WORLD CUP 2006: Italian focus has been unrivaled; a matter of necessity for players

DUISBURG: Italy’s focus during this World Cup has been unrivaled, perhaps a necessity for players who don’t know what’s coming next. No one has faced more uncertainty than Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero. “I’m not thinking about the future right now, there’s no reason to,” Del Piero said. “The only future for me is Sunday.” Seeking its fourth title, Italy faces France in the World Cup final in Berlin on Sunday.

Sentences in a massive corruption scandal are expected a day later from a sports tribunal in Rome. Juventus faces the harshest penalties — relegation as far down as the third division and being stripped of its last two titles.

Del Piero has been with Juventus for 13 seasons and is the club’s most popular player. He’s not saying yet if he would stay in Turin if the team is relegated. “Let’s talk about that on Monday,” he said.

Against Germany in the semi-finals, Del Piero came off the bench to score the second of Italy’s two goals in the last minutes of an extra-time win. The goal was Del Piero’s 27th in 78 matches for Italy, tying him with Roberto Baggio for fourth place on Italy’s all-time list.

Del Piero said the goal was an answer to his critics, who have been targeting him since he took playing time away from Baggio in the 1998 World Cup. Lately, the wrap against Del Piero has been that he’s lost his speed and leg strength.