Italian progress: Group stage
Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. Despite a loss to the Soviet Union, Italy looked likely to reach the last eight in 1966 until North Korea had their say in the matter.
Inevitably the draw for 1966 threw Italy together with Chile again, this time though the rain that teemed down in Sunderland extinguished the fiery temperaments and Edmondo Fabbri’s side recorded a simple 2-0 win. Only Sandro Salvadore remained from the Italy XI who played in the bruising encounter in Santiago and the new recruits were fancied to do well. Goals from Sandro Mazzola and Paolo Barison sealed the win.
Despite their positive start, a change of tactics, dropping Gianni Rivera for the defensive Gianfranco Leoncini, saw a more cautious Azzurri face the Soviet Union. The USSR had won the inaugural European Championship in 1960, been runners-up in 1964 and had been to two consecutive World Cup quarter-finals. Despite the Azzurri’s stern rearguard they were unable to contain their strong, confident opponents and an Igor Chislenko strike left them needing a win over minnows North Korea in their last game.
Assistant coach Ferrucio Valcareggi likened the Asian underdogs to cinema’s silent era clown Ridolini but the joke was on Italy when the final whistle went in Middlesbrough. Rivera was brought back to help create the goals needed to progress, but the Azzurri – playing in an unfamiliar combination of blue shirts and black shorts – were in for a torrid and frustrating encounter. Matters were worsened when Bulgarelli tore knee ligaments making a rough tackle and had to go off. Then, just before the break Pak Doo-ik drilled in a shot past the outstretched arm of Enrico Albertosi and sealed Italy’s exit.
The squad flew back to Genoa under the cover of darkness but the tifosi were waiting and pelted them with rotten vegetables. Fabbri was sacked and such was the feeling of humiliation the FIGC banned the signing of foreign players by Italian clubs in the hope that a new generation of home-grown stars would be born.
|16-Jul-66||Soviet Union||1-0||Italy||Group 4|
|19-Jul-66||North Korea||1-0||Italy||Group 4|
Italy required a win over Scotland in their last qualifier to ensure their invite. A 3-0 win in Naples robbed the Tartan Army of the chance to gatecrash England’s party.
During the competition Italy were based at the unglamorous surroundings of Durham Agricultural College.
The ban on foreigners that resulted from Italy’s early exit meant that Portugal’s Eusebio, World Cup top scorer, was unable to complete his proposed transfer from Benfica to Roma.