FIFA World Cup History: 10 Games Italy Would Prefer To Forget
This was a World Cup the Italians will definitely want to forget.
This is the first time
- the Azzurri have come into the tournament and not won a game
- since 1974 they have failed to make the knockout phase
- they have finished bottom of their group.
All this in a year in which they have played six games and are still to record a win (P6 D4 L2).
However this year's results are not an isolated occurrence throughout World Cup history the Italians have had to endure a number of tragic games.
The most famous loss was no doubt recorded in 1966 when the Italians went down 1-0 to North Korea (who arrived in the UK as 1000-1 longshots to win the tournament).
In their opening game in Germany in 1974, they scatched a 3-1 win over Haiti (after going 1-0 down at the start of the second half) and then went on to finish third in their group (drawing against Argentina and losing to Poland).
This slideshow picks up on my personal memories of disaster starting from the 1978 tournament.
1978 Holland 2 Italy 1
After the disaster of 1974, Italy were to put together a strong showing in Argentina. This was the first of the three tournaments the Italians would be lead by flamboyant manager Enzo Bearzot.
The Italians secured wins over France, Hungary and Argentina to make the next stage, another round-robin where the group winner would make the final
Italy were to meet West Germany (0-0) and Austria (1-0) before meeting the Netherlands in a must win fixture. The Dutch needed only to draw to meet Argentina in the final.
The match was a physical encounter, however the game produced a number of outstanding highlights.
The Italians started in a positive vein. They scored first. An own goal by Ernie Brandts. In attempting a slide tackle to deposses Roberto Bettega (at the edge of the box) Brandts generated sufficient power to get the ball in the back of his own net.
Not only did Brandts suffer the ignomy of scoring an own goal but his slide tackle also injured his keeper Piet Schrijvers.Substitiute keeper Jan Jongbloed came on and made a number of telling saves.
Redemption arrived for Brandts with his scoring an equaliser. The game is probably most remembered for the Dutch winner. Arie Haan's 25 yard screamer.
This game is included not as much as it was a disgraceful loss, but rather just a plain shame. No less than six of the players that started against the Dutch in 1978 would go on to play in the 1982 final vs West Germany.
Given their overall showing in the tournament, the Azzurri probably merited a cup final berth. After all they were the only team to manage a win against the host nation.
1990 Italy 1 Argentina 1 (pens 3-4)
As host nation, this was a World Cup Italy should have won. Leading up to the semi final the Italians had won all previous games (P5 F7 A0).
The semi was against Maradona's Argentina.
Napoli's San Paolo Stadium was Maradona's home stadium during his Serie A days. To elicit support prior to the semi Maradona stated "“For 364 days of the year you are considered to be foreigners in your own country. Today you must do what they want by supporting the Italian team. Instead, I am a Naepolitan for 365 days out of the year.”
The Neapolitans responded by applauding the Argentinians onto the field. A huge banner read "Maradona Napoli loves you, but Italy is our country".
The Italians took an early lead through their Sicilian Hitman Toto Schillaci. However the Argentinians developed a formidable rhythm as the game progressed. Atalanta striker Claudio Cannigia headed an equaliser in the second half.
The Argentinians had Carlos Bilardo red carded in extra time for punching Roberto Baggio. And still, the Italians could not manage to notch a winner past Goycoechea, the Argentinian goalie.
Penalties were to be the ruin of the 1990 team (a trend that would continue over a number of tournaments). At 3-3, Roberto Donadoni was too miss his attempt. Maradona stepped up. in his previous game against Yugoslavia, Maradona missed a penalty. Against the Italians his strike was to break their hearts. Aldo Serena had the last penalty for Italy, his shot was saved by Goycoechea.
Again this was represented a wasted opportunity for the Azzurri. The Italians did not handle the pressure of this tie. In adversity the team showed weakness.
Also sadly for the tournament, the final between Agentina and West Germany would go on to be one of the worst in history.
1994 Italy 0 Ireland 1
This was the classic slow start for the Azzurri. A long range poke from Ray Houghton was the difference in this battle of New York.
This was the first time in seven occassions that Ireland had managed a win against Italy.
