Italian progress: Group stage
Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. Italy endured more World Cup heartbreak after defeat to 1962 hosts Chile resulted in another first round exit.
After an eight-year absence Italy returned to the World Cup against West Germany, whose starting XI contained Hans Schäfer from their 1954 title-winning side and Willi Schulz, Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, Helmut Haller and Uwe Seeler from the team that would go on to contest the 1966 Final. The 0-0 match was played before hostile locals, who had read of the alleged disparaging words published about Chile in Italian papers.
However, it was the second match that went down in history as the infamous ‘Battle of Santiago’. Likely fuelled by the alleged negative reporting about their country the Chileans were ready for a fight from the start. An early scuffle between Mario David and Leonel Sanchez preceded a nasty tackle by Honorio Landa on Giorgio Ferrini, and his retaliation earned him his marching orders – the first Italian dismissed at a World Cup. The Italian midfielder took 10 minutes and a police escort to leave the field.
Next Sanchez landed an unpunished right-hook on David, but before the break the Milan defender got his retribution with a high-foot tackle on his assailant. The Azzurri were reduced to nine men. They bravely hung on until the last 15 minutes but weight of numbers, and weak refereeing, allowed the hosts to record their second win of the event. At full-time another brawl erupted and Italy were out in the group stage once again.
The final game was academic but it did allow for a little revenge on Switzerland – who had eliminated them in 1954. There were eight changes to the Azzurri line-up, and one of the new faces – Bruno Mora – gave them the lead after just two minutes. A second half brace from debutant Giacomo Bulgarelli secured the win that avoided the Group Two wooden spoon. Surely things couldn’t get any worse…?
|31-May-62||West Germany||0-0||Italy||Group 2|
The Azzurri only had to play a single two-legged tie against Israel to qualify for the tournament after Romania withdrew from European Group Seven. They came through 10-2 on aggregate.
The Italy squad that travelled to Chile was deeply inexperienced. Only goalkeeper Lorenzo Buffon had more than 10 caps and 13 of the 22 players had made two, or less, appearances for the Azzurri.
The goalless draw with West Germany marked the first time in 15 World Cup games that Italy had failed to score.