the tournament top scorer.

"I’m not in any competition to score more goals than Vieri. Our aim is to win the World Cup for Italy. I’m looking to give my very best and I will be happy with that," he said.

"But Vieri and I do have a personal goal celebration lined up which we could show in the next game - hopefully."

Inzaghi also had words of praise for Italy star man Totti who could do for his country what Zinedine Zidane achieved in 1998.

"Every player has his own characteristics even if Totti does score more goals than Zizou. But obviously they are both players who can make a difference."

World Cup: Senegal 1-1 Denmark
6.6 || scharatz

Tomasson pen 16, Diao 52

Senegal and Denmark have both kept alive their hopes of qualification after a 1-1 draw. The Danes had looked good for the victory before a well executed goal from Salif Diao gave the African side a well deserved point.

The neat passing Danes had the better of the first half against a Senegal team that did little in attack. On a hot afternoon in Daegu, the pace was understandably slow and the deadlock was only broken from the penalty spot.

A quickly taken throw-in caught out the Africans and a sloppy challenge by Diao on Tomasson gave the referee no option but to give a penalty. It was left to new Milan man Tomasson to slot the ball past Sylva for his third strike of the competition.

Diao nearly made up for his error on 20 minutes when he saw his header cleared off the line by Heintze. But it was Morten Olsen’s men that threatened again. Gravesen saw his shot comfortably saved before Tomasson had the ball in the net again – only for the ref to rule it out for handball.

Senegal made two substitutions at half time and their injection of pace caught out their opponents. Henry Camara wasted a good opportunity before they did level things up on 52 minutes. They broke from the edge of their own box, made five passes for Diao to calmly slip the ball past the helpless Sorensen.

Senegal, who shocked France in the opening game, were causing some real problems for Denmark. Milan defender Martin Laursen had to be at his best to stop Souleymane Camara in the 63rd minute before the forward wasted the chance of the game when he somehow failed to hit the target from six yards.

Senegal were reduced to 10 men in the 80th minute when Diao finished off an eventful afternoon by getting himself sent off for a high and dangerous tackle.

Senegal: Sylva; Daf, Diatta, Sarr (H Camara 46), Malick Diop, Coly; Fadiga, Diao, Bouba Diop, Ndiaye (S Camara 46, Baye 83); Diouf.

Denmark: Sorensen; Helveg, Henriksen, Laursen, Heintze; Rommedahl, Gravesen (Poulsen 62), Tofting, Gronkjaer (Jorgensen 50); Sand, Tomasson.

Ref: Batres (Gua)

Sent off: Diao 80

World Cup: USA 3-2 Portugal
5.6 || scharatz

Team USA shocked Portugal in the first half when they went up 3-0 and then the world when they held on to win 3-2.

In a win that rivals Senegal's opening day upset of France, the US opened with fearless play while Portugal struggled to find their form. In fact, they are still looking for it.

Within 5 minutes the United States took a shock lead through John O'Brien, who poked home a shot on a corner after Brian McBride's initial header was cleared off the line.

Portugal began to control possession and to swing the crosses in, but Pauleta botched two golden headers after shaking off USA defender Eddie Pope.

In the 29th minute USA doubled the lead when Jorge Costa deflected a Landon Donovan cross in from a tight angle. The deflection compounded a shaky start for Portugal 'keeper Vitor Baia.

Soon after, USA continued to shock the Portuguese when a wide open McBride headed home after Donovan's pass freed Tony Sanneh on the right wing for a nice cross.

But two minutes later Beto gave Portugal new life when he smashed home a weak clearance after a corner kick. The rejuvenated Portuguese came close to another goal at the stroke of half time, but Rui Costa's shot floated inches wide of the far post.

In the second half, Portugal were given free reign to crawl their way back in and came close on 55 after a Luis Figo flick found Jorge Costa all alone with his back to the goal. But Jorge Costa, who was burned on the other end continually by the darty DaMarcus Beasley, was unable to turn and find the net for some redemption.

A minute later Donovan nearly made American hearts skip a beat again but while his shot beat Baia, it shaded wide of the goal.

In the 61st minute Portugal threatened again, but Friedel fisted a scrum clear and then snuffed out a follow-up chance.

20 minutes from the end Jeff Agoos gave one back to Portugal when he smashed a cross home into his own net.
Despite the gift from Agoos Portugal disappointed down the stretch, failing to get another quality chance on goal. Meantime, the US were able to run down the clock in the waning moments to complete the shocker.

Portugal were extremely disappointing and it took Senol Gunes until 10 minutes from the end to insert the dangerous Nuno Gomes. But Bruce Arena's re-worked side showed true grit despite being without captain Claudio Reyna.

