The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Italian football deserves respect: Marcello Lippi

Turin: Juventus coach Marcello Lippi said Italian soccer deserved respect after his side swept aside holders Real Madrid 3-1 in their Champions League semi-final second leg to set up an all-Italian final against AC Milan on Wednesday.

Juve’s 4-3 aggregate win over the Spanish completes a remarkable turnaround for Italian clubs after not one side managed to make the quarter finals in the past two seasons.

“Right from the start of this season Italian football has had the desire to show it was not as bad as critics were saying. All four of our teams got through the first phase then three made it to the last eight and all of them went on to semi-finals. Now here we are with two Italian teams in the final,” said Lippi.

“That shows that Italian football is to be respected. I don’t know if it is the prettiest but it is football that should be respected. We play good football, it’s not as those outside of Italy would have you believe,” he added.

The Juve coach, who led the Turin side to a Champions League triumph in 1996 — the last time an Italian team lifted Europe’s top club trophy — was fulsome in praise of his team’s hugely impressive performance.

“We knew that we needed a great Juve and we got a great Juve,” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t know if even a great Juve was going to be enough to beat the strongest squad of them all but we saw the best characteristics of Juventus out there.

“Tonight was a great, great satisfaction. It’s particularly satisfying to get to the final after beating such a phenomenal competitor in Real.

“Don’t forget in recent months they have produced some extraordinary performances and everyone said that we had no chance against them. But after the first game we had the feeling we could do it by playing this sort of game against them.

“We showed a great capacity to defend with almost all our players against a team who you need to do that against. Then there was the speed with which we moved forward and also the great qualities of certain individuals which allowed us to create and take the goals as we did.”

Last Saturday Lippi claimed his fifth and Juve’s 27th Italian league title and now he faces a chance to win yet more silverware against Milan in Manchester on May 28.

“It is a great, a huge joy,” he said.“This final comes after a couple of years in which Juventus have won a lot, but just when you think you’ve had access to all the treasures in the safe, then along comes another opportunity that’s even greater,” he said.

Ronaldo confession

Ronaldo, who came on as a substitute early in the second half, admitted he was short of full fitness. “I’m not in the best of condition. I did my best to get back into shape but it didn’t go well for me,” the Brazilian said.

“It was a great semi-final. Juventus played quite well and we had some problems in defence. We also had a chance of going through but then Figo missed the penalty and Raul didn't get the header on target.”

Steve McManaman summed up the delusion of his side, who were favourites throughout the competition.“We’ve been knocked out after having a 2-1 lead at home so this is a big disappointment for us.”

Real coach Vicente Del Bosque said Juventus deserved their win Wednesday.

“When a team wins over two legs, when they score more goals than you then they deserve victory and all I can say is best wishes to Juventus in the final,” said Del Bosque. But the Real coach felt his side had almost done enough to get a vital second away goal to follow the 89th minute strike from Zidane.

“We had chances right until the end. We fought hard throughout the game but in the end it just wasn’t possible. I don’t think we played a bad game — we were up against a great rival,” said the coach. The Spanish side also gave the impression their quest for the domestic title and defence of the Champions League was a step too far.

Del Bosque was not making excuses. “With the games coming so rapidly after each other, players do find it hard to recover but you have to accept that — it is part of the game,” he said.

Email This Page