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Flags, horns greet Italy's return to World Cup final

By Phil Stewart
July 05, 2006 15:14 IST
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Italians armed with flags and fireworks flooded onto the streets late on Tuesday to celebrate their country's 2-0 victory over hosts Germany in the World Cup semi-finals.

"We completely deserved it," grinned 18-year-old Gabrielli Costantino, wearing an Italian flag like a cape as he climbed onto the back of a motorscooter.

The streets ahead of him were gridlocked with supporters waving the Italian tri-colour, blaring horns and chanting "I-TAL-IA" as Romans celebrated the country's first appearance in the World Cup final since 1994.

University student Ivanna Balato said she stood with a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands at Rome's ancient chariot race track of Circus Maximus to watch the game on a big screen.

The mood was tense until the very end when extra-time goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero sent Italy into the final for the first time in 12 years.


was wonderful, incredible, to be with everyone," she said, holding an Italian flag as she sat on the back of a motorbike.

Hundreds of fans across the street climbed and crowded around tall Catholic statues facing the towering Basilica of St. John in Lateran, where German-born Pope Benedict frequently presides.

For many Italians, the victory over Germany in the semi-finals was also a welcome break from a match-fixing scandal that has dominated the headlines.

The prosecutor in the trial against four clubs -- Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio -- said earlier on Tuesday he wanted all of them demoted from the top flight.

"This win is very important for Italian soccer, especially given the scandal," said Ricardo Gonzalez, a teacher in Rome. "It shows that Italian soccer is still alive -- despite everything."

(Additional reporting by Gilles Castonguay in Milan)

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