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Italy to take on the world

Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and Zinedine Zidane will all be on the same side tonight when their FIFA World Stars team take on …

Ronaldo, Gabriel Batistuta and Zinedine Zidane will all be on the same side tonight when their FIFA World Stars team take on Italy in a centenary exhibition match in Rome.

The event is being staged to celebrate the 100th year of the Italian Football Federation, which started life on March 15th, 1898, in Turin. The exact centenary date coincided with preparations for France 98.

There will be few unfamiliar faces for the Olympic stadium crowd, as half of the World Stars team play in the Serie A.

Fans around the world should again be treated to seeing Ronaldo and Batistuta team up in the sport's most gifted attack, just as they did last December in an exhibition match before the World Cup draw in Marseille.

Liberia's George Weah and Chilean Marcelo Salas will also help the cause, along with Croatia's Davo Suker.

In midfield, Juventus playmaker Zidane will be alongside one of the architects of his team's bitterly disappointing defeat just 72 hours earlier - Fiorentina's Portuguese midfielder Rui Costa.

Two other Brazilians are due here - skipper Dunga and defender Cafu - while Zidane will be joined by Parma defender Lilian Thuram.

The surprise is that the All Stars have Italy's World Cup goalkeeper in their side, as Gianluca Pagliuca of Inter Milan has been axed by Dino Zoff, the new Italy coach.

Zoff, who has ensured a winning start to Italy's Euro 2000 campaign, is using the match to consolidate his new attacking machine, since the long-term injury of Juventus' Alessandro Del Piero.

As Roma's rising star Francesco Totti is seen as the likely replacement, being nearly 10 years younger than the obvious alternative - Roberto Baggio.