USA - O'Brien 4'
USA - Jorge Costa (own goal) 29'
USA - McBride 36'
POR - Beto 38'
POR - Agoos (own goal) 71'

PORTUGAL - Vitor Baia (GK), Jorge Costa, Fernando Couto,
Luis Figo, Joao Pinto, Petit, Beto, Rui Jorge (Andrade), Pauleta, Rui Costa (Nuno Gomes), Sergio Conceicao.

USA - Friedel (GK), Sanneh, Pope (Llamosa), Agoos, Hejduk, Stewart (Jones), O'Brien, Mastroeni, Beasley, McBride, Donovan (Moore).

Inzaghi fit to play for Azzurri
5.6 || scharatz

Italy physio Dr Ferretti has confirmed Giovanni Trappatoni can call on AC Milan star Filippo Inzaghi at any time after he was declared fit.

The head physio said that Inzaghi is well over the knee injury that he sustained in the pre-World Cup friendly with Kashima Antlers ten days ago, and that he is available for selection.

Ferretti said: "Inzaghi is doing fine and is ready to step onto the field at any time.

"Of course, as the World Cup progresses the risk of injuries also rises but we consider ourselves lucky to have ended the first match without any problem but a little fatigue, which is normal after playing for 90 minutes."

Terim returns to Milan to sign Sarr
5.6 || scharatz

Galatasaray have announced that they have agreed to sign AC Milan's Senegalese defender Muhammed Sarr on loan for next season.

Fatih Terim travelled to Milan on Tuesday to finalise this transfer.

The 18-year-old Senegalese defender made his Serie A debut against Roma last season on 21 April 2002.

Maldini shelves Ecuador win
5.6 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini has urged his teammates to forget about the Ecuador win and concentrate on progressing in the tournament.

The Azzurri opened their account with a comfortable 2-0 win over the South Americans despite Maldini admitting that the side were slightly anxious before the match.

"We were nervous prior to the game because we saw sides like Brazil that had struggled to get victories," he said.

"I think people have seen that there are very few sides in the world that will just crumble on this stage. The big sides have all suffered slightly but we did well. It is vitally important now that we continue on this road."

The Milan legend was also delighted with the way that Giovanni Trapattoni’s side booked themselves the three points.

"It was important to win the game and start the tournament with a victory so that we were well set up for our future group games," continued the captain.

"It was a good win for us. We played a very intense first half while in the second we just looked to control the game where I think I can safely say that Buffon was never in serious danger."

Christian Vieri netted both goals in the first 45 minutes which made sure that the Italians joined Mexico at the top of Group G. Italy’s next game is against Croatia on Saturday.

Inzaghi set to return?
4.6 || scharatz

Italy striker Pippo Inzaghi is expected to start against Croatia after Coach Giovanni Trapattoni revealed he will make changes to the starting line-up.

The Milan striker started on the bench for yesterday’s 2-0 win over Ecuador but Trap has hinted that he will change the system and personnel for their next clash on Saturday.

Trap fielded a 4-4-2 against the South Americans as he chose a front two of Christian Vieri – who scored twice – and Francesco Totti. But the latter is set to be selected as an attacking midfielder with Inzaghi coming in to partner Vieri, as the Azzurri look set to revert back to 3-4-1-2.

"I’m very satisfied with the performance of the side against Ecuador, especially how we faced the game mentally. But I will make changes for the next game," Trapattoni commented.

"The side showed that it is a mature group of players. If there is one thing to worry about then it is our fitness but psychologically we are good enough to go all the way.

"We will evaluate the physical condition of our players in the next 48 hours. But before deciding what changes to make I want to watch the Croatia game. I’m not that worried about Croatia as a team but they do have individual players that can make the difference."

Croatia will be desperate for the win against the Azzurri after they lost their first game 1-0 to Mexico. Something that Trap felt was a real possibility.

"I’m not that surprised that they lost to Mexico. This tournament so far has shown that anything can happen. Just look how much trouble Turkey caused Brazil," he continued.

The former Juventus tactician also had words of praise for the Italian fans after figures showed that close to 20m Italians tuned in for the game on television.

"I want to thank them for their enthusiasm. I’ve seen the figures and I was positively surprised."

Wages hitch threatens Seedorf-Coco swap
3.6 || scharatz

AC Milan president Adriano Galliani revealed on Monday that the Clarence Seedorf-Francesco Coco swap deal with Internazionale has hit a snag.

"The clubs still haven't reached agreement and there is a problem with settling fair wages," he said.

