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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 08:38 GMT 09:38 UK
Azzurri united
By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer in Berlin

Italy coach Marcelo Lippi
A job well done for Lippi and his side
Marcello Lippi lit up a trademark huge cigar to celebrate Italy's World Cup win - and his confirmation as a living legend.

Jose Mourinho calls himself "The Special One", but even his achievements with Porto and Chelsea pale alongside Lippi's feats.

The 58-year-old has now added the World Cup to a roll of honour that includes five Italian titles and the Champions League in 1996 with Juventus.

Indeed, that record could be even better, but for three Champions League final defeats with Juve.

But when the smooth tactician with the Paul Newman looks gets time to properly reflect on Sunday's victory, he will do so safe in the knowledge that his place in football history is now assured.

This is his greatest triumph, unifying an Italy side against the backdrop of a match-fixing scandal at home.

Lippi has, as ever, been tactically sound and has built Italy around the defensive rocks of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and the magnificent captain Fabio Cannavaro.

And when Italy needed this pair against France, they delivered.

Buffon produced a brilliant save from Zinedine Zidane's header, while captain Cannavaro was as outstanding in Berlin as he was in Dortmund in the epic semi-final against Germany.

There was a hint of controversy in the antics of Marco Materazzi in the build-up to Zidane's disgraceful attack on the defender - but Italy were ultimately worthy winners of a World Cup lacking a truly great team.

As World Cup winners often do, Italy grew into the tournament under the shrewd tutelage of Lippi - albeit with a stroke of luck with Francesco Totti's fortunate last-gasp penalty against Australia.

Andrea Pirlo was an outstanding midfield operator alongside the combative Gennaro Gattuso, and when moments of inspiration were needed, Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero provided them against Germany.

Italy celebrate World Cup win
It was Italy's fourth World Cup win
They overcame the loss of the hugely influential defender Alessandro Nesta, with Lippi harnessing the maverick talent of Materazzi.

This feat was not without incident on a balmy Berlin night in which Materazzi gave away a penalty, headed an equaliser and appeared to provoke Zidane into violence.

This was the Italy of old, but combined with some flourishes of the new - another Lippi coaching masterclass with the biggest prize of all the result.

Argentina promised, Germany battled, but ultimately it was Italy who delivered.

They fell back on old strengths to beat France on penalties, namely defensive resilience rather than attacking flair.

But the way Lippi's side responded to the blow of conceding a highly-dubious penalty hinted at the steel running through the side, and the team spirit fostered out of domestic strife.

Italy may not have been the most lavishly gifted side in the competition, but as so often they got the job done.

They are a team that deserves credit - led by a coach who has few honours left to win.



SEE ALSO
Zidane off as Italy win World Cup
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Triumph from despair
09 Jul 06 |  Italy
Zidane's red mist
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
BBC pundits on World Cup final
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Fans soak up amazing finale
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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