Champions qualify for SA

MILAN - Holders Italy needed a bit of luck to qualify for next year's World Cup finals and coach Marcello Lippi hopes some other omens queue up in their favour .

Substitute Alberto Gilardino struck in the last minute to give the Azzurri a 2-2 draw against second-placed Ireland in Dublin on Saturday to lead Group Eight.

Now Lippi has allowed himself to dream of a repeat of Italy's 1982 and 2006 World Cup triumphs.

"The other times Italy qualified with a game to spare was in 1982 and 2006. We won't talk about it but we know how we finished up. But I'd say it's a good omen," Lippi said.

A draw was a fair result after an entertaining game and Italy showed desire that has not always been apparent.

Fiorentina forward Gilardino was particularly motivated to grab the leveller. - Reuters