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Captain Cannavaro times it perfectly for final

Written by: Staff
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DUISBURG, Germany, July 5 (Reuters) With characteristic good timing, Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro will make his 100th appearance for his country in Sunday's World Cup final.

''I knew this could be my last World Cup and asked my team mates to help me reach that target of 100 games. I have to say that they have delivered for me and in the best possible way,'' said 32-year-old Cannavaro.

Central defender Cannavaro has been in outstanding form throughout the tournament but saved his best display for yesterday's 2-0 semi-final win over Germany in Dortmund.

Cannavaro hardly put a foot wrong in Italy's win, making a series of vital interceptions and clean challenges to keep out Germany's forwards.

''What a game that was!'' he told a news conference on Wednesday, ''We kept our calm throughout but I had a really good feeling about that game.

''The really nice thing is that again it was players who came off the bench who made the difference for us.

''That shows that we have a fantastic squad and that there are no (internal) rivalries,'' added Cannavaro.

'NICE COINCIDENCE' Italy coach Marcello Lippi said he was delighted that his captain would reach the milestone of 100 caps in the final.

''It is a really nice coincidence. I pointed out to him before the World Cup that he was on 93 caps and that if we went all the way there were seven games to play,'' said Lippi, who was full of praise for the defender's displays.

''He is having a fantastic World Cup, in his position he is the number one absolutely. He is the best in the world at the moment,'' said the Italy coach, who was his boss too at Napoli in 1994.

Cannavaro's 99 games include his appearances at the World Cup four years ago where Italy lost to co-hosts South Korea and then their disappointing exit in the group stage at Euro 2004 in Portugal.

The failure to make the most of their potential in those tournaments has, Cannavaro said, fired his desire for success in Germany.

''We've accumulated a lot of anger after two major disappointments. First, we lost to the hosts in 2002 and that was dubious and then we lost in Portugal.

''We put that rage to good use on the pitch and you can see that at the World Cup -- we are turning that anger into something positive,'' he said.

Cannavaro also revealed that after the game he and his team mates had enjoyed a sing-song with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

''We sang a few songs together in the dressing room, we sang Oh Sole Mio,'' said Cannavaro.

REUTERS SHB BD2230

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