National Team Statistics: Italy

Italian Team History:

The Italian team, The Azzurri, is one of the most successful sides in international football history.  They have been crowned World Champions on four separate occasions, second only to Brazil, and have been European Champions once in 1968.  Instantly recognisable in their bright blue home kit, the Italians have provided the world with a number of stellar players and great memories.

The Azzurri played their first competitive match in 1910 when they lined up against France in Milan.  The Italians made a successful start to their international career trouncing the French by six goals goals to two.  A Bronze medal would follow eighteen years later at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics but the Italians would not make a major impact on a world stage until the 1934 World Cup finals held in Italy.  The Italians didn’t attend the inaugural finals and coached by Vittorio Pozzo the Italians progressed through to the final at the first time of asking.  They defeated European rivals Czechoslovakia by two goals to one to lift their first title.  In 1938, at the World Cup held in France, The Azzurri became the first team to successfully defend their World title.  Once again coached by Pozzo and inspired by legend Guiseppe Meazza the Italians progressed through the rounds to a second successive final.  In their semi-final against Brazil, the South Americans were guilty of over confidence and rested their star player Leonidas.  The Italians capitalised and set up a final with Hungary and carrying that momentum through they ran out winners 4-2 to confirm their superiority in World football during the 1930s where they also won gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

After the Second World War, Italian football fell into a rut.  The team qualified for the finals in 1950, 1954 and 1962 but didn’t progress past the first round and even failed to qualify in 1958.  It was a similar story of failure in the European Championships when the Azzurri was eliminated in the second round by the USSR.  In the 1966 finals in England, despite finally progressing past round one in a World Cup finals, they suffered one of the most embarrassing and shocking results in their history.  In the quarter finals they succumbed to a solitary goal from North Korea’s Pak Doo-Ik.  It was  result that stunned the world and caused nationwide condemnation when the Italians returned home.

In 1968, thirty years after their last international success, the Italians took the 1968 European Championship, which was also held in Italy.  In the final they were held to a draw by Yugoslavia and had to replay because penalties were yet to be introduced.  In the replay Italy emerged victorious by two goals to nil and claimed their first European title.  In the 1970 World Cup finals the Italians progressed through to the final after overcoming West Germany in the semifinal, a match considered by many to be the greatest of all World Cup matches.  The scores stood at one all after ninety minutes and then an incredible five goals were scored in the subsequent thirty minutes.  Mueller gave Germany the lead after 94 minutes but two goals in ten minutes gave Italy the lead at half time in extra time.  Mueller scored again to level the game but whilst replays of the German goal were being shown Gianni Rivera volleyed home a winner to put Italy through to yet another final.  Unfortunately in the final they would meet the greatest team, Brazil 1970, to have ever played the game.  The final was a contrast of the attacking skill of the Brazilians and the stalwart defence of the Italians.  In a match that would delight the purists the Italians were crushed by four goals to one as Brazil produced a level of football that will never be forgotten.

Another lull followed, a period that lasted eight years, where once again the Italians struggled and failed to progress  to the latter rounds but a revival was staged when the Italians finished third in the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and in the 1980 European Championships.  These two performances provided the platform for Italy’s third World Cup victory in Spain in 1982.  Paulo Rossi became a star and achieved redemption after being embroiled in a match fixing scandal and banned.  Interestingly, Rossi hadn’t scored until the final second round match against Brazil where he scored a hat trick to stun the South Americans.  A brace against Poland followed and another goal in the final took Rossi to the golden boot and helped Italy to a 3-1 victory against West Germany and a third title belonged to the Italians.

It wasn’t until the 2006 World Cup finals that Italy would win another international title.  Despite a twenty four year period without success, it was by no means a disaster.  The Italians figured strongly at a number of tournaments.  In 1990, in Italy, the highly fancied hosts finished third and went one place better in 1994, losing once again to Brazil.  In the ’94 tournament, the Azzurri was inspired by “the divine ponytail” of Roberto Baggio who led them through the tournament only to stumble at the final hurdle.  It was Baggio who missed the deciding penalty in the final shoot out.  The image of a dismayed Baggio staring at the penalty spot is one of the most iconic images in finals history.  Group stage failure followed at Euro ’96 and elimination by eventual winners France in 1998 at the quarter final stage. At Euro 2000, the Azzurri were within seconds of winning a second European title.  In the semi’s they had overcome co-hosts the Netherlands by virtue of the Dutch missing five out of six penalties, two during the match and three in the penalty shoot out.  Alessandro Delvecchio gave the Italian’s the lead early in the second half and then the Azzurri did what they do best for the remainder of the half: defend.  Four minutes into injury time, France’s Sylvain Wiltord grabbed a late equaliser to take the match into extra time.  France, the reigning World Champions, further underlined their status as world number one as David Trezeguet struck a “golden goal” to crown the French as European Champions.  In 2002 the Italian’s were eliminated in controversial circumstances and dubious refereeing decisions cost them in their second round match against hosts South Korea, although Christian Vieri missing an absolute sitter in the final minutes of regulation time cost the favourites dear.  Failure followed at Euro 2004 but in Germany in 2006 the Azzurri rose to the top once again.  Coming through a tough group the Italian’s scraped through the round of sixteen thanks to a 95th minute Francesco Totti penalty against Australia.  The quarter final against the Ukraine was a formality and set up a semi final against the hosts Germany.  The game was left undecided until Italy scored two late goals in extra time to see them through to the final.    The final will always be synonymous with the sending off of Zinedine Zidane in his final match but it was Italy that would triumph 5-4 on penalties after the game finished one goal each after extra time.  It was Italy’s fourth crown that placed them one closer to Brazil at the top of the title standings.  They were unable to repeat France’s accomplishment of 1998 and 2000 as the Italian team crashed out in the quarter finals beaten by eventual winners Spain.  The Italian’s could take some glimmer of consolation in the fact that they were the only team to stop the Spanish from scoring during the finals as they were defeated on penalties after extra time.

