Italian progress: Runners-up
Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. The Azzurri had not gone beyond the group stage for 32 years before they returned from Mexico ’70 as World Cup runners-up.
Remarkably it had been 32 years since Italy had progressed beyond the group stage of the tournament. Sweden – the first team to defeat them at the World Cup – were beaten by a fortuitous Angelo Domenghini goal before an intriguing encounter with Uruguay – fellow two-time winners. Alas, the football did not live up to the billing and it ended 0-0, meaning the Azzurri just had outsiders Israel to overcome. It was a nervy and defensive display but a goalless draw assured a quarter-final spot for the reigning champions of Europe.
Italy came alive in the knock-out stages. The host nation were despatched 4-1, after taking an early lead through Jose Luis Gonzalez. Domenghini levelled, although heavily deflected off Mexico’s Gustavo Peña, but the second half introduction of Gianni Rivera turned the game. The Milan talisman lifted the Azzurri and Luigi Riva put them ahead after the hour. Rivera added a third before feeding Riva for the fourth.
What came next in the semi-final with West Germany was so spectacular it earned the nickname ‘The Game of the Century’ – a moniker marked with a plaque at Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium. The action in regulation time was fairly forgettable. Roberto Boninsegna scored after seven minutes and the Azzurri then defended their lead. However, two minutes into injury time, Milan defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger grabbed an equaliser and set up an amazing half hour of extra-time.
Gerd Müller struck within five minutes of the restart to give the 1966 runners-up the lead but Tarcisio Burgnich quickly equalised and before the interval Riva had restored the advantage. The Germans were not to be beaten though and Müller grabbed another leveller – his tenth of the tournament. Rivera had failed to clear Müller’s effort and received a verbal blast from ‘keeper Albertosi, which had the desired effect as moments later his pass for Boninsegna was returned to him to bag the game’s seventh and Italy’s winner.
That would be the end of the heroics though as Brazil ran rampant in the Final. A goal each from Pele and Boninsegna made it 1-1 at the break but in the second 45 the South Americans put on a master-class with Gerson, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto rounding off a 4-1 triumph for the Seleçao.
|16||M||Giancarlo De Sisti||6|
Roberto Rosato became the first Italian to come on as a substitute in a World Cup Finals match when he replaced Comunardo Niccolai after 37 minutes of the opener against Sweden.
There was no provision for penalties in 1970 so had the semi-final with West Germany ended level lots would have been drawn to determine who went to the Final.
As Italy and Brazil were chasing a third victory the winners were promised permanent ownership of the Jules Rimet Trophy. In 1983 it was stolen in Rio De Janeiro and has never been seen again.