Record-breaker Del Piero aims for Germany
ROME, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Striker Alessandro Del Piero has pushed his claim for a place in Italy's World Cup squad after becoming Juventus's all-time top scorer during a 4-1 rout of Fiorentina in the Italian Cup.
The 31-year-old hit a hat-trick in Tuesday's tie to take his tally to 185 goals in all competitions, surpassing the previous record of 182 he held jointly with Juve's star of the 1950s, Giampiero Boniperti.
Del Piero is the most experienced international striker Italy have at their disposal, with 24 goals in 71 appearances and Marcello Lippi is expected to take five strikers to the World Cup in Germany.
With Francesco Totti, Alberto Gilardino and Luca Toni fixed points in Lippi's squads, Del Piero will have to muscle past the likes of Christian Vieri, Antonio Cassano, Livorno's Cristiano Lucarelli, Udinese's Vincenzo Iaquinta and AS Roma's Vincenzo Montella to reach his third Cup finals.
During Lippi's 19 games in charge Del Piero has made just five appearances and scored once, in a 1-0 win over Moldova in September 2004.
The coach has given few clues about his World Cup selection process, repeating simply that his final choice will be based less on reputation than what he sees throughout the season.
'It's right that he doesn't commit himself now. Everyone should have a chance of going,' Del Piero was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday.
Del Piero's achievement in overtaking Boniperti will be of great interest to Lippi, who coached the striker during two stints at Juventus from 1994 to 1999 and 2001 to 2004.
Theirs was an enormously successful partnership -- the club won Serie A titles in 1995, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003, as well as the Champions League in 1996.
Since Fabio Capello took over from Lippi as coach at the start of last season, Del Piero has spent an increasing amount of time on the bench but still scored 14 goals to help Juventus win the 2005 Serie A title.
He has maintained his good strike rate this season, hitting the target nine times in 20 appearances in all competitions.
The only other current player in Juve's top 10 scorers of all time is Frenchman David Trezeguet, who is ninth on 115 goals.
Del Piero now sits atop a who's who of Juventus greats, including its vice-president, Roberto Bettega, third on 178, and former FIFA World Player of the Year Roberto Baggio, eighth on the list with 124 goals.
'When I started out I didn't have the record in mind at all. I was at Juventus - that seemed the greatest thing to me,' said Del Piero who arrived from Serie B side Padova in 1993.
'People only started to talk about the record this year and it's great to have finally done it.
'I feel in great shape and ready for new challenges. For me it's just another stage in a race that still has a long way to go'.