This year we certainly do not have a team that is among the favorites at the next soccer World Championships which will be held in Brazil from 12 June; but, as always, the World Cup is a strange tournament in which the predictions inevitably end up overturning and every solution is, up to the last, possible. On the other hand, the history of our national team itself is studded with miserable failures when we started among the favorites – 1966 and 2002, just to mention some memorable debacles – and with incredible victories when we seemed destined for an early elimination (in 1982, for example).
So, as it is in the spirit of our site, let’s try to remember, for once, the enterprises instead of the failures, and let’s retrace together the history of the World Cup won by Italy (in 1934, 1938, in 1982 and in the recent 2006) through five memorable matches played by our national team in those editions of the event.
Italy – Spain 1-1
The 1934 Fascist World Cup and the Battle Against the Great Zamora
If what we will see shortly are memorable matches especially in the result and in the heroic enterprise that the Azzurri performed there, the match from which we start actually has a very little epic and, especially if reread following the chronicles of the international press of the time, does not play much in favor of the image of our national team at the time. After the first World Championship held in Uruguay in 1930 – in which only four European teams had participated, among other things found at the last moment – the organization of the second World Championship fell to fascist Italy, which was investing so much in those years in football in propaganda terms: Vittorio Pozzo’s national team, on the other hand, was one of the most accredited contenders for the title,
Various controversies, however, raged over Italy: on the one hand, the fascist regime with its Roman salute and other such nonsense did not arouse sympathy in other Western countries (four years later, in France, the Azzurri would have been booed loudly); moreover, the ranks of the Italian representative were full of natives, given that among the owners were the Argentines Luisito Monti, Enrique Guaita and Raimundo Orsi.
After the easy 7-1 victory with the United States on their debut, Pozzo’s team found a very strong defending Spain in the quarter-finals, with the legendary goalkeeper Ricardo Zamora in goal: the game went badly especially when the red furies they took the lead with Regueiro in the 31st minute, but Italy managed to equalize a quarter of an hour later with the half-wing Ferrari in an action, however, spoiled by an Italian player’s charge (Meazza or Schiavio, the sources are conflicting) on Zamora.
The Italians did not spare the ankles of the Spaniards, even with the complicity of the referee, and so, when the match was replayed the next day (no penalties were foreseen at the time), the Spanish team had changed by seven elevenths: among the Zamora too was inexplicably fatigued, although according to some his absence was even due to pressure from Mussolini himself on Spain. Italy won 1-0, a result with which they then overtook Austria in the semifinals, finally beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the final after extra time.
Italy – Brazil 2-1
The First Case of Brazilian Arrogance in 1938
If it is true that the 1934 World Cup was also influenced by home arbitrage, the strength of Italy in those years received numerous other confirmations also outside the national borders: in 1936 Pozzo’s team won for the first and last time the Olympic title, while two years later he won his second consecutive world title in France.
Even this edition of the cup wanted by Jules Rimet was substantially Eurocentric because the event was deserted by both Uruguay and Argentina – then among the strongest teams in the world – but this time the presence of Brazil was no longer episodic, as it was been in the previous two editions: the team coached by Adhemar Pimenta had just obtained the second place in America’s Cup the year before, beaten only in extra time by Argentina, and had great ambitions for these World Cup, also because it fielded an unquestionable champion talent like Leônidas, Flamengo star. On the other hand, the Cariocas had immediately got rid of Poland with a daring 6-5 and then, in two matches, they had thrown the finalist Czechoslovakia out of the tournament four years earlier: when on June 16,
The match, however, did not go as expected: after a first-half goalless, the Azzurri took the lead in the 51st minute with Colaussi and doubled nine minutes later thanks to a legendary penalty by Meazza, kicked according to sources by holding up the shorts with one hand. due to the breaking of the elastic. Now, here we would have to make a note: although everyone – from Gianni Brera to Mario Sconcerti, to any author of books on the history of Italian football – reports this fact, in reality, there is no trace of it in the chronicles of the time, much less there is no hand of Meazza near the shorts during the penalty in the official footage of the match, which you can see below.
Probably the elastic was really broken and after the penalty, the Inter striker changed part of the uniform, but the penalty was beaten in a fairly normal way; the fact is that that was the last goal of the great mezzaluna in the national team and perhaps also for this reason, over time, the cloaked himself in legend. Brazil then shortened the gap but failed to equalize; Italy thus reached the final (by train, because the Brazilians did not want to give up their airline tickets), where they defeated Hungary 4-2.
Italy – Brazil 3-2
The Tragedy (From the Carioca Point of View) of Sarriá in 1982
Let’s jump forty-four years, but let’s go back to another decisive challenge with Brazil which, together with Germany, has always been our historical opponent (even considering the finals of 1970 and 1994, which did not see us, winners). In Spain in 1982 Enzo Bearzot’s Italy arrived with a good resume: four years earlier, in Argentina, it had reached the semifinal groups, where it had only yielded to the Netherlands of Krol, Neeskens, and Johnny Rep, while two years later, in the European Championships organized at home, only the goal difference had made her lose the final in Rome.
