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Italy’s National Football Team History

Italy's National Football Team

Italy's National Football Team

Italy will almost certainly be mentioned several times in any discussion of the world’s top footballing nations. Italy has four World Cup titles, tied with Germany, and is second only to Brazil (five) in tournament success. They also won the Olympic football tournament in 1936, as well as two European Championships in 1968 and 2020. Because of their traditional blue kits, they are known as Azzurri.

Before the World Cup in Qatar, where we will not see Italy due to their defeat in the UEFA qualifiers playoff match to North Macedonia, let us recall the most legendary national football teams that have ever competed in this most prestigious soccer tournament.

The Start And Early Success

Shortly after its founding in 1910, Italy organized its first official match against France. In front of 4,000 fans at Arena Civica, they won 6-2, with Pietro Lana scoring the game’s first goal. The team’s fans, who were pleased with their performance, rewarded the players with cigarette packets. Italy wore white jerseys for only two games; the following year, they switched to blue jerseys inspired by the royal House of Savoy crest on the national flag.

The team’s first notable accomplishment was finishing third in the Summer Olympics football tournament in 1928. Eight years later, they would win the competition, defeating Austria 2-1 in the final. Between these two appearances, they won the Central European International Cup twice. They were also invited to the first World Cup in 1930, but they declined.

World Cup Victory

Italy hosted the World Cup for the first time in 1934, marking their first appearance in the competition. This squad was led by the legendary Giuseppe Meazza, arguably the greatest Italian player of all time. Meazza was a prolific goalscorer and ball virtuoso, earning the nickname “Il Genio” from the Italian press. The team was coached by Vittorio Pozzo, who popularized a 2-3-2-3 formation with two half-backs and two inside forwards.

After defeating the United States 7-1 in their first World Cup match, Italy was set to face Spain. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, with the home team benefiting from several contentious decisions. In the rematch, Italy defeated Spain 1-0 thanks to a Meazza goal. They went on to win the World Cup on their debut, defeating Austria 1-0 in the semi-finals and Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the finals. Meazza was named the tournament’s top performer.

Because of the addition of the talented young striker Silvio Piola, many pundits believed that Italy’s squad at the 1938 World Cup was even stronger than the previous one. Italy proved them wrong by defeating Norway, France, Brazil, and Hungary on its way to winning its second World Cup in a row. According to rumors, the team received a telegram from Italian fascist Prime Minister Mussolini saying, “Win or die!” before the finals. However, this was never proven.

Recovery From Air Disaster

The 1938 World Cup was the last major tournament for 12 years due to WWII. However, a terrible disaster struck Italy one year before official national competitions resumed. The infamous Superga air disaster killed the entire Torino football team. This had a significant impact on Italy, as the Torino players were the lynchpin of the national team. Following this mishap, the team decided to travel by boat.

The Azzurri struggled to reestablish their previous dominance in the years that followed. They were unable to compete in the 1958 World Cup after failing to advance from the group stage in the 1950 and 1954 World Cups. Italy returned to the World Cup with more talented teams in 1962 and 1966, but they were eliminated in the group stage both times. Furthermore, in 1960 and 1964, the team failed to qualify for the first two European Championships.

European Champions

Italy finally broke out of this rut in 1968 when it won its first European Championship. After advancing through the qualifiers, Italy was chosen to host the final tournament. The match against the Soviet Union in the semi-finals ended in a 0-0 tie, with Italy winning on a coin toss. The final match against Yugoslavia was a draw, but Italy won the rematch 2-0 to win their first major trophy in 30 years.

This form continued into the 1970 World Cup. Italy advanced to the finals, led by offensive stars Gianni Rivera and Luigi Riva, but was defeated 1-4 by Brazil. The tournament’s semi-final against West Germany became known as the “Game of the Century.” Italy won the game 4-3 in extra time, with 5 of the 7 goals coming in the extra period and Rivera scoring the game-winning goal late in the game.

The Ascension and Descension

The Azzurri were eliminated from the 1974 World Cup group stage after a shock loss to Poland in the final group match. In 1972 and 1976, they also failed to qualify for the European Championships, causing outrage in the Italian press. Despite this, the arrival of a talented new generation of Italian players led by star striker Paolo Rossi brightened the future.

Their first opportunity to establish themselves came in 1978 when they won all three games in their group. They were the only team to defeat Argentina’s hosts and eventual champions.

However, a second-round loss to the Netherlands dashed their title hopes, with goalkeeper Dino Zoff bearing the brunt of the blame for being beaten by a 30-yard shot. Brazil defeated Italy in the third-place match.

Success and Disagreements

Italy would host it’s second European Championship two years later. This time, the final tournament featured eight teams divided into two groups. After defeating England and drawing with Spain and Belgium, Italy finished second and qualified for the third-place match. They were defeated 9-8 in a high-scoring penalty shootout by Czechoslovakia, with Fulvio Collovati missing the game-winning penalty.

