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Scandal Inspires Italy to Win World Cup

Italy coach Marcello Lippi acknowledged that France played better Sunday, but said Italy deserved to win.

"It's a fair conclusion because there are some people who have suffered more than others," Lippi said. "Like Buffon, who was the best goalkeeper, and Cannavaro, the best defender."

The idea of amnesty for the teams involved in the scandal was floated around Italy's World Cup camp, but none of the Azzurri said that would be fair.

"Whoever made mistakes has to pay," the players repeated one after another over the past month.

All the anguish did not dampen the Italian celebration of its win over France.

"The most important thing is that Italians have shared a sense of national pride," said Italian president Giorgio Napolitano, who also attended the final.

Italy's players were certainly not thinking about their uncertain future after Fabio Grosso converted the decisive penalty kick in the shootout, or the verdicts from a sports tribunal looking into the allegations, which could come with celebrations still in full swing.

Coach Marcello Lippi smoked a cigar and was carried aloft by the team. Players sang, danced and screamed for nearly an hour after the game was over. Defender Marco Materazzi placed a red, white and green top hat on the Jules Rimet Trophy before Cannavaro raised the cup.

Italy's Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, who attended the final in Berlin, said the sight of stars from the World Cup champion team playing in the equivalent of soccer's minor leagues would be unthinkable.

"It is not acceptable to see Buffon, Cannavaro and (Alessandro) Del Piero in Serie C," Mastella said. "We hope justice will be fair."

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© 2006 The Associated Press