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Last Updated: Friday, 7 July 2006, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Ranieri on Italy

Claudio Ranieri
By Claudio Ranieri
Former Chelsea, Fiorentina and Napoli boss

Fabio Cannavaro, Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo have been outstanding at this World Cup, but Italy's true star has been manager Marcello Lippi.

He has transformed the match-fixing scandal back home into positive energy for his players.

It has made Italy more of a united, solid group. They have been trying to say to the world: "The scandal is one thing, but our team is very, very different."

And the Italian people seem to have managed to separate the two things very well.

Marcello Lippi
I spoke with Lippi at the beginning of the tournament - he was very confident even then

Claudio Ranieri
Lippi is a tough, canny man, who is very clever tactically.

When he understood that Francesco Totti was not in good condition during the group stage, he played him behind two strikers.

Then, as his fitness improved, Lippi changed the system, with Totti behind Luca Toni and in front of four in midfield.

This was very, very good. It showed the ability to change the system according to the fitness of a key player and the level of the opposition.

Lippi is also very good at reading matches. Look at the semi-final against Germany - he put Alessandro del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta on in extra-time and it changed the game.

I spoke with Lippi at the beginning of the tournament and said: "Good luck with your adventure."

He was very, very confident even then. I thought Italy had a good chance of reaching the final, but I wasn't 100% sure it would happen.

Some people have said that Italy's attacking football against Germany signalled a change of philosophy.

I don't agree. Italian managers now try to attack at all times - the era of catenaccio has been finished for a long time.

And Italy usually improve as a competition progresses, which is what has happened again this time.

The final is a very, very difficult match to predict. Both teams are very good champions - it's a 50-50 game.

In the last two big matches - in the final of Euro 2004 and the quarter-finals of the 1998 World Cup - France beat Italy.

But the Italian players are in very, very good condition at the moment.

Fabio Cannavaro
Italy have a very experienced team, led by skipper Cannavaro
People rightly talk about the age and experience of France, but look at the likes of Cannavaro, Buffon, Gattuso and Del Piero, who have played in matches at the highest level for many years.

I am extremely proud of this team.

And just a final word about England's performances in Germany. The one thing that really surprised me about them was their spirit.

I didn't see the usual England spirit, the lions out there on the pitch. And I don't know why.

All the world knows what the Italian, German and Brazilian characteristics are.

And they showed them at the World Cup. But I didn't see the traditional English spirit.

All the England players have this spirit usually. Look at the way Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard play in the Premiership and Champions League.

But they just weren't the same in Germany and I don't know why. Maybe Sven-Goran Eriksson was too calm.



SEE ALSO
Italy v France
05 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Old hands still call the tune
06 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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