Italy worthy of rankings top spot - Lippi

February 15, 2007

ROME, Feb 15 (Reuters) - World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi said he was delighted after Italy returned to the top of FIFA's world rankings for the first time in 14 years.

Italy replaced Brazil at the top of the rankings, announced by FIFA on Wednesday.

'It's right that Italy is among the very top positions. It was absurd when, before the World Cup, the United States were ranked third, the Czech Republic fourth,' Lippi was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Thursday.

'Now Italy is justifiably first and it will stay like that for a while.'

Italy last topped the rankings in November 1993. That side, coached by Arrigo Sacchi, finished runners-up to Brazil in the World Cup the following year.

'The national team of 1993, the one that Sacchi put together, was a spectacular side,' continued Lippi, who stepped down as Italy coach a few days after they beat France in the World Cup final in Berlin.

'Only that (Italian) team, before now, managed to occupy first place. That's very satisfying for us.'

Italy's team manager at the World Cup, former international striker Gigi Riva, said the new rankings were overshadowed by the death of a policeman during rioting at a Serie A match this month.

'Obviously the statistical recognition is a great pleasure, even if there's not much to choose between the first, second, or third places,' he said.

'Now, however, we are all busy in trying to give the world a different image of the Italian game.

'We are coming off the back of two terrible situations: the (match-fixing) scandal last summer, and the violence of the last few days. The real victory will be to show the world that Italian football is about entertainment only'.