From the gist of an article that I did for sportsfreak during the World Cup four years ago, following are the scoring moments of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) games in men’s World Cup football history: The match between Italy and Brazil from the three-team group elimination stage, which functioned in essence as a series of quarter finals, from World Cup Mundial number eleven, Spain 1982 (and the first finals that New Zealand ever qualified for of course).
Italy topped the above group, the archetypal Group of Death with Brazil and Argentina. They then defeated Poland and West Germany to become champions.
Played at the now-demolished Sarria stadium (the old home of the city of Barcelona’s second team, Espanyol), the comparatively smallish ground lay more or less smack in the middle of a surburban neighbourhood and was packed to capacity for Italy versus Brazil. The Brazilians just required a draw to progress to the semis, but only a victory would do for the Italians to go through at their expense.
This match set Espana ‘82 alight and was an encounter of such thrust, counter-thrust and overall quality that the old TV2 here in New Zealand decided to replace its nightly highlights package and instead screen a replay of the match in full- a practically unheard of happening in those days- basically only the semis and final and a couple of other selected games were shown live on state TV. Now if that isn’t a good yardstick on the enduring quality of the match, then I don’t know what is.
You can naturally find all the drama on the YouTube highlights, but just to paint a picture of Italy’s marvellous 3-2 victory over the best side that never made it to the last stages of a World Cup, here is a brief rundown of the scoring action…
A tracer bullet of a header from Paolo Rossi put Italy ahead after only five minutes; a pulverising run down the left and whipped in cross from the great left fullback and predecessor of Paolo Maldini, Antonio Cabrini set up the goal. The Brazilian marking being non-existent on Rossi.
There was little time to draw breath however as Brazil came back just seven minutes later with an even better goal. Delicious inter-passing with Zico at the forefront put Socrates clear in the inside-right channel. He dragged the great Dino Zoff wide of his goal before firing in low from a tight angle.1-1.
The match was still being played out reasonably tightly before the glorious openness and uncertainty of the second half took hold, when after twenty-five minutes the usually solid and skilful Brazilian centre-back Cerezo made a horrendous pass out of defence straight to the predator Rossi, who needed no second invitations and lashed a shot past the stationary Waldir Peres in goal (who wasn’t very good anyway).
2-1 to Italy at halftime with Brazil under the hammer for the first time in the tournament. And how they responded. The Italians spent the next twenty minutes basically chasing shadows as their samba passing game exploded in full majesty. Superb covering from the faultless sweeper Scirea and the teenaged Bergomi thrawted most of the attacks before they threatened Zoff in goal and with Conti and Tardelli not pausing for breath in he midfield, the Brazilians were beginning to look a bit panic-stricken until the venomous left peg of Falcao fired one past Zoff’s right hand from the edge of the penalty area in the sixty-eighth minute. 2-2.
Surely now the Italians would have nothing left to come back with now one thought; after all their ceaseless second half chasing in attempting to contain the marauding Brazilians.
Wrong. The Italians rallied and set up camp in Brazil’s half. In the seventy-fourth minute a corner was swung in from the right-wing. It wasn’t cleared properly and the ubiquitous poacher Rossi stole in, poked the ball through a crowd of player in the six-yard box and Italy were on their way to the semi-finals, 3-2. Rossi had a hat-trick and personal redemption after a two-year ban for being implicated in a betting scandal:
Italy had another from Antognoni wrongly disallowed for offside before Zoff had to make the save of the tournament in practically the final minute, clawing a header from Oscar down from behind him and somehow managing to hang onto the ball at the same time.Truly a save for the ages.
So with Argentina probably laughing behind their backs, the Brazilians were packed off and out of World Cup ‘82 by an Italian team that took on an opposition with a raft of footballing gods within their midst, and won. I know I’ll never forget it…brilliant, brilliant stuff out of a generally insipid decade in world football.
Something to contemplate: It will be just plain weird not having Italy at this World Cup. People will probably look at their game guide and suddenly wonder if the printing company maybe forgot to insert the Azzuri. They are four-time champions, after all (along with Germany).Only Brazil are more fabled, with five.
*There was also no small matter of, I think, the best-ever World Cup semi between France and West Germany, around a week after the aforementioned Brazil vs Italy. This match also being a right royal contender for the G.M.O.A.T. at World Cups.
Some say perhaps the number one was the semi-final of Mexico, 1970, when Italy and West Germany played out a hectic extra-time. I’d be tempted to plump for the 1954 Final as possibly the best of all, when the amazing ‘Mighty Magyars’ of Hungary were defeated. A very good film, ‘the Miracle of Bern’ (2003) immortalised this victory by the Germans. The 1966 Final certainly wasn’t bad, either.There was also a brilliant and somewhat brutal semi-final from 1954 between the Hungarians and the defending champions, Uruguay. It’s difficult. (A man named McCabe might know).
Communicate with me, Paul Montague: firstname.lastname@example.org (and more than happy to have a yak with any of you who read my guff and would like to chat about football. Can fire my Skype address to you, just let me know on email)- I doubt I’ll get much in the way of football talk from my wife, whose exact words upon opening the page of the World Cup in the Sky Sport Guide the other night, were, ‘Oh god, it’s actually on for a whole month, aaargh!’