Italian media hails Azzurri glory against odds
ROME, July 10 (Reuters) - The Italian media struggled on Monday to come to terms with the victory of the national soccer team in Sunday's World Cup final, barely able to believe they had overcome scandal and setbacks to win.
'It's all true! Champions of the world,' screamed the front page headline of sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport.
'We are the champions of the world, although no one thought we would be and no one wanted us to be,' columnist Mario Sconcerti wrote in Corriere della Sera.
Italy beat France in a penalty shootout in Berlin on Sunday to lift the trophy for the fourth time, making the team the second most successful in the World Cup's history after Brazil.
Despite the country's pedigree few had expected victory this time round.
Many of the Italy players are from clubs caught up in a match-fixing scandal that has rocked domestic football.
Before the tournament pundits had expected they would be distracted by the prospect of relegation of their teams by a sporting tribunal.
The pessimism deepened when defender Alessandro Nesta limped out of the tournament in an early match and midfielder Daniele De Rossi was suspended for four games after being sent off.
On Monday, some commentators celebrated what they saw as a return to innocence for the Italian game.
'The cynics will say that the stars looking for new contracts after their clubs are relegated were running around in the search of new contracts,' wrote Gianni Riotta in a front-page column in Corriere della Sera.
'Not us. We think that after the phone taps, the accusations, the intrigue and the fraud, each one of the Azzurri returned for a month to what they were when they were lads on the street, when football was a dream, not a racket.'
A sports prosecutor leading the investigation in the match-fixing case has recommended the toughest punishments for Juventus - relegation to the third division or beyond, the annulment of the club's last two Italian titles and a deduction of points at the start of next season.
He also wants AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio to be sent to the second division, also with points deducted.
The clubs have denied the match-fixing charges.
The tribunal hearing the case is expected to announce its verdict on Tuesday or Wednesday, allowing the victorious team a day of celebration on their home-coming later on Monday.