Inter are after a left-back for next season and thought they had found their man in Coco, who spent last season on loan at Barcelona. Milan's interest in Seedorf is more baffling, as the club have several creative midfielders already.

But Galliani sets little store by criticism that Inter are getting the better of the deal. "I like this player a lot and it's not true that he could have a problem integrating with Andrea Pirlo and Manuel Rui Costa. Seedorf can play in a variety of midfield roles.

"We spoke to his agent Giovanni Branchini, but did not talk about money because we need to wait for Clarence to agree to come.

"If he is interested in coming to AC Milan we will open talks about his contract. We want him, but can't wait too long. If he doesn't come, Coco will return to us," Galliani confirmed.

The Milan supremo also revealed that the club were chasing a high-profile defender, implying that it was Lazio's Alessandro Nesta.

"We are still looking at a big name in defence. He's neither Fabio Cannavaro or Jaap Stam. Thuram? No, no. He's Italian. He's the only player we want."

Paolo Maldini consoles Cesare
3.6 || scharatz

Paolo Maldini is keeping a close eye on the progress of Paraguay and in particular their Coach, a certain Cesare Maldini.

“He’s terribly unlucky to concede two late goals like that,” he said of yesterday’s 2-2 draw with South Africa.

“To lose a two-goal lead to an own goal and a dubious last-minute penalty must really hurt.”

When asked if he would be calling his father to offer words of consolation, the Italy captain laughed at the imagery that formed in his head.

“Not now, he’s probably arguing with the Paraguayan press and I can’t interrupt that flow.”

Cesare Maldini has had a host of problems since accepting the South American job. The local press has called for the return of his predecessor, Sergio Markarian, while there was a parliamentary inquest into his work permit.

“I’m really sorry to hear about this 2-2 result,” added the dutiful son, “because with a four-team group to draw a game like that can be hazardous.”

Should both sides progress then Paraguay and Italy could meet in the Quarter-Finals.

World Cup: Italy 2-0 Ecuador
3.6 || scharatz

The Azzurri began their World Cup adventure against tournament debutantes Ecuador in Sapporo and it was a confident display that will make them one of the favourites for the title.
Giovanni Trapattoni opted to field a more covered 4-4-2 formation with Francesco Totti as support striker to Christian Vieri, but the introduction of Cristiano Doni in midfield assured the Azzurri of more creative flair.

The main danger man had been pinpointed as full-back Ulises De la Cruz, who currently plays for Scottish club side Hibernian.

After just four minutes Fabio Cannavaro was knocked to the ground by a punch to the head, but the referee did not see the incident as a free kick was floated into the box.

Vieri ran onto an excellent Totti through ball, but the goalkeeper bravely came out to block. Moments later the two combined again and this time the Inter striker rifled a powerful effort into the roof of the net.

Italy could not have asked for a better start and that early goal boosted their confidence further. So much so that Totti attempted to score the goal of the tournament - a magnificent dipping effort from 20 metres that was punched out with some difficulty.

Vieri had another good scoring opportunity, but at full stretch he failed to make solid contact with Gianluca Zambrotta's centre. Soon after the giant hitman used all his strength to muscle off a defender and slide the ball under the 'keeper.

Ecuador gradually grew and provided problems down Italy's left flank covered by Doni and Paolo Maldini. From that side an Edison Mendez deflected effort struck the sidenetting.

But the real chances always fell to Italy with another dipping Totti effort that took two attempts to get under control.

After the break the South Americans took more control in midfield, but it was a sterile posession as Gianluigi Buffon remained largely untroubled.

Instead Damiano Tommasi forced Jose Cevallos to tip his effort over and on the resulting corner Doni clipped the crossbar. Vieri had another powerful shot parried as the Azzurri made the most of the new lighter Fevernova ball.

Atalanta midfielder Doni was clearly not yet match fit and was replaced by veteran Angelo Di Livio, while midfielder battler Gennaro Gattuso took over from Gigi Di Biagio.

The on-form Alessandro Del Piero was also called upon to replace Totti, who began to tire during his first professional match in two months. The Juventus man had little influence as the game had already all but ended.

Ecuador's only real shot on goal came in the final minute when the defence thought that Agustin Delgado was offside, but Buffon made a crucial reaction save.

