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23 June 1998 Group B Saint-Denis - Stade de France
Italy Austria
Italy made certain of their place in the second stage as Group B winners following this far from convincing 2-1 triumph over Austria in front of an 80,000 full house in the Stade de France, St Denis. Italian striker Christian Vieri struck for the third successive game to open the scoring just after the break and Roberto Baggio's simple goal in the final minute settled the contest, although Austria did find time to score their customary late goal from an Andreas Herzog penalty. Austrian skipper Toni Polster made his 94th appearance for his country to set a new record, but apart from his late equaliser against Cameroon, the Tournament has been an unhappy one for the 34-year-old striker who has been asked to plough a lone furrow in attack. At least in this match he was provided some support up front with Vastic playing alongside as the Austrians realised that they needed all three points to have any realistic chance of qualifying. The first action of the match saw the end of Alessandro Nesta who injured himself in a challenge on Wolfgang Feiersinger after just four minutes. He was replaced by the veteran 34-year-old defender Giuseppe Bergomi who has now appeared in four World Cup finals. In a messy opening, neither side took a grip on the game as both defences were unstretched, and as in the three previous meetings between the two sides, which Italy have won 1-0, the contest was always going to be tight. The best and only real move of a dreary first 28 minutes came from Cesare Maldini's side when Gianluca Pessotto's deep cross was met by Francesco Moriero's text-book volley, that Michael Konsel in the Austrian goal was happy to see whistle wide of his far post. Austria's best chance fell to Polster, who after being released by Hannes Reinmayr, wanted far too much time to drag the ball back onto his favoured left foot allowing Fabio Cannavaro to block his attempt. With Italy opting to play with Dino Baggio, Luigi Di Biagio and Pessotto in midfield in preference to the more creative Roberto Di Matteo and Demetrio Albertini, it was left to Del Piero to provide the only real sparkle in a very functional but uninspiring Italian outfit. No shots on goal by either side told the full story of a dismal first half, with a draw suiting Italy who are proven past masters at just doing enough to qualify in the early stages of previous World Cups. However, just four minutes after the interval Italy took the lead and it was that man Vieri again who headed his side in front from Del Piero's free-kick and so joins Gabriel Batistuta on four goals in pursuit of the 'Golden Boot'. The goal sparked Austria into a more positive approach, forcing a number of corners with Reinmayr seeing his goalbound shot superbly blocked by Alessandro Costacurta after 58 minutes, before Arnold Wetl forced Pagliuca into his first real save of the match from his six-yard overhead-kick. Despite Austria's pressure, it was Italy who looked the more likely to score on the counterattack and substitutes Filippo Inzaghi and Roberto Baggio were both left cursing team-mate Moriero as he opted to shoot for glory rather than square for a certain second goal on 83 minutes. The two substitutes then combined superbly in the 90th to show Moriero how it should be done with Baggio rolling Inzaghi's pass into the empty net from six yards. The Austrians immediately hit back with Reinmayr earning his side a penalty in stoppage time and substitute Andreas Herzog coolly reduced the deficit in the last action of the afternoon. The result sees Italy top of Group B with seven points and they will now play Norway, the runners-up in Group A.

(1-0) Vieri (49). Schottel brought down Del Piero two yards from the by-line just outside the left-hand side of the area, and his pacy free-kick was met by the determined Italian marksman who arrived between Polster and 'keeper Konsel to score with a firm downward header from three yards.

(2-1) Herzog (90, pen). Reinmayr's surging run into the Italian box was halted by Costacurta's lunging challenge and the substitute midfielder stepped up to fire the spot-kick left-footed into the left side of Pagliuca's goal sending the 'keeper the wrong way.

(2-0) Baggio, R (90). Inzaghi dummied Moriero's flick and wheeled away to receive Roberto Baggio's return ball down the right side of the box, before looking up to pick out the little striker with a square pass across the six-yard box for a simple right-footed finish into an empty net.

 
 
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