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Totti retires from inte'l football

AS Roma's Italian striker, who was taking an extended break after the WC 2006 win, decides to quit the Azzurri completely.
AFP | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2007 07:20 PM IST

Italy's Francesco Totti announced his retirement from international football on Friday.

The 30-year-old Roma striker, who had not represented the Azzurri since they won the World Cup last July after taking a sabbatical from international duty, finally called it quits due to the physical demands of playing so many matches.

"My main problem is physical," he told a news conference at Roma's Trigoria training ground.

"I came to the conclusion that I cannot play in so many matches in a year. I had to give up something and unfortunately it's the national team because I can't give up Roma. They are my priority."

Last September Totti, the Roma captain who was top scorer in Serie A last season with 26 goals, announced he was ready to return to the international set-up but only for important matches.

But his offer to play part-time for his country did not go down well with Italy coach Roberto Donadoni - who took charge of the national team after the World Cup - and several of his fellow internationals

Totti said it was better to quit altogether rather than create animosity within the national team.

"I didn't want to create problems with the group and the staff," he added.

"I'm sorry, but my health is the most important thing."

Totti, who made his Italy debut in October 1998, broke his left ankle in February 2006 but managed to recover in time for the World Cup.

The talismanic Roman struggled for fitness in the early matches and was heavily criticised by the Italian media for his lacklustre performances.

He was sensationally dropped for the second round match against Australia, but came off the bench to score the winning penalty in stoppage time.

Totti showed nerves of steel to slam home the spot-kick and wasted no time in hitting back at his detractors.

"Now let the critics talk about me," he said. "Up till now they have massacred me. I am sure they won't be happy. I never answered them back, I was waiting to give my response on the pitch."

As his fitness improved, so did his performances, and he showed touches of genius in the 2-0 extra-time defeat of host nation Germany in the semi-finals.

Totti is regarded as one of Italy's finest players, but he has often flattered to deceive when playing for his country with just nine goals in his 58 appearances.

Despite turning it on week in, week out in Serie A, there was a sense of unfulfilled potential about him at international level.

Perhaps his finest hour was the 2000 European championship in which his influence helped Italy reach the final, where they lost to France on a golden goal.

But at the World Cup in 2002, he failed to score in six matches and was sent off for diving in Italy's shock second-round exit at the hands of co-hosts South Korea.

He was tipped to inspire the Azzurri to success at the 2004 European championships, but instead left Portugal in disgrace after getting himself sent off for spitting in the face of Denmark's Christian Poulsen in the first game of the tournament.

Totti was given a three-match ban and Italy were knocked out in the group stages.

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