Italy: Buffon; Panucci, Nesta, Cannavaro, Maldini; Zambrotta, Tommasi, Di Biagio (Gattuso 69), Doni (Di Livio 64); Vieri, Totti (Del Piero 73)

Ecuador: Cevallos; De la Cruz, Hurtado, Porozo, Guerron; Mendez, Obregon, E Tenorio (M Ayovi 59), Chala (Asencio 85); Aguinaga (C Tenorio 46); Delgado

Ref: Hall (USA)

World Cup: Brazil 2 - 1 Turkey
3.6 || scharatz

Brazil needed a controversial last-minute penalty to get the better of a solid Turkish side, but they can console themselves with Ronaldo on fine form.
Brazil were shocked 24 hours before their World Cup debut as Roma star Emerson was ruled out for the tournament with a dislocated shoulder.

Nonetheless, Coach Luiz Felipe Scolari opted to field an all-attack formation with Juninho backing up Ronaldo, Rivaldo and new starlet Ronaldinho.

Turkey made their first World Cup appearance in 50 years as underdogs to the Selecao.

The first scare for the Turks came from Ronaldinho. The goalkeeper failed to clear effectively and the Paris Saint-Germain star's lob sailed inches over the bar.

However, Turkey did not seem at all frightened by the challenge and Kerimoglu Tugay's deflected effort clipped the crossbar, while on the resulting corner Marcos was at full stretch to tip it over.

Blackburn Rovers man Tugay proved to be his side's most dangerous player from distance with another fierce drive well blocked.

It was an open match with chances for both sides and Juninho's screamer whistled past the post.

The best opportunity of the first half was created by Brazil's two top stars. Ronaldo's cross was headed down by Rivaldo and Rustu Recber made a spectacular reaction save to block a certain goal. The Fenerbahce shot-stopper was on his toes again to put Ronaldinho off his stride.

Alpay Ozalan was fortunate not to see red after cynically tripping Ronaldo running on goal. The Inter star seems to have finally recovered from a host of fitness problems that have struck him since the 1998 World Cup.

However, Brazil were made to pay for their errors and the final kick of the first half saw Turkey take the lead. Galatasaray star Hasan Sas volleyed in a splendid Yildiray Basturk pass over the wayward Selecao defence.

The Brazilians had to get back into the game and after a desperate save on Ronaldo, Il Fenomeno drew his side level with an acrobatic finish from Rivaldo's centre. Ronnie's confidence was evident as despite his recent thigh strains, he was at full stretch to turn in the taut cross.

That goal increased confidence in Ronaldo and the entire team. The former Barcelona man could have grabbed a second soon after, but his mazy run was well-saved, while Roberto Carlos struck the side-netting.

Goalkeeper Rustu was kept busy by another fierce shot from Juninho, while Rivaldo's goal was ruled out for a very tight offside ruling.

Turkey sat back ready to strike and almost did when Marcos needed two attempts to stop a powerful Hakan Unsal free kick.

The match looked to end in a draw when Alpay, who perhaps could have gone earlier, dragged down Luizao and was shown the red card. However, the referee also pointed to the spot although the foul was clearly outside the box. Rivaldo coolly converted to give Brazil the lead.

Even in ten men the Turks refused to give in and Hasan Sas incredibly turned a free header over the bar. The tension got to Hakan Unsal and he also saw red for kicking the ball straight at Rivaldo, although the Barcelona star made the most of it.

Brazil: Marcos; Lucio, Roque Junior, Edmilson; Cafu, Gilberto Silva, Juninho (Vampeta 72), Ronaldinho (Denilson 67), Roberto Carlos; Ronaldo (Luizao 73), Rivaldo

Turkey: Rustu, Fatih, Umit Ozat, Hakan Unsal, Emre, Tugay (Arif Erdem 88), Ergun, Bulent (Ilhan 65), Basturk (Umit Davala 65), Hasan Sas, Hakan Sukur

Ref: Kim Young-Joo (S Kor)

Sent off: Alpay 87 (T), Hakan Unsal 93 (T)

Pippo Inzaghi To Be Benched In Italy-Ecuador
2.6 || scharatz

Italy manager Giovanni Trapattoni has revealed Pippo Inzaghi will be available for the Azzurri's World Cup first match with Ecuador.

The AC Milan striker won his race against time after recovering from a slight knock. Inzaghi even hit four goals in Friday's training session.

However "Superpippo" is set to start on the bench, with Francesco Totti and Christian Vieri almost certain to play up front in Trapattoni's defensive 4-4-2 formation.

Tomasson Happy To Have Defeated 'City Rival' Recoba
1.6 || scharatz

Danish national hero and fresh AC Milan signing Jon Dahl Tomasson sent shivers of excitement and pride down the spines of the Rossoneri fans at the end of the match in which his pair of goals downed Recoba's Uruguay.

"AC Milan won today and will win next year as well, I promise this to the fans," said Tomasson, who sealed off his move to the Serie A giants back in May.