Nonetheless, the premises were not good: the press reproached Bearzot for having left home the top scorer of the league, Roberto Pruzzo, preferring Paolo Rossi, who came from a two-year stop due to the football-betting scandal, while the playmaker of the ‘Inter Evaristo Beccalossi had not been called up, preferring to focus on the Juventus block. The start of the World Cup had only rekindled the controversy: in the group with Poland (later semi-finalist), Cameroon and Peru there were only three draws and a qualification obtained for the broken cap; now it was the turn of a second-round with the favorites from Brazil – with full points – and the holders of Argentina who also lined up a young Maradona.
The albiceleste lost immediately with us first and then with the Brazilians, but the Cariocas had scored one more goal and therefore a draw would have been enough for them in the direct match. On 5 July, at the Stadio de Sarriá in Barcelona (the Espanyol facility, now demolished), Italy and Brazil met in a meeting that in the South American press went down in history as “the tragedy of Sarriá”, a mournful event that in memory of the Brazilian fans is second only to Maracanazo, ie the home defeat in 1950 against Uruguay.
It was the match of Paolo Rossi, who unlocked and scored a memorable hat-trick (he would have scored another three goals between the semifinal and the final), but also of Dino Zoff, who, after a half error on the first Brazilian goal – stuck on his post -, gave great exits and saves including one at the last second on the line.
Italy 3-1 West Germany
The Scream of Tardelli in the Final of the Bernabeu
Italy has won four World Cups, therefore, if we had to be fair, we would have chosen only one match for each tournament won; but our site of beautiful things always requires five, so the “extra” game we decided to always draw from the 1982 edition, which was perhaps the most beautiful on the one hand because it was the first one we could watch live television, on the other hand, because it completely overturned the predictions, with a national team that after a difficult start was able to eliminate, one after the other, all the main contenders for the title, clearly proving to be the strongest and most solid.
After overcoming Poland in the semifinal, Italy flew to Madrid to await the winner of the other semifinal which saw Rummenigge’s West Germany and Platini’s France opposed, in a beautiful and unforgettable challenge, which went down in history as the “Night of Sevilla ”: regular time ended at 1-1 thanks to goals from Littbarski and Platini from a penalty; the extra time was then very tense, with the French who took the double advantage in the space of eight minutes and the Germans able to recapture them at 3-3.
For the first time, a World Cup match had to be decided by penalties: in the first five shots both a French (Six) and a German (Stielike) missed; it was only the first penalty to the bitter end, missed by Bossis, that West Germany managed to qualify.
Perhaps also due to this emotional stress or perhaps due to the actual strength of the Azzurri, Germany did not play a great game in the final, dominated far and wide by our team: in fact, already in the first half, Bruno Conti’s knockdown in the area gave Italy an opportunity to take the lead, but Antonio Cabrini sent the penalty out. In the second half, however, the National team – also dragged by an unforgettable Sandro Pertini on the stands – did not give up and knew how to react, first scoring with Rossi leading, then doubling with Tardelli and with what has since entered the collective memory as his liberating scream; finally, the 3-0 was signed by Altobelli on the counterattack, while the Germans managed to score the goal of the flag with Breitner in the final.
Germany – Italy 0-2 aet
The Epic of Fabio Grosso in 2006
The most famous match played by Italy in a World Cup is undoubtedly that of the semifinal of 1970 against West Germany, when the Azzurri won 4-3 after extra time in what was renamed even by the Mexicans (it was played at Azteca of Mexico City) the “game of the century”. That World Cup, however, we lost in the final with Brazil and therefore we will tell that beautiful story in another moment; However, if that game played more than forty years ago has made history, for sure in forty years we will remember at par, or perhaps even more importantly, another semifinal against Germany (this time united) which ended with our victory later extra: that of 4 July 2006 at the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund.
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Italy had arrived at that appointment after a fairly easy path: in the group, they had faced three affordable teams such as Ghana, the Czech Republic, and the United States, and then between the second and fourth quarters they had unraveled – at times even with some Fatema of too much – of Australia and Ukraine; host Germany, on the other hand, in the direct clash phase had first faced the Sweden of Ibrahimovic and Larsson and then the fearsome Argentina of Crespo and Tevez (with Messi on the bench), eliminated on penalties. Moreover, the team coached by Klinsmann counted on a well-established mechanism, on a Miroslav Klose in great shape, and also on a certain amount of luck.
During the match, Italy showed a good dominance during the first half, but suffered in part from the return of the Germans at the end of regular time; it was to be expected that the hosts would have grown even more, and instead, the extra time was blue domination: Gilardino hit a post with a beaten goalkeeper, Zambrotta a crossbar with a bolide from the edge of the area; it was only a minute before the end, however, that, on the development of a corner kick, Pirlo found Fabio Grosso (who had already earned a penalty against Australia with his raids) who slipped the ball in with a precise shot around in the Lehmann gate.
A couple of minutes later, then, in full recovery, a quick counter-attack launched by Cannavaro and continued by Totti allowed Gilardino to serve only in the area of Alessandro Del Piero, who slipped at the intersection. Italy went to Berlin, as recalled by the famous scream of Fabio Caressa also present in the video below, and won on penalties against France also here thanks to the decisive shot by Fabio Grosso.