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   June 27, 2002 | 1645 IST


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Pierluigi Collina to referee Cup final

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Italy's Pierluigi Collina will referee Sunday's World Cup final between Brazil and Germany.

His linesmen will be Leif Lindberg of Sweden and Philip Sharp of England, FIFA announced on Thursday.

The appointment of the 42-year-old financial adviser from Viareggio is no surprise. Over the last five years he has firmly established himself as the best in the world, a fact recognised by FIFA who voted him its top referee for the fourth time in January.

Pierluigi CollinaEarlier in the tournament he was the natural choice for what was the most eagerly anticipated -- and potentially most volatile -- of the first round matches between England and Argentina.

Typically, Collina was perfectly positioned to award England the penalty that David Beckham converted to clinch the game.

Equally typically, the Argentines did not bother disputing the spot-kick with the Italian who brooks no threat to his authority on the football pitch.

With his distinctive bald head, intense grey-blue eyes and commanding presence, Collina simply stares out players until they accept his decision. It also helps that he is mostly correct.

Collina is known throughout football circles for his meticulous preparation for matches, which he believes is vital to do his job effectively.

He is a firm believer in full-time referees but says the players, not the men in black, should command all the limelight.

"I consider myself as part of the best group of referees in the world," he said during the tournament.

"This is the most important thing for me. I think each of us is working very hard to be well prepared for the high standards that football now requires."


He only began refereeing by accident, taking charge of his team mates' training matches while injured after playing as a teenager.

Moving through the Italian minor leagues, Collina refereed his first Serie A match on December 15, 1991 and soon acquired the nickname Kojak after the American TV detective.

Collina's skills soon spread beyond his native Italy -- he is a multi-linguist with fluent English -- and he refereed the final of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in which Nigeria beat Argentina 3-2.

He was also in charge of the memorable 1999 European Cup final when Manchester United came back from a goal down with injury time approaching to upset Bayern Munich 2-1.

The English, though normally none too keen on continental referees, are huge admirers of Collina, who boasts his own website, and his appointment last September for their World Cup qualifier in Germany was seen as a positive omen.

England went on to beat the future finalists 5-1 in Munich, though it was Germany's porous defence rather than any decision of Collina's that decided the match.

Their Swedish coach Sven-Goran Eriksson summed up the Italian's appeal to all national team bosses when he said: "Collina -- he is a guarantee".

This World Cup has been beset by disputes over referees. By appointing Collina for the final, FIFA officials can sleep easy on Saturday night knowing the man in the middle for the final match is very unlikely to add any further controversies.

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