Totò Schillaci looked back on the 1990 World Cup, sees himself in Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, but not going in 2018 would be “a catastrophe.”
The striker was the face of the tournament in Italy, from last-minute addition to the squad to supersub and eventually Golden Boot winner on six goals.
“That World Cup was like a thunderbolt, an explosion out of nowhere,” Schillaci told the Corriere dello Sport newspaper.
“In one year, I went from Messina to Juventus and the Nazionale. The club President wanted to sell me, yet I kept remaining and the year I won the Capocannoniere chart, Juventus came forward. As I grew up being a Juve fan, it was a dream come true.
“I was the last man called for the tournament, having won the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup with Juventus. It was a magical period and an extraordinary opportunity, so I hoped to at least get on the bench.
“I will admit, I am very pig-headed, so I gave it my all to make life difficult for the Coach and even hoped my teammates wouldn’t score.
“I came off the bench against Austria, scored a goal, and from there we started the unthinkable march. We were one of the best Italy sides in history, comparable to the squad that won the trophy in 1982.”
The Azzurri won every game in that tournament under Azeglio Vicini, except for the 1-1 semi-final draw against Argentina at the Stadio San Paolo, eventually losing it on penalties.
“We had always played in Rome, whereas the semi-final was in Naples and Argentina had Diego Maradona, the idol of the Neapolitans. We took the lead, then paid for a slight Walter Zenga error on the cross.
“I didn’t take a penalty that night because I had muscular problems and only just managed to get through extra time. I was at walking pace. It’s not that I was afraid, but I preferred to leave it to someone who was in better shape than me.”
Italy were held 1-1 by Macedonia last night and their passage to the 2018 World Cup is in serious doubt ahead of the play-offs.
“It would be a catastrophe to miss out and frankly absurd to see a World Cup without Italy,” added Schillaci.
“I see a lot of myself in Immobile and Insigne. Unfortunately, there are too many foreign players who come to Serie A now and overshadow the young Italian talents.”