Italian progress: Round of 16
Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. The Azzurri held eventual champions Argentina in the group stages, but they couldn’t get past a Michel Platini inspired France once the knock-out phase began.
The holders had a similarly slow start to the 1986 event as they had four years previous although there was no energetic finish. Defeats to Norway, Poland and West Germany during the 1985-86 season did not bode well and the squad was a combination of veterans of 1982 and youngsters lacking World Cup experience.
Altobelli gave Italy the lead in their opener against Bulgaria but a late equaliser highlighted the Azzurri’s frailties. Next up was yet another meeting with Argentina, and again Italy avoided defeat. An early penalty, awarded for handball, was converted by Altobelli but Maradona soon found a leveller. That tie meant Italy needed a win over South Korea in their last game to ensure progress, but there was to be no upset. Altobelli opened the scoring and then missed a penalty before Choi Soon-ho’s equaliser caused just a few heart flutters. However, Spillo restored the lead and claimed his hat-trick before the end of the game – although FIFA later recorded the third as an own goal.
The fine football displayed against the Koreans suggested Italy were finding form at the right time again but fate handed them a knock-out stage tie with an equally confident France side – masterminded by Juventus wizard Michel Platini. The match pitched the reigning world champions against the current European champions but in truth it was a no contest. Creative spark Antonio Di Gennaro was left out and Giuseppe Baresi brought in to mark Platini, thus forcing a more defensive approach from Italy. Regardless, the French master opened the scoring and in truth it could have been 2-0 long before Yannick Stopyra confirmed the early exit for Bearzot’s side and a letter of resignation from the World Cup-winning Coach.
|10-Jun-86||South Korea||2-3||Italy||Group A|
|17-Jun-86||Italy||0-2||France||Round of 16|
|13||M||Fernando De Napoli||4|
|14||M||Antonio De Gennaro||4|
The 1986 tournament had originally been awarded to Colombia but in 1983 the South Americans announced that they could no longer afford to host the event.
Altobelli’s goals in the three group games meant he set a new Azzurri World Cup record by scoring in four consecutive games at the Finals.
The match against France marked the final appearance in Gaetano Scirea’s international career. The legendary sweeper bowed out with 78 caps and two goals.