Italy v France: Echo from the past? | india | Hindustan Times
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Italy v France: Echo from the past?

Italy hasn't won a major trophy since its last World Cup title in 1982, when it beat Germany in the final. This year the semis give Italy an oppurtunity to avenge.

india Updated: Jul 01, 2006 20:45 IST

When Italy faces Germany in the semifinals, it will mark the third straight World Cup the Azzurri have played the host country.

Italy lost to France on penalties in 1998 and went out on a golden goal in South Korea four years ago.

"France we faced in the quarterfinals, Korea in the Round of 16, this is the semifinals, so it's a little different," Italy coach Marcello Lippi said. "It will be tough, but it will be tough for Germany too."

Lippi spoke moments after Italy thoroughly dominated Ukraine in a 3-0 win Friday. He was more concerned about celebrating the quarterfinal victory than looking ahead to the semifinals already. "Now we can say we're among the top four teams in the world, reaching the semifinals of the World Cup is a great satisfaction and an enormous source of pride. This team has incredible character and knows how to overcome absences and confront difficulty in the best possible manner," Lippi added.

Besides a massive corruption scandal back home and the specter of a former teammate _ Gianluca Pessotto _ fighting for his life in a Turin hospital, Italy played without two suspended players and injured defender Alessandro Nesta against Ukraine. Italy will evaluate the condition of Nesta's right thigh over the next few days. Andrea Barzagli filled in admirably Friday in his first World Cup start and only 10th appearance overall for Italy. Marco Materazzi, Nesta's initial replacement, will return for the semifinals after sitting out against Ukraine with a red card. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi has one more game to serve in a four-match ban for elbowing the face of United States forward Brian McBride in the first round. He can return for the final or third-place game.

Defender Gianluca Zambrotta scored Italy's first goal six minutes in and striker Luca Toni added two second-half goals, his first of the tournament. Standout playmaker Francesco Totti set up two goals and showed his best form since undergoing left leg surgery in February.

"After a lot of hard work, I'm finally back in top form," said Totti, who was benched at the start of Italy's previous match against Australia, which he eventually won with a penalty in the last seconds. "The rest served me well."

Italy reached the semifinals for the first time since the 1994 World Cup, when it beat Bulgaria 2-1 on two goals by Roberto Baggio, whose later missed penalty handed the title to Brazil. Italy beat Germany 4-1 in a friendly in March, but neither side is placing much emphasis on that.

"That result doesn't quite tell the whole truth," Lippi said. "Neither Germany deserved to lose 4-1 nor Italy win 4-1. They're a young team with a coach who never stopped believing. They've swept up an entire nation with their enthusiasm. A little like we've done with Italy."

Italians celebrated in piazzas and honked their horns all night from Milan to Sicily after the Azzurri's latest win. "Often in Italy you go out to demonstrate in the piazza for politics, for the right or left wing. To see the people in the piazza with Italy's blue jersey on fills us with pride," midfielder Gennaro Gattuso said.

Italy hasn't won a major trophy since its last World Cup title in 1982, when it beat Germany in the final.

"It's been too long," Totti said. "I think this could be the right year."