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Tuesday, 2 April, 2002, 15:39 GMT 16:39 UK
Italy's road to the finals
Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni
Trapattoni was relieved at Italy's qualification
BBC Sport Online reflects on Italy's slow but steady progress through the qualifying stages of the World Cup.

Giovanni Trapattoni's immediate reaction to Italy's qualification for the World Cup was telling.

"Finally we have made it to the World Cup" said the veteran coach, exhausted after watching his Italian players battle out a 1-0 victory at home to Hungary.

The Azzuri had not required a play-off, and instead had topped Group Eight, undefeated with six wins from their eight qualifying matches.

Qualifying campaign
D 2-2 Hungary (a)
W 3-0 Romania (h)
W 2-0 Georgia (h)
W 2-0 Romania (a)
W 4-0 Lithuania (h)
W 2-1 Georgia (a)
D 0-0 Lithuania (a)
W 1-0 Hungary (h)

Yet from Trapattoni's reaction anyone would think Italy had been run close.

Only the best is acceptable for Italy's football-crazy public.

And the coach knew that his team's 0-0 draw away to Lithuania in their penultimate game - when victory would have meant automatic qualification - had not been well received.

That result left the Azzuri requiring a win or draw against Hungary in October 2001 to go through to the finals.

Alessandro del Piero scored with a free kick in the last minute of the first half, the necessary result was in the bag and Trapattoni could relax.

The former AC Milan, Inter Milan and Fiorentina boss had not enjoyed the best start to the qualification process.

Italy drew 2-2 in Hungary, two goals from Filippo Inzaghi not proving enough for victory.

They got off the mark in their next game as goals from Inzaghi, Marco Delvecchio and Francesco Totti despatched Romania 3-0 in Milan.

Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi
Inzaghi scored seven goals in qualifying

Four days later, a second victory arrived as two penalties by Del Piero earned the Azzuri a 2-0 victory against Georgia.

That meant Trapattoni's team led Group Eight going into the Christmas and New Year break, and in March two goals from Inzaghi stopped Romania in Bucharest.

It was proving to be a good month for Inzaghi, who four days later grabbed another two goals in the 4-0 win over Lithuania, with Del Piero also scoring twice.

A difficult 2-1 victory away to Georgia - the goals from Delvecchio and Totti - meant Italy just needed a similar result on their next trip to eastern Europe.

But Lithuania proved stubborn - and Trapattoni's side required that last game against Hungary to make sure.

The wily old coach might not have been too pleased to hear that, straight away, his captain Paolo Maldini had insisted Italy should be considered favourites to win the World Cup.

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