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Italian media slams Lippi

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FACING THE FLAK: Italian coach Marcello Lippi has been criticised by the Italian media for not playing Totti earlier.
FACING THE FLAK: Italian coach Marcello Lippi has been criticised by the Italian media for not playing Totti earlier.

ROME: The Italian media has criticised coach Marcello Lippi after the Azzurri needed a controversial late penalty to edge past Australia 1-0 at the World Cup.

Italy clinched a quarterfinal berth in stoppage time when Fabio Grosso tumbled over Lucas Neill and substitute Francesco Totti scored from the spot with the last kick of the match.

Coach's mistake

``Totti greater than the coach's mistakes,'' said Corriere dello Sport's front page, which hit out at Lippi's decision to start with out-of-form Alessandro Del Piero instead of Totti.

``After two years of intelligent work, Lippi tried to tear the dream from us,'' said the paper. ``Once again, Totti demonstrated he knows how to reply to his critics on the pitch. In a quarter-of-an-hour, he did more than many players manage by running around for 90 minutes.''

La Gazzetta dello Sport also criticised Lippi, calling his decision to replace first-choice strikers Luca Toni and Alberto Gilardino with Vincenzo Iaquinta and defender Andrea Barzagli as ``substitutions that seemed to come out of a lucky dip''.

The paper said the team was lucky to beat Australia in the second round match with a ``doubtful penalty'' and it was almost as though a higher power was at work propelling Italy onwards.

``Penalties have killed off our World Cup hopes many times in Naples, in Pasadena, in Paris,'' said La Gazzetta, recalling previous World Cup exits in 1990, 1994 and 1998.

``Thanks to a last-minute penalty we go forward, towards the semifinals, on a path that seems marked by providence.''

In its quarterfinal on Friday, Italy will play Ukraine, who beat Switzerland in a penalty shoot-out on Monday. Australia's exit came too late to make Tuesday's newspapers in Sydney but websites reflected both pride in the Socceroos' performance and angst at the manner of their defeat.

``Goodbye, cruel world'' lamented the Sydney Morning Herald, while the Melbourne Age said ``Australia finally out of miracle finishes.'' Agencies

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