Inspired Italy put aside domestic problems

July 10, 2006

Italy woke up as champions of the world today with coach Marcello Lippi insisting not even the corruption scandal back home can lessen the country's euphoria.

The Azzurri triumphed in a penalty shoot-out after the final with France finished 1-1 - and after Zinedine Zidane had been sent off for head-butting Marco Materazzi's chest.

A judge in Rome is this week due to deliver the verdicts on four Italian clubs - Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina - who have been charged with sporting fraud, but for Lippi there was just joy.

He said: 'Why do you think it will be difficult to return to reality - we go back to the reality of Italian football as champions of the world. I think it will be difficult for the other countries.

'I have been coach of a club who have been European champions and world champions but I have never had a feeling like this before.'

Lippi made special mention of two players, Gianluigi Buffon and captain Fabian Cannavaro, who had been Italy's inspiration all tournament but who also play for Juventus, the club at the centre of the corruption scandal.

'This World Cup has given opportunities to two people who have suffered,' said Lippi.

'One is Cannavaro. He is the greatest defender in the world. He is just the best, but Buffon comes close.'

AC Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo won the man-of-the-match award, and he said he had no idea what had gone on between Zidane and Materazzi.

Pirlo said: 'I don't know what happened with Zidane, it was an instinctive action on his part but these are things that shouldn't be done.

'He's still a great player and champion, unfortunately he did something wrong.

'We watched the replay and it was a very strong head blow into his chest and the referee picked up on it.'

Pirlo said the triumph had yet to fully sink in.

He added: 'It's an indescribable joy, I can't describe how incredible it feels and I think it will take some time before it fully registers with us that we are world champions.

'It was a difficult match, we knew that it would be hard. We had some good opportunities in the first half and they had some good in the second.

'Then we got to penalties which are like a lottery - sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.'