Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. By the end of Spain 1982, the Azzurri seamstress had stitched a third star on to their jersey after the heroics of Paolo Rossi and Co.
In contrast to 1978 the Azzurri had a slow start, not exerting too much energy against their Group One opponents. Based in Vigo, they began with a 0-0 draw against Poland that saw Rossi back in the side after his two-year Totonero ban. Against Peru they fared little better. Bruno Conti gave them an early lead but an ineffective Rossi was replaced in the second half and Ruben Diaz grabbed an equaliser in the dying minutes. A draw was enough against Cameroon – Italy’s first African opponents – but the tie, which saw Gregoire Mbida instantly equalise Francesco Graziani’s opener, did not instil confidence.
The second phase saw a three-team round-robin with both Brazil and Argentina – an ominous challenge. It was the third tournament in succession that they faced Argentina and again they came through unbeaten. Claudio Gentile kept Diego Maradona in his back-pocket, by fair means and foul, while second-half goals from Marco Tardelli and Antonio Cabrini put Italy on track.
Brazil beat Argentina by one goal more than Italy so needed just a draw to reach the semis. Requiring a win, it was fortunate that Rossi finally came alive. Early on he headed the Azzurri in front, before Socrates levelled the see-saw tie. Rossi restored the lead, but Roma midfielder Falcão equalled again with 22 minutes left to put Brazil back on course. Finally the revitalised Rossi completed his treble and sent Italy though.
Pablito maintained his remarkable form with two goals against Poland in the semi-final and a fourth appearance in the Final was booked. Bearzot’s boys were the favourites but suffered some early body blows. Midfielder Giancarlo Antognoni was injured and Graziani went off with a hurt shoulder in the opening minutes. Before the break Cabrini missed a penalty and Italians everywhere feared it was not their day. However, just before the hour Rossi bagged his sixth of the event. Ten minutes later Tardelli got the second, before embarking on his eye-bulging celebration, and then Alessandro Altobelli scored with nine minutes to go. Paul Breitner pulled one back but by then the Azzurri seamstress had stitched a third star on their jersey.
Rossi’s hat-trick was the first by an Italian player at the World Cup Finals since Schiavio’s in their first game back in 1934.
Cabrini became the first man to miss a penalty in a World Cup Final. Johan Neeskens and Breitner had both converted in the 1974 Final between Holland and West Germany.
Zoff was the second goalkeeper to captain a World Cup winning side – after Combi in 1934. He was also the oldest ever World Cup winning skipper.