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Del Piero finally rewards Lippi's faith

Written by: Staff

DORTMUND, July 5 (Reuters) Italy's Alessandro Del Piero finally rewarded the faith shown in him by coach Marcello Lippi with his well-taken extra-time goal securing the Azzurri's place in the World Cup final yesterday.

One of the most popular players in Italy, Del Piero has struggled to shine at major international tournaments and came into this World Cup after a disappointing season for Juventus where he was frequently left on the bench.

Some in the Italian media even questioned whether he deserved a place in Lippi's squad but those voices will be muted after the forward, who has started just one game at these finals, came on in extra time and killed off Germany's hopes of a late revival to seal a 2-0 win.

''I've worked hard to keep myself ready, so that I could take my chance. This is a fantastic joy, I'm delighted,'' Del Piero told reporters.

Lippi said he had a gut feeling that the striker was going to deliver after he brought him on for midfielder Simone Perrotta -- an attacking move that paid dividends.

''When Del Piero went on I told the lads on the bench: 'He's going to score the winner'. Right from the start of the evening I could see he was up for this match. I'm delighted for him,'' said Lippi, who worked with the player during two successful spells at Juventus.

All of the six strikers in the Italy squad have scored during this World Cup but few could match Del Piero's level of emotion over his goal, which came shortly after Fabio Grosso had put Lippi's side ahead.

''There was more anger than happiness in my goal, for many reasons which it is pointless to go into now,'' said Del Piero.

''I was shouting for the ball all the way back in midfield. I could see there was a chance because their midfield was stretched all over the place,'' he said.

''Alberto (Gilardino) did well to draw the defender and put the ball into my path and I decided to finish it like that. This is my best experience in the national team. Now I'm hoping we can finish on a high in Berlin,'' added the forward.

The Azzurri will face either Portugal or France in Sunday's final in Berlin.

Del Piero, along with Juventus and Italy team mates Gianluigi Buffon, Gianluca Zambrotta, Mauro Camoranesi and captain Fabio Cannavaro, went into the game just hours after hearing that their club could be demoted to the third tier Serie C if found guilty of offences in a match-fixing probe.

''The Juventus lads tonight were magnificent. You could say that that was the latest riposte to what we 'Juventini' have had to take. But the main aim is Sunday's final. We'll enjoy this moment and then think about Sunday,'' he said.

Reuters DH VP0522

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