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Trapattoni surprised by all-Italian final
- CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Rome: Giovanni Trapattoni’s perspective on the Italian soccer renaissance is so thorough it’s a wonder he won’t be pacing the sideline when Juventus meet AC Milan for the Champions League title on Wednesday.

From the depths of an overtime loss to South Korea in last year’s World Cup to the unprecedented heights of two Italian clubs playing for Europe’s top club trophy, Trapattoni has seen it all as Italy’s national team coach.

But before taking over the blue-clad national team, Trapattoni was better associated with the red-and-black of Milan and the black-and-white of Juventus.

As a player, Trapattoni spent 12 seasons with Milan, winning two Italian League titles and two Champions League titles. As a coach, he led Juve for 13 seasons, winning the Italian League six times and one Champions League.

So which squad does “the trap” think will win'

“I’ve been in three European derbys and they were the toughest matches of my life,” he said in a recent interview with Gazzetta Dello Sport.

“Anything can happen. Juve is in extraordinary condition and Milan is on the upswing. There are all the ingredients for a great game.

“Also, I think the two sides will have less psychological pressure than in Serie A play.”

Juve and Milan split their two Serie A matches this season, but everyone involved realises that the match in Manchester is far more than a just national event.

The international soccer community will be watching to see if Italian soccer can back up its boasts that it has long since done away with its ultra-defensive style.

“Italian soccer will be before the eyes of all of Europe,” Milan’s Ukrainian forward Andriy Shevchenko said.

“I’m not Italian, but Milan is my home and I would be honoured to demonstrate that Italian soccer is not this boring, grey thing that some people want fans from all over the world to believe it is.

“True, Milan and Juve know each other well, but this is still a final, a special match that calls on special energies. I don’t think it will be a boring evening for anyone.”

Trapattoni also believes it will be an offensive game. Asked which players may decide the outcome, he named the top two strikers on each club: Shevchenko and Filippo Inzaghi for Milan and Alessandro del Piero and David Trezeguet for Juve.

Using his customary honesty, the silver-haired coach acknowledged he never even considered thinking about two Italian clubs reaching the final.

“We had all the means to reach the final, but from Real Madrid to Deportivo to Ajax, the opponents were all very strong,” he said.

“Getting through, it means something important must have happened. But two, no. I wouldn’t have even thought of it.”

Italian commentators have used the occasion to boast wildly about their clubs’ success in reply to fierce criticism abroad while their teams suffered in the various competitions the past few seasons.

Even with an Italian club assured of winning the trophy that most people thought would have belonged to Real Madrid for another year, people outside the country have remained sceptical.

“At the beginning of the season we talked often about our desire for a good showing in Europe,” said Milan’s longtime defender and captain, Paolo Maldini.

“The trap” used the occasion to take a jab at some of the most persistent sceptics: the English fans that a large influx of Italians will be rubbing elbows with this week in Manchester.

“We’re here, while the English have called on (Sven-Goran) Eriksson to make their play more European,” he said, referring to the Swedish import who serves as England’s national team coach.

Trapattoni is also expecting a fiercely contested game. Although he will have one worry while observing the match from his seat in the stands at Old Trafford’s “theatre of dreams.”

Put on a good show in the name of Italian soccer, he said, “just as long as nobody gets injured.”

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