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By ESPN Staff

Lippi lauds Italy's 'terrific' team spirit

HAMBURG, June 22 (Reuters) - Coach Marcello Lippi was warm in his praise of Italy's unity after they beat 10-man Czech Republic 2-0 on Thursday to finish top of World Cup Group E.

'This team has terrific spirit, probably the most fighting spirit I have had in any team,' said Lippi.

'We deserve to qualify, we played two great games to beat Ghana and Czech Republic, two very difficult teams.'

By finishing top of the group Italy look likely to avoid meeting champions Brazil in the second round.

'Finishing first was important for lots of reasons but even if we had to play them (Brazil) we would have given it our best shot,' said Lippi.

'Sooner or later you're going to have to play one of the favourites.'

Italy's goals came from substitutes Marco Materazzi, who replaced the injured Alessandro Nesta in the first half, and Filippo Inzaghi, brought on for Alberto Gilardino after 61 minutes.

Asked if the substitutions were the key to winning the match, Lippi said: 'All goals are equal, they have the same weight.

'One just has to be patient because in this tournament every team gets its chances.

'The important thing is to be ready to take them when they come.'

Czech coach Karel Brueckner said his side were up against it after having Jan Polak sent off at the end of the first half.

'Playing with 10 men was just too difficult today,' said Brueckner after his team were eliminated from the competition.

'We lost a lot of players before the game and had suspensions which hurt us in this tournament.

'It is too early to assess and think about what might happen in the future.'

Czech striker Milan Baros said: 'Italy played very well. It is not easy to score two goals against a team like this.'

'We didn't play badly. We lost to Ghana in the second game. If we had got a point in that, it was 90 percent certain we would go through. '