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By Jude Webber
ROME (Reuters)(DS) - Italian media cursed their side's bad luck after the 2-1 defeat by
France in the Euro 2000 final but the players awoke on Monday to find they had been
made Knights of the Republic.
Newspapers, struggling to put a brave face on things, also blamed bad refereeing
and praised the performance of the underdog side no one expected to do so well.
The appreciation was echoed by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, who
watched the match and went into the changing room afterwards to offer his
condolences to the distraught squad. He later made all the players Knights of the
Republic.
Reflecting the Italian loss to a golden goal by David Trezeguet, Corriere dello Sport
devoted half of its front page to a headline, in giant black letters, reading "What bad
luck".
"We deserved the title," it added underneath.
"We got into to the final by a stroke of luck because the Dutch deserved to go
through," L'Unita newspaper said in a front-page editorial, referring to Italy's semifinal
defeat of the home favourites on penalties.
"And we were beaten in the final by a stroke of bad luck. We deserved to win
yesterday's match," L'Unita added.
La Stampa daily, speaking for many Italians, said Swedish referee Anders Frisk
"dragged the stoppage time on intolerably".
"Accursed minute" ran the headline in Il Messaggero daily. Sports Bible Gazzetta
dello Sport called it "hateful".
But commentators consoled themselves with Italy's improved performance after
their ultra-defensive play in the semifinals.
"What a shame. Italy were great," Gazzetta's headline said.

SPECULATIVE
"After so much criticism of our speculative style of soccer, Italy had shown World
Cup champions France that it could play as well or better," Gazzetta's editor Candido
Cannavo said.
"Thanks anyway, Azzurri," ran La Stampa's headline.
RAI state radio commented wrly that Italy were used to winning by playing badly,
but not to losing when they played well.
Former Italy coach Arrigo Sacchi, a stern critic of Italy's traditionally defensive play,
offered bitter-sweet praise, saying in an editorial in La Stampa that France perhaps
deserved to win but that Italy had been "magnificent".
"They fought with fury, doggedly, with courage. No one held back. This team could
not have done any better," he said.
In the search for a scapegoat, most pointed the finger at striker Alessandro Del
Piero, who missed two chances that could have sealed Italy's victory.
A photograph of him, flat on his back on the pitch, his hands over his eyes,
summed up Italy's despair on many newspaper front pages.
"Next season will be the crucial one to see what's left of the great champion we
once knew," Corriere dello Sport said.
 
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