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Scandal brought Italy squad together, says Lippi

Written by: Staff
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DUISBURG, Germany, July 6 (Reuters) Italy's World Cup squad, who reached the final with an extra-time win over Germany, have always said the match-fixing scandal that has shaken Italian soccer has had no impact on their fortunes.

However yesterday, basking in their 2-0 triumph over the hosts in Dortmund, Italy coach Marcello Lippi said the scandal had actually helped bring his players together.

''Certainly, initially, all the confusion that came out two or three months ago created a desire and a determination to respond and show that Italian football is effective, real and strong on a technical and moral level,'' said Lippi.

''It helped to create a tight group.'' But the Italy coach said that while the scandal initially helped his squad to gel in adversity, it was no longer having an impact on his team.

''Now it has no effect on us, our conviction comes from the results we have gained here,'' he said.

RELEGATION REQUEST On Tuesday, just hours before the Azzurri took the field in Dortmund, prosecutors in the match-fixing tribunal in Rome asked for champions Juventus to be relegated to the third division.

They also wanted six-times European champions AC Milan to be thrown out of the top flight Serie A along with former Italian title winners Fiorentina and Lazio.

But Lippi said the issue had not been talked about in the build-up to the World Cup semi-final with hosts Germany.

''We didn't even discuss it, we talked about other matters completely,'' he said.

No players or coaches have been implicated in the scandal in any form and some have expressed annoyance at the notion that Italian football as a whole may be corrupt.

While the players have been careful not to get involved in public discussions about the scandal some of the Juve players in Lippi's squad took their chance to make a point after Tuesday's victory.

''The Juventus lads were magnificent,'' said forward Alessandro Del Piero, who scored Italy's second goal after coming on as a substitute.

''You could say that that was the latest riposte to what we 'Juventini' have had to take,'' he said.

REUTERS PDS RN0914

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