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Alessandro Nesta v Patrick Kluivert
Mr.Consistency v Mr.Unpredictable. Nesta has emerged as one
of the finest central defenders in Europe as he led Lazio to the
Serie A title this season and then marshalled Italy's defence
calmly to the semifinals stage at Euro 2000.
The 24-year-old reads the game as well as any veteran and he
is a thoroughly modern defender.
As well as possessing the traditional necessities of power
in the air and strength in the tackle he is comfortable moving
out of defence and able to deal with threats from the flanks as
well as down the centre.
Nesta will need all those attributes if Kluivert repeats the
form that saw him grab a hat-trick in the 6-1 quarter-final
demolition of Yugoslavia.
The Barcelona striker has frustrated several of his coaches
with his languid approach to the game and his unorthodox
positional play, but he can be devastating if given space near
to goal, as Nesta's Lazio team mate Yugoslav Sinisa Mihajlovic
could testify.
- - - -

Filippo Inzaghi v Jaap Stam
Inzaghi's goal against Romania in the quarter-final was his
first strike in open play for over three months but the Dutch
should not read too much into that statistic.
The Juventus striker is a classic goal poacher, scoring the
vast majority of his goals from close range, usually after
making a perfectly timed run into the penalty area.
His perceived lack of personality and the deceptive way in
which he poses a threat to opposition defences mean he has
rarely received credit for his undoubted ability, but Stam is
just the kind of defender Inzaghi loves to play against.
Two years ago in the Champions League Inzaghi scored twice
against a Manchester United defence marshalled by Stam, although
Juventus went on to lose the game 3-2.
But while Inzaghi will hope his greater mobility and pace
will be too much for the shaven- headed Dutchman to handle, Stam
has shown that strikers rarely get the better of him twice.
He is an immense presence in the air but his physique hides
his other qualities, in particular an ability to sweep-up danger
and cover for his full-backs.
- - - -

Edgar Davids v Demetrio Albertini
Dutch midfielder Davids, with his dreadlocked hair and
rock-star sunglasses is one of the most recognisable figures at
Euro 2000 but it is not only his image that has attracted
attention.
Combative, dynamic and powerful he is a supreme destroyer,
able to halt opposition attacks and break-up play.
But typically for the modern game he is also a force when
going forward and his passing bears all the hallmarks of his
Ajax academy education.
Up against him on Thursday will be a more understated
player in AC Milan's Demetrio Albertini, but one who is just as
important to his team's chances.
Albertini's passing against Romania was sublime on
occasions and a clear indication that he is back to his best
after a poor spell of form with his club.
Albertini is capable of playing the crucial release balls
that can launch Italy's deadly counter-attacks - if Davids
allows him.
- - - -

Francesco Toldo and Edwin Van der Sar
The two tallest goalkeepers in Serie A and without doubt two
of the best 'keepers in the world.
Fiorentina's Toldo has taken his chance at Euro 2000
stepping in for the injured Gianluigi Buffon and he could well
be Italy's number one for years to come after his accomplished
performances.
Always a great shot-stopper Toldo has improved immensely on
crosses and distribution since his days as a youngster at AC
Milan.
Van der Sar, an excellent all-round 'keeper applies the
golden goalkeepers' rule of not minding wich part of his body
he saves with and he has saved the day for Juventus with his
outstretched foot on a number of occasions.
With these two in goal it would be a major surprise if the
game was decided by a goalkeeping error and the outfield players
will be praying it doesn't go to penalties.
- - - -

Paolo Maldini v Marc Overmars
Maldini has been considered the world's best left-back for
the past decade and despite him celebrating his 32nd birthday
two days ago it is hard to think of a player who can yet claim
to his title.
One of the explanations for the Italian captain's durability
is that he has sensibly cut down on his overlapping runs down
the flank in the past two seasons and adjusted well to playing
as part of a three-man defence at club and occasionally
international level.
Maldini will need to focus on his defensive duties on
Thursday when he faces the speedy Overmars who in Euro 2000 has
been surprisingly used on the right flank, rather than his
preferred role on the left.
Overmars is at his most dangerous when he cuts inside, onto
Maldini's weaker right foot, but the Italians positional sense
should limit the Arsenal winger's chances of exploiting space in
the way he did against the hapless Yugoslavs in the
quarter-final.
But Overmars has shown that he is quite happy to switch
flanks or even move into a central role in search of the ball
and his two goals in the quarter-final are a reminder that he is
a player who will need closely watching.
 
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