World Cup Quarter-Finals: three unforgettable Italy games

Italy may not have made it to Qatar but they have written famous chapters in the history of international football’s biggest tournament. In the third part of his series, Giancarlo Rinaldi looks back at some legendary quarter-final clashes.

Italy 1-0 Spain (1934)

In this television age it is hard to contemplate but this was the game so good they played it twice. En route to lifting the trophy for the first time on home soil, the Azzurri needed two attempts to get past their visitors in Florence. Having been impossible to separate on Thursday, the two exhausted teams did it all again on Friday. Imagine trying to sell that one to today’s pampered players.

Luis Regueiro had threatened to spoil the Italian party in the first tie when he opened the scoring after half an hour but Giovanni Ferrari ensured they would not suffer elimination. The teams were so closely matched that they could not be split by extra time which meant they would have to do it all again just 24 hours later.

Vittorio Pozzo made only four changes to his side while his opposite number swapped seven – most notably legendary goalkeeper and skipper Ricardo Zamora having to drop out for the second game. It was another close encounter but when Giuseppe Meazza opened the scoring after 12 minutes, the visitors could find no reply. Italy were on their way to the semi-finals and it had only taken more than three and a half hours of football to ensure the privilege.


Italy 3-2 Brazil (1982)

Not strictly speaking a quarter-final due to the tournament format this game was, nonetheless, effectively a showdown for a place in the semi-finals. Having both beaten Argentina, Brazil were in the driving seat with goal difference in their favour meaning even a draw would put them through. It produced one of the greatest games in the history of the tournament.

Enzo Bearzot’s men had looked lacklustre in the group stages but had started to show signs of life and this would be the game where Paolo Rossi would burst into form. He opened the scoring when he popped up at the back post to nod home a header but the game was soon level when Socrates beat Dino Zoff at his near post. That should have settled Tele Santana’s side but, instead, Rossi pounced on a defensive error to make it 2-1.

It took Brazil longer to respond this time but Falcao eventually equalised and his celebrations showed what it meant to a team well-fancied to win the competition. That should have been the end of the story but Rossi had other ideas and he clinched a hat-trick with a close-range shot that put Italy back on top.

There was time for Giancarlo Antognoni to have a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside and Zoff to produce some goalline heroics before the final whistle blew to complete one of the greatest encounters ever witnessed at a World Cup.


Italy 2-1 Spain (1994)

Arrigo Sacchi’s men only seemed to produce epic clashes and this was yet another one. Having edged past Nigeria in the last 16 this was another late show to make it through to the final four. Nerve jangling appeared to be the order of the day whenever this Italy team was in action.

It was the other Baggio, Dino, who put the Azzurri in the lead with an absolute thunderbolt having been set up by some good preparatory work from Roberto Donadoni. However, this was a strong Spanish side with plenty of character and it was no surprise when Jose Luis Caminero thumped home an equaliser – with the aid of a deflection – with about an hour gone. Once again, the Italians would have to dig deep if they hoped to stay in the tournament.

There was only one man who could help them in their hour of need and when a brave Beppe Signori sent Roberto Baggio clear with only a couple of minutes to go there was only ever going to be one outcome. He calmly rounded Andoni Zubizarreta and then shot home from an ever-narrowing angle. Mauro Tassotti was lucky to stay on the pitch for an elbow which left Luis Enrique with a bloody nose in the closing stages but the roller-coaster journey of the Italians in the USA would still have another couple of chapters to write.


One Comment on “World Cup Quarter-Finals: three unforgettable Italy games”

  1. Where was Beppe Signori in the final and he should have taken a penalty, if Zola was also playing it could have been different.

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