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Soccer-World-Lippi on brink of becoming Italy's greatest ever

Written by: Staff
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DUISBURG, Germany, July 7 (Reuters) Italy coach Marcello Lippi is one win away from becoming the country's most successful tactician of all time, although he will need to end a bad run of results for him in finals.

A World Cup victory for the Azzurri against France on Sunday would ensure Lippi's place in Italian football history as a man who not only enjoyed success in Serie A and Europe but also claimed the ultimate prize in the game.

The last man to bring the World Cup home to Italy was Enzo Bearzot in 1982 and while he is widely respected for that achievement, unlike Lippi he didn't scale the peaks as a club coach as well.

Lippi took over Italy after their dismal performance in Portugal at Euro 2004 where they were eliminated in the group stage.

The silver-haired tactician successfully turned the Azzurri from a sometimes fractious collection of players into a team with an intense collective spirit resembling that of his successful Juventus sides.

At the Turin club, Lippi won five Italian titles and took the club to four Champions League finals, winning the continent's top trophy in 1996.

PERMANENT CONTENDERS Between 1994 and 1999 his Juve team, including players such as Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero, were permanent contenders in Serie A and in Europe.

But after their triumph on penalties against Ajax Amsterdam in the 1996 Champions League, Juve fell at the final hurdle in the next two competitions, losing to Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Real Madrid a year later.

Viareggio-born Lippi then took on the challenge of restoring Inter Milan's fortunes but like those who went before and those who followed him he was unable to end Inter's struggle to win their first scudetto since 1989.

MORE REUTERS AY VC1702

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