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Azzurri return home in triumph

Italy was today reflecting on yet another night of celebration after the Azzurri shared their FIFA World Cup glory with hundreds of thousands of fans.

Fabio Cannavaro with the trophy
Fabio Cannavaro with the trophy ©Getty Images


Italy was today reflecting on another night of celebration after the Azzurri revelled in their FIFA World Cup glory with hundreds of thousands of fans in Rome's Circo Massimo.

Marcello Lippi's victorious squad had earlier touched down at the capital city's military airport, Pratica di Mare, with the pilot waving an Italian flag out of the cockpit window as the plane came to a halt in front of hordes of cheering supporters. The Frecce Tricolori, the Italian air force's aerobatics team, staged an aerial ballet called Berlin 2006 over the base, forming a huge red heart with their exhaust fumes after trailing the red, white and green national colours.

Then the Azzurri were received by Italian prime minister Romano Prodi at the Palazzo Chigi, having already shared their triumph with Italian president Giorgio Napolitano immediately after the win against France in Berlin on Sunday night. "He represents the whole nation and I'm very proud of the many good things he told me," captain Fabio Cannavaro said. "He came to visit us after the game and we soaked him with our champagne. He did not complain, he started to sing with us with great enthusiasm."

The president said the players would receive the Merit Order of the Italian Republic for their success at the finals in Germany. Cannavaro, who was voted the second best player after Zinédine Zidane, confessed he spent the night with the famous gold trophy. "I promised my son Christian that we would sleep with the cup and I kept my promise. When he woke up and saw the cup he gave a wonderful smile that was more important than a thousand words."

The squad were keen to dedicate the victory to former team-mate Gianluca Pessotto, who is in hospital after falling from a window in Turin. The ex-Juventus player smiled and made a V for victory with his fingers when he heard the news of Itay's coronation. "Clearly the victory is dedicated to Pessotto," said Gianluca Zambrotta. "He's going through a difficult moment in his life and this is more important than a World Cup. He is our friend and we hope to sit at his bedside telling him that this was all for him."

Meanwhile, the celebrations will continue for Lippi in his home town of Viareggio this weekend. The Tuscan city is famous for its carnival and a special version will be organised to honour the coach. Lippi, whose contract with the Italian Football Federation expired with the end of the World Cup, admitted he would make a decision on his future later this week. "I have an appointment with [federation vice-president] Giancarlo Abete," Lippi said. "I won't talk about it with you before I have discussed it with him. Today is all about celebrating a fantastic achievement."