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By ESPN Staff
Jul 2, 2006

Lippi always expected to meet Germany

Italy coach Marcello Lippi claims he always expected World Cup semi-finalists Germany to be contenders for glory this summer - even though the Azzurri thrashed them 4-1 in Florence during a friendly in the build-up to the tournament.

Lippi's team will tackle the Germans in Dortmund on Tuesday for the right to play France or Portugal in next Sunday's World Cup final in Berlin, and the Italian coach insists he always felt the Germans would go close to winning the title.

'I am not surprised at the way Germany are performing,' said Lippi, speaking after Italy's 3-0 quarter-final win over Ukraine in Hamburg.

'I said in my interviews after the match in Florence that we should not read too much into the result.

'No-one is underestimating this German team. They started the tournament in difficult circumstances but have gone into the tournament with great enthusiasm.

'But we have no fear of them, respect yes, but no fear. It will be a great sporting occasion and it will be a very, very tough match.'

Lippi, who has won every club prize on offer during two successful spells with Juventus prior to taking the Italian job, admitted that the excitement generated by the World Cup put all his previous achievements into the shade.

He said: 'I don't think it's possible to express the great enthusiasm and joy of playing in a World Cup semi-final.

'I have always said that in winning the Champions League and Intercontinental Cup (with Juventus) I have had some great experiences but, with the emotions that the World Cup generates, nothing can beat this competition.'

Many people are drawing parallels with the Italy team that won the 1982 World Cup with the team playing under the cloud of match-fixing scandals in Serie A - as is this case year - and a star striker who started the tournament slowly before finding his feet.

In 1982 Paolo Rossi did not score until the fifth game with a hat-trick in the 3-2 win over Brazil - he later scored twice against Poland in the semis and the opener in the 3-1 win over West Germany.

This year Luca Toni, whose 31 goals for Fiorentina last year was the highest individual tally in Serie A for 47 years, did not score in his first four matches but netted twice against Ukraine.

Asked if his team could emulate the 1982 team, Lippi said: 'I don't know. The team has come to the World Cup wanting to win but the same applies to the other teams.'