February 17, 1998
ROME - With a goal each on Sunday, Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo Inzaghi again proved themselves one of the best double acts in Juventus' history and gave Italy fresh hope for this year's World Cup finals.
Del Piero grabbed his 15th league goal of the season after just five minutes of their 3-0 defeat of Sampdoria.
Seven minutes later Inzaghi scored his 11th of the campaign, firing home a volley from close range to complete a move started by his striking partner.
In addition to those 26 league goals, Del Piero and Inzaghi have scored nine times in the European Cup Champions' League and Italian Cup to keep Juventus ticking along in all three competitions.
Not since the early 1980s when France's Michel Platini and Italy's World Cup hero Paolo Rossi were at the height of their powers have the Turin side boasted such a prolific strike force.
At the halfway stage of the season last month, they had totalled 21 league goals, equalling the club record set by Platini and Rossi in 1983-84.
Juve's other great attacking double acts hardly come close.
Roberto Baggio and Andreas Moeller scored 17 goals in the first 16 matches of the 1985-86 season. Roberto Bettega and Pietro Anastasi scored 16 in the same period in 1971-72.
In a league dominated by foreign strikers, Del Piero and Inzaghi are among only a handful of Italians to have hit double figures in the goal-scoring stakes this season.
That fact will not be lost on Italy coach Cesare Maldini when he names his squad for the World Cup in France and, barring injury, both men appear assured of places in a squad which struggled for goals in the qualifying matches.
Italy scored a modest 13 goals in their 10 qualifiers and, although his defence is rock solid, Maldini is under pressure to find a solution to his goalscoring problems.
Del Piero, in particular, was outstanding on Sunday night.
He ghosted past two Sampdoria defenders on the right flank before beating goalkeeper Fabrizio Ferron with an unstoppable right foot shot to give Juventus the lead.
He then created Juve's other two goals.
A flick from the outside of his right boot fed captain Antonio Conte who crossed for Inzaghi to score, and a through ball from Del Piero allowed Inzaghi's second half replacement Daniel Fonseca to add his side's third.
"Del Piero crushes Samp," ran the headline in Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport.
"The best number 10 of them all," said Corierre dello Sport.
"Alex has a fantastic talent and he played exceptionally well tonight," Juventus coach Marcello Lippi said. "It seems to me he's finally convinced himself of the truth: that he's a world class player."
But while Lippi was ready to sing his striker's praises, Del Piero was characteristically modest.
"I played well?" he asked reporters. "I think everyone played well. I'm not the type to give myself a good write-up. That's up to you."
Top scorers in Italy:
17 - Oliver Bierhoff (Udinese)
15 - Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina), Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus) 14
- Ronaldo (Inter Milan), Vincenzo Montella (Sampdoria) 13 - Abel Balbo
(AS Roma) 12 - Roberto Baggio (Bologna) 11 - Dario Hubner (Brescia), Filippo
Inzaghi (Juventus) 9 - Luis Oliveira (Fiorentina), Pavel Nedved (Lazio)
8 - Alen Boksic (Lazio), Hernan Crespo (Parma)