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2002 - Hosts: South Korea & Japan - Winners: Brazil

Italian progress: Round of 16

Football Italia recounts Italy’s steps through the World Cup, tournament by tournament. Italy left World Cup 2002 cheated and abused, but Giovanni Trapattoni’s boys never really got going in a tournament that Brazil dominated.

Conspiracies and cover ups

Having only been robbed by France of the European Championship title in 2000 by late drama, Italy were rightfully confident that they could make a mark in the first World Cup on Asian soil. The opening game against Ecuador, settled by two Vieri goals, did nothing to dent those aspirations.

However, what followed was a tale of suspicion and controversy. Their 2-1 defeat to Croatia saw two good goals chalked off. First Christian Vieri was wrongly judged offside, shortly before opening the scoring, and then Filippo Inzaghi was harshly penalised for a foul as he poked in an injury-time leveller. Next dubious decisions went against them in the Mexico game. Both Inzaghi and Vincenzo Montella had goals disallowed for borderline offside and only a late strike from Del Piero helped the Azzurri avoid early elimination.

Italy had not played well and perhaps the tally of unfair decisions deflected attention from the real problems, but the knock-out game against co-hosts South Korea was not expected to produce a shock – despite the taunting banners proclaiming ‘Again 1966’. An early warning came with a fourth-minute penalty awarded to Korea, but Gigi Buffon saved from Ahn Jung-hwan and when Vieri headed in after 18 minutes it seemed unlikely that Italy would struggle. With just two minutes remaining, though, Seol Ki-hyeon pounced at a poorly defended corner and struck an equaliser. Immediately from the restart Vieri spurned a superb chance, one of several he wasted throughout the game, and consequently extra-time was needed.

Then came the moment that fuelled a thousand conspiracies, as yet another decision went against Italy. Francesco Totti’s run into the box was ended by a Song Chong-gug tackle, contact was made between the defender and Totti yet referee Byron Moreno – a good 25 yards behind play – raced over and brandished a second yellow to the Roman playmaker.

Extra-time rumbled on but with only 10 men Italy were forced into a more defensive style. There was still time, though, for another goal to be ruled out for offside, this time against Damiano Tommasi. Eventually, just three minutes from another shoot-out, Ahn headed in the Golden Goal winner. Italy went home making accusations of cheating from the officials, but in truth it was a weak Azzurri side and the perceived injustices offered a good cover for their own deficiencies.


03-Jun-02 Italy 2-0 Ecuador Group G
08-Jun-02 Italy 1-2 Croatia Group G
13-Jun-02 Mexico 1-1 Italy Group G
Group G Pts P W D L F A
Mexico 7 3 2 1 0 4 2
Italy 4 3 1 1 1 4 3
Croatia 3 3 1 0 2 2 3
Ecuador 3 3 1 0 2 2 4
18-Jun-02 South Korea 2-1 Italy Round of 16


No Pos Name Apps Gls
1 GK Gianluigi Buffon 4  
2 D Christian Panucci 4  
3 D Paolo Maldini 4  
4 D Francesco Coco 2  
5 D Fabio Cannavaro 3  
6 M Cristiano Zanetti 3  
7 A Alessandro Del Piero 3 1
8 M Gennaro Gattuso 2  
9 A Filippo Inzaghi 2  
10 A Francesco Totti 4  
11 M Cristiano Doni 2  
12 GK Christian Abbiati    
13 D Alessandro Nesta 3  
14 M Luigi Di Biagio 1  
15 D Mark Iuliano 1  
16 M Angelo Di Livio 2  
17 M Damiano Tommasi 4  
18 A Marco Delvecchio    
19 M Gianluca Zambrotta 4  
20 A Vincenzo Montella 1  
21 A Christian Vieri 4 4
22 GK Francesco Toldo    
23 D Marco Materazzi 1  
  Coach Giovanni Trapattoni    

Did you know?

Italy’s opening game against Ecuador marked the 600th official international match they had played since the first in 1910.

Pierluigi Collina became only the second Italian to referee a World Cup Final, following Sergio Gonella, who whistled the 1978 Final between Argentina and Holland.

Ahn Jung-hwan’s goal against Italy reportedly cost him his Serie A job as Perugia President Luciano Gaucci fired him for ‘betraying Italy’. In truth though he was only ever on loan at the Grifoni.