Italian progress: Quarter-finals
Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. Cesare Maldini’s bread and salami football had replaced Arrigo Sacchi’s nouvelle cuisine, but France ’98 still left a bitter taste in the mouth for the Azzurri.
Under the guidance of Cesare Maldini, himself a competitor for the Azzurri in 1962, Italy were eager to erase memories of their wretched showing at the 1996 European Championship. However, they looked set to record a second consecutive opening match defeat when a brace from Chile’s Marcelo Salas cancelled out Christian Vieri’s early strike. Fast forward to the 85th minute and the Azzurri won a penalty, up stepped Roberto Baggio to exorcise the demons that had tormented him for four years.
A confident 3-0 win over Cameroon eased concerns, and proved Vieri was perhaps worth the £12m Atletico Madrid had paid for him. Another goal each for Vieri and Baggio against Austria secured the top of Group B but Maldini was giving himself a selection headache by persisting with Alessandro Del Piero over Baggio.
ADP played the knock-out match against Norway, settled by another Vieri strike, and started the quarter-final with hosts France. However, by the 67th minute Maldini finally decided to throw on his aging magician and in extra-time he showed exactly the kind of sublime ability that may have benefited the Azzurri earlier in the game. Demetrio Albertini dinked the ball into the penalty area and Baggio, eluding Marcel Desailly, wrapped his foot around the ball and volleyed agonisingly wide of the far post. French ‘keeper Fabien Barthez was beaten and the strike would have been a match-ending Golden Goal.
No winner could be found in the added period and Italy again faced a shoot-out to determine their fate. Once again, Lady Luck turned her back and after just two misses, from France’s Bixente Lizarazu and Albertini, the responsibility fell to Luigi Di Biagio to keep Italy involved. The balding midfielder rattled his shot against the bar and elimination came from the spot-kick scenario for the third edition in a row.
|27-Jun-98||Italy||1-0||Norway||Round of 16|
|(3-4 on pens)|
|14||M||Luigi Di Biagio||5||1|
|15||M||Angelo Di Livio||4|
|16||M||Roberto Di Matteo||2|
|10||A||Alessandro Del Piero||4|
Italy required a play-off with Russia to reach the Finals. A 1-1 draw in Moscow, which marked Gigi Buffon’s debut, was followed by a 1-0 win in Naples – secured by a Pierluigi Casiraghi goal.
Coach Maldini and captain Paolo Maldini became the first father and son combination at a World Cup tournament.
Baggio’s goal against Austria was his ninth in World Cup history, matching the Italian record set by Rossi. Vieri also reached that total with his goals in 2002.