Enzo Bearzot’s 1982 group picked up the Azzurri’s third world crown. Dave Taylor thinks back to that glorious summer in Spain.
Two years before the 1982 World Cup it seemed Paolo Rossi’s career was all but over. He had been suspended for three years for his part in an alleged betting scandal and was due to miss the Finals. Rossi then appealed and saw the ban reduced to two years just before leaving for Spain.
Born in Prato near Florence, he first played for his hometown’s junior side before moving to Juventus. From there he was loaned to Como and promptly sold to Vicenza for £3m in 1976. In his first season his 21 goals helped the club into Serie A. The following year Rossi became Capocannoniere, scoring 24 goals as Vicenza finished second. It was in that summer that Rossi starred for Italy at Argentina ‘78. Back on the domestic front, Vicenza were relegated and Rossi moved to Perugia on loan for the 1979-80 season. It was after Perugia’s game with Avellino in 1980 that he was accused of taking a bribe, even though he scored both goals in the 2-2 draw. While under suspension Juventus bought him back for £500,000 and he soon repaid their faith.
In his four seasons with the Old Lady, he helped them win the European Cup, the Cup-Winners’ Cup, two Serie A titles and a Coppa Italia. However, it was with Italy that he really came to the fore with his excellent displays in the 1982 success. Less than three months after ending his suspension he became the hero of Italy as his goals propelled the Azzurri into the World Cup Final.
He scored three goals in the vital qualifying game against Brazil before notching two in the semi-finals against Poland and the opener in the Final. His six goals made Rossi the tournament’s leading scorer and completed a remarkable comeback for one of the most effective forwards of the decade.
Bearzot took over the Azzurri reigns in October 1977 and set about changing the previous philosophy of catenaccio. Initially Bearzot’s efforts brought nothing except criticism, but he persevered and the end product saw them finish fourth in the 1978 World Cup. His addition of the English assets of application, bravery and physical strength to the Italian spirit and ball-playing skills formed a team good enough to win the World Cup in 1982.
The semi-final between West Germany and France became the first World Cup match to be decided on penalties. It also saw the most brutal and cynical foul ever televised. In the second half French substitute Patrick Battiston went clear after a pass from Michel Platini. Ignoring the oncoming German goalkeeper, he slipped the ball past Harald Schumacher but wasn’t around to see it hit the post.
Making no attempt to win the ball, Schumacher hacked down the Frenchman with a forearm smash into his face. The German ‘keeper showed no remorse as Battiston lay unconscious minus three teeth. Schumacher was not even booked. It should have been a penalty at the very least but the referee awarded the Germans a goal kick. Schumacher stayed on the pitch and inspired the Germans to an undeserved victory as he saved one of the penalties.
Poland were one of the fancied nations in the 1982 Finals and their star player was midfielder Zibi Boniek. His tireless running and utter commitment was highlighted in the second round against Belgium, where he scored a magnificent hat-trick. He was suspended for the semi-final against Italy but back to his best for the third and fourth place play-off in which Poland beat France. Juventus snapped him up after the Finals and he took his place alongside other World Cup giants like Michel Platini and Paolo Rossi to develop a formidable forward line.
In the 24th minute of Italy’s Group C match against Brazil, Cerezo received a ball and passed it to a knot of Brazilians, including Torino’s Junior in midfield. The Brazilian ace tried to control it but Rossi, like quicksilver, robbed him and tore off downfield leaving bemused Selecao defenders in his dust. As he reached the edge of the area he let fly a fierce right-footed volley that zoomed past Vladir Peres and put Italy in the driving seat.
Italy 3-1 West Germany
Rossi 57 (I), Breitner 83 (WG), Tardelli 68 (I), Altobelli 81 (I)
Italy: Zoff; Gentile, Bergomi, Scirea, Cabrini; Collovati, Tardelli, Oriali, Conti; Graziani (Altobelli, Causio), Rossi
West Germany: Schumacher; B Förster, Briegel, Kaltz, K H Förster, Stielike; Breitner, Dremmler (Hrubesch), Fischer, Littbarski; Rummenigge (Muller)
Ref: Coelho (Brazil)
The first 45 minutes of this Final saw both sides stuttering as they reached half time goalless after Italy had missed a spot-kick through Antonio Cabrini. The Italians piled on the pressure in the second half and after 10 minutes Claudio Gentile’s low cross was converted by Paolo Rossi to open up the scoring. Italy then took control. Marco Tardelli netted the second 10 minutes later with an angled drive. Towards the end Conti went on a run down the right flank and passed to Altobelli who calmly slipped it past Schumacher. Three minutes later Germany got their solitary goal in return through Paul Breitner, but it proved fruitless and Italy were crowned world champions for the third time.