Current Squad: 

Number Name Club DOB Caps (goals) Debut
1 Gianluigi Buffon Juventus January 28, 1978 (age 30) 86 (0) v Russia, 29 October 1997
14 Marco Amelia Palermo April 2, 1982 (age 26) 6 (0) v Ivory Coast, 16 November 2005
- Daniele Bonera Milan May 31, 1981 (age 27) 13 (0) v Morocco, 5 September 2001
3 Fabio Grosso Lyon November 28, 1977 (age 30) 35 (3) v Switzerland, 30 April 2003
4 Giorgio Chiellini Juventus August 14, 1984 (age 24) 13 (1) v Finland, 17 November 2004
- Marco Cassetti Roma May 29, 1977 (age 31) 3 (0) v Iceland, 30 March 2005
6 Andrea Barzagli Wolfsburg May 8, 1981 (age 27) 23 (0) v Finland, 17 November 2004
19 Gianluca Zambrotta Milan February 19, 1977 (age 31) 75 (2) v Norway, 10 February 1999
- Andrea Dossena Liverpool September 11, 1981 (age 26) 1 (0) v South Africa, 17 October 2007
8 Gennaro Gattuso Milan January 9, 1978 (age 30) 60 (1) v Sweden, 23 February 2000
10 Daniele De Rossi Roma July 24, 1983 (age 25) 36 (5) v Norway, 4 September 2004
- Angelo Palombo Sampdoria September 25, 1981 (age 26) 4 (0) v Croatia, 16 August 2006
16 Mauro Camoranesi Juventus October 4, 1976 (age 31) 39 (4) v Portugal, 12 February 2003
20 Simone Perrotta Roma September 17, 1977 (age 30) 44 (2) v Turkey, 20 November 2002
21 Andrea Pirlo Milan May 19, 1979 (age 29) 49 (7) v Azerbaijan, 7 September 2002
22 Alberto Aquilani Roma July 7, 1984 (age 24) 7 (0) v Turkey, 15 November 2006
7 Alessandro Del Piero Juventus November 9, 1974 (age 33) 89 (27) v Estonia, 25 March 1995
- Alberto Gilardino Fiorentina July 5, 1982 (age 26) 25 (9) v Norway, 4 September 2004
11 Antonio Di Natale Udinese October 13, 1977 (age 30) 20 (7) v Turkey, 20 November 2002
- Vincenzo Iaquinta Juventus November 21, 1979 (age 28) 23 (1) v Iceland, 30 March 2005

Nickname: The Azzurri
Most Appearances:  Paulo Maldini, 126 caps
Leading Goalscorer: Luigi Riva 42 caps, 35 goals
World Ranking:
3 World Cup Performances, 16 appearances, Winners four times: 1934, 1938, 1982 & 2006
UEFA European Championships Performances:
7 appearances, winner 1968
Italian Legends:
Paulo Maldini: 126 caps, 7 goals, 1988-2002
Roberto Baggio: 56 caps, 27 goals, 1988-2004
Giuseppe Meazza: 53 caps, 33 goals, 1930-1939

Former Managers:
Vittoro Pozzo: 1924 & 1929-1948
Enzo Bearzot: 1975-1986

Future Stars:
Danielle De Rossi (Roma) 24/07/83
Guisseppe Rossi: (Villareal) 01/02/87

Current Manager:
Marcelo Lippi: 2nd time as manager
Current Stars:
Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus) 89 caps, 27 goals
Andrea Pirlo (AC Milan) 49 caps, 7 goals
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) 86 caps, 0 goals
Latest Results: Italy 2 (Stranzl o.g, Ozcan o.g) Austria 2 (Pogatezt, Janko)
Upcoming fixtures: 06/09/08 Cyprus v Italy, World Cup Qualifier.

It was in 1966 that the England team finally made their mark on the world stage.  The 1966 finals were held in England and despite the tournament being negative in terms of defensive football and fouling tactics designed to stop the world’s best players.  England was under the leadership of Alf Ramsey, who would go onto to be England’s most successful coach.  Ramsey had taken over the role in 1963 and was determined to turn a talented bunch of players into world champions.  Captained by Bobby Moore and inspired by Bobby Charlton, England recovered from a slow start to set up a final meeting with West Germany.  On route to the final, a quarter final clash with Argentina was memorable for the sending off of Argentine Captain Antonio Rattin.  Rattin was sent off because of the way he looked at the referee and then refused to leave the field of play.  At the end of the match, England coach, Alf Ramsey labelled the Argentines “Animals,” a comment that has never been forgotten in the South American country. 

The 1966 final is one of the most memorable to date that seesawed during the ninety minutes.  The Germans took the lead to be pegged back by England’s Geoff Hurst.  Martin Peters scored to give England a late lead only for Germany to grab a last gasp equaliser and send the game to extra time.  It was in the extra thirty minutes that the final has become so memorable.  England’s third goal is amongst the most disputed in football history.  Hurst struck a ball towards goal that hit the cross bar and bounced down onto the line.  England celebrated, the Germans cleared the ball away and the referee consulted his linesman Tokif Bakrhamov, who declared that the ball had indeed crossed the line.  Replays have since shown that the Germans were correct but the goal stood.  Hurst then wrote his and England’s name into the record books by scoring his third, the only man to score a final hat trick, England’s fourth and the England team became World Champions for the first time in their history.