The Italians were to finish third in their group, however this was sufficient for them to make the knockout stages. It was in the sudden death phase of the tournament that the Italians starting hitting their straps and made a bold charge into the finals.
1994 Italy 0 Brazil 0 (pens 2-3)
It was the first final to finish the goal-less. The first to be decided by penalties.
Brazillian Marcio Santos missed the first penalty, given the Italians false confidence. Next up was the Italian skipper Franco Baresi. He was to be the first of three Italians to miss a penalty.
However, it will be Roberto Baggio's flail over the crossbar that will most be remembered. Baggio who was the pilot who steered the Italians into the final, was to tragically be brought down to earth with a tragic penalty miss.
The Selecao were again to record a World Cup final victory over Italy.
1998 Italy 0 France 0 (pens 3-4)
A goal less quarter final. A tournament where Italian coach Cesare Maldini had shown preference for Alessandro del Piero over Roberto Baggio. Even though Baggio had looked fantastic in partnering with Christian Vieri in the earlier stages of the tournament.
In the quarter final Baggio came on as a sub and was inches away from finding the telling winner in the last moments of the game.
Zidane was succesful with the first penalty attempt, This was followed by a Baggio penalty success. The joy of which Baggio made no effort to conceal.
Bixente Lizarazu was to miss the next French penalty. However his grief was to be shortlived. Demetrio Albertino's kick was to immediately follow, his shot was saved by Fabien Barthez.
Luigi di Biago was to be the culprit for Italy, his power drive penalty kick hit the crossbar.
2002 Italy 1 Croatia 2
Italy had two goals disallowed in this game.
You be the judge on if the decisions were fair:
This from an anti-fan:
I like to see Italy lose, but can fairly say "they was robbed" in this match. That last disallowed goal should have counted for a draw. He wasn't offside; What looked like a foul to get ahead of the defender looked clean on replay. O well, the linesman does not have the advantage of slow motion replay - and as it happened, it looked fishy.
2002 Italy 1 South Korea 2
The match against South Korea saw one of the worst refereeing performance in the history of the World Cup. The Colombian referee, Byron Moreno was never to officiate again.
The Italians made their blunders. In the 88th minute Pannuci thighed a ball in his own goal box which landed neatly for the Korean striker. Imediately following that Christian Vieri missed a strike, from a crossed ball, on an open goal.
This video maybe captures it best
2006 Italy 1 USA 1
The Italians started well with Alberto Gilardino heading a goal in from a Pirlo free kick. Moments Daniele De Rossi was to suffer from a brain explosion resulting in his elbowing US midfielder Brian McBride. The claret that flowed from Brian's face was to be matched by the red card shown to De Rossi.
Italian defender Christian Zaccardo was to gift the US a goal, when his clearance of his corner trajected backwards and into his own net. The latter was the only open field goal the Italians conceded in the whole tournament.
The US clash was to be the only game Zaccardo would play for the Azzurri in the entire tournament.
The game turned into a feisty affair. By the final whistle two Americans (Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope) were to also suffer early exits.
2010 Italy 1 New Zealand 1
Italy were reigning champions. New Zealand's All Whites were 1000-1 outsiders. The All Whites were to manage only one shot on goal. A Shane Smeltz poke from a free kick in the opening moments of the game was to be enough to rock the Azzurri.
Italy's goal came from a Vincenzo Iaquinta penalty. The penalty being awarded as a consequence of Kiwi defender Tommy Smyth's tugging of Danielle De Rossi's shirt. The New Zealanders took exception to De Rossi's dive.
New Zealand's goalie Mark Paston gave a stirling performance, pulling off saves which prevented the Italians from scoring a winner.
2010 Italy 2 Slovakia 3
Despite drawing their first two group-play games, Italy still looked comfortable to make the knockout phase. A win would ensure their progress, a draw could be fine dependent on the result of the Paraguay vs New Zealand game.
In the first 45 minutes of this match, the Italians gave one of their worst performances in recent history. Danielle De Rossi had an innocent ball intercepted by the Slovaks which lead to their first goal.
With ten minutes remaining the Italians found themselves 2-0 down. They rallied but their late charge was not to be enough. For the first time since 1974, they were heading home after the group phase.