The 26 year old forward was obviously referring to the mini-derby that took place today as also Danish defenders Helveg and Laursen play for Milan, while both Sorondo and Recoba play for Inter.

Asked by the Italian reporters on what he expects from his Italian experience, the former Feyenoord player answered,

"I am sure I can do well, I was even before tonight's game. I really hope to do well, in one of the world's most difficult leagues," added Tommason.

Cautious Maldini shows respect
1.6 || scharatz

International defender Paolo Maldini has denied that Italy are scared of their Group G rivals Ecuador.

The Azzurri are only 48 hours away from opening their 2002 World Cup adventure and confidence doesn’t seem to be overflowing from the Italian camp.

"We are not in the slightest bit frightened by them, but we will and do respect a side that finished their qualifying campaign ahead of Brazil. This is why we are not underestimating them as opponents," he assured.

This will be Maldini’s fourth and final World Cup and experience has taught him that nothing can be taken for granted in the biggest sporting event in the calendar.

"The past has taught us that opening games, that seem easy, can in fact turn out to be more troublesome than previously anticipated. That is what occurred to us in 1994 against the Republic of Ireland," the Milan man added.

"We need to go into the Ecuador game in a calm and focused manner – without thinking that we have won the game before it has even started."

Maldini is set to start and captain the side on Monday in Sapporo, Japan.

Coco relishing Inter chance
1.6 || scharatz

Francesco Coco says he intends to become a key part of Inter’s future after the club secured his services.

The Azzurri star, currently on loan at Barcelona, will return to Milan after the World Cup but will immediately switch to the Nerazzurrri half of the city.

The two Italian giants reached an agreement earlier this week, which will see Clarence Seedorf and Coco swap sides of the San Siro.

"I wanted to return to Italy and my first choice would have been Inter. I ended my Milan experience in September when I was transferred to Barcelona on loan," he said.

"I had spent a lifetime with the Rossoneri but the club forced me to make different decisions. But I’m returning to the city of Milano to become a first team regular."

Inter star striker Christian Vieri has backed the club’s decision to sign his international teammate.

"He is a very good player and it is only right that the club buy important young Italians such as Francesco. We already have a host of foreigners at the club, even if they are of a certain standard," said the forward.

The 25-year-old started his career with Milan back in 1993.

He had spent a few seasons on loan at Vicenza and Torino to gain experience before he was allowed to leave at the start of last season by then boss Fatih Terim.

World Cup: Uruguay 1-2 Denmark
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Two goals from new Milan forward Jon Dahl Tomasson were enough to give Denmark victory against Uruguay.

The talented youngster, who signed for the Rossoneri on the eve of the tournament, netted a goal in either half to send his side to the top of Group A.

Denmark took the lead at the end of the first half in which neither defence seemed in total control of a very end to end first period. Both sides seemed to be able to create as much space as they required and it was Rommendahl who had the first shot on six minutes.

But it became increasingly obvious that if Uruguay were going to threaten the ageing Danish defence, then it was going to be down to Inter’s Alvaro Recoba. The attacking talent was a constant first half danger as he went close with two 30-yard free-kicks.

The Danes did start to take control of the tie as time passed by. Having almost taken the lead earlier in the half after Sand had skimmed the bar with a header, Denmark went one up on the stroke of half time. Superb passing and movement down the left saw Gronkjaer deliver an inch perfect pass for Tomasson to tuck past Juventus ‘keeper Carini from five yards.

But the South Americans didn’t take long to level things up. The Danes still seemed to be in the interval when Dario Rodriguez scored one of the best goals we are likely to see at the tournament. His left foot volley from the edge of the box was worthy of the world stage that it appeared on.

Uruguay had a half chance on 63 minutes when Recoba stung the palms of Sorensen from distance. But Denmark boss Morten Olsen played the winning hand when he introduced Martin Jorgensen to the play. The Udinese man produced a perfectly weighted cross for Tomasson to head in just below the bar.

Uruguay: Carini; Mendez, Sorondo, Montero, Rodriguez (Magallanes 87); Guigou, Garcia, Varella; Recoba (Regueiro 80); Dario Silva, Abreu (Morales 89)

Denmark: Sorensen; Heintz (Jensen 57), Helveg, Laursen, Henriksen; Tofting, Gravesen, Gronkjaer (Jorgensen 70), Rommedahl; Tomasson; Sand (Poulsen 89)

Ref: Mane (Kuw)

World Cup on AC Milan Online
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From the start of the World Cup, AC Milan Online will bring you the headlines of the games involving AC Milan players.

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