The Totonero match-fixing scandal, which resulted in the suspension of numerous players, including Rossi, from the Italian league, hampered preparations for the 1982 World Cup. Rossi, on the other hand, returned to the national team just in time for the World Cup, which proved to be a huge boost to the team’s fortunes. Nonetheless, they advanced with three consecutive draws in their group-stage matches.

The Azzurri then imposed a press blackout, which improved the team’s mood. In the second round, they defeated Argentina (2-1) and Brazil (3-2), with Rossi scoring a hat-trick in the latter. He then scored twice against Poland in the semi-finals to propel Italy to the finals against West Germany. They won their third World Cup with a 3-1 victory. Rossi, predictably, won both the Golden Ball and the Golden Boot.

After failing to qualify for the Euro 1984, Italy’s next generation entered the 1986 World Cup with low expectations. This pessimistic forecast came true when France eliminated them in the round of 16. This underwhelming performance, however, sparked renewed interest in young talent. Players such as Paolo Maldini, Roberto Baggio, and Gianluca Vialli were introduced to the national team within the next two years.

This new team debuted at Euro 1988, where they were placed in a difficult group with West Germany, Spain, and Denmark. Italy held its own, drawing 1-1 with West Germany before going on to win the next two games. These performances propelled them to the semi-finals, but the experienced Soviet Union squad proved too strong to overcome. Italy was thus defeated 0-2 in a close match.

Baggio’s Hegemony

In 1990, Italy hosted its second World Cup. Salvatore Schillaci rose to prominence as a member of this Italian team. Despite initially being used as a substitute, Schillaci scored in six of the seven games he appeared in, earning him the tournament’s player of the year award. Italy advanced to the semi-finals before being eliminated by Argentina in a penalty shootout. They defeated England 2-1 in the third-place match.

Despite missing out on Euro 1992, most pundits thought Italy would do well in the 1994 World Cup. By this point, Roberto Baggio had fully established himself as one of the best players in the world, and many thought this would be his tournament. Italy, on the other hand, struggled in the group stage, losing to Ireland in the first round and barely making it to the knockout round. Baggio was virtually unrecognizable, and the majority of the public blame was directed at him.

Baggio and Italy rediscovered their form in the knockout stages, which was an unexpected turn of events. They defeated Nigeria, Spain, and Bulgaria on their way to the finals, with Baggio scoring five goals. However, he suffered a hamstring injury, forcing him to play the final match against Brazil while on painkillers. The game was eventually decided on penalties, with Baggio missing the final one to hand Brazil the championship.

Mixed Outcomes

In comparison, Italy performed poorly in the next two major tournaments. At Euro 1996, they were eliminated from a group that included eventual finalists Germany and the Czech Republic. They advanced to the World Cup quarterfinals in 1998 but were defeated by France in a penalty shootout. Their opponents won the entire tournament, similar to their previous performance.

Italy went to Euro 2000 with a strong squad that included rising star Francesco Totti as well as established big names like Alessandro Del Piero and Filippo “Pippo” Inzaghi. After winning all three games in their group, they defeated Romania and the Netherlands on their way to a rematch with France in the finals. Despite leading for most of the second half, France equalized in injury time and went on to win on Trezeguet’s golden goal.

This heartbreaking defeat was difficult to swallow for the Azzurri, who reverted to mediocrity. Despite being overwhelming favorites to win the 2002 World Cup, they were knocked out by hosts South Korea in the round of 16. Despite scoring 5 points in three games at Euro 2004, they failed to advance from their group. In a three-way tie, Sweden and Denmark advanced on goal difference.

A Victorious Return To The Podium

The Italian Football Federation appointed Marcello Lippi as the new manager as a result of the slump. Despite a 0-2 loss to Iceland in his first game as manager, he still qualified for the 2006 World Cup. By the time the group stages arrived, Italy was running like a well-oiled machine. They breezed through the group, winning twice against Ghana and the Czech Republic and drawing once against the United States.

Italy performed admirably in the knockout stages, particularly on defense. They won without conceding a goal against Australia, Ukraine, and Germany, setting up a rematch with France in the final match. This time, the finals were marred by controversy. Before the game went to penalties, Zinedine Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi. Italy won its fourth World Cup in a penalty shootout after Fabio Grosso scored with the tournament’s final shot.

Recent Occurrences

Italy struggled to regain its winning ways after this achievement. They were eliminated in the first round of the World Cups in 2010 and 2014, and they did not compete in the 2018 World Cup. On the other hand, their performances at the European Championships were a little more inspiring. The 2008 and 2014 Euros saw the Azzurri reach the quarterfinals before being penalized.

During this time period, their most successful performance was at Euro 2012. After escaping a difficult group that included Spain and Croatia, Italy defeated England on penalties. Then, in the semi-finals, they defeated Germany 2-0, with Mario Balotelli scoring both goals. The final game against Spain, on the other hand, was quite anticlimactic, as their opponents took an early lead and controlled the game on their way to a 4-0 rout.

Italy would win the European Championship for the second time in 2021. England was the opponent, and the final score after the regulation was 1-1, with no goals scored in overtime. Italy won three of five times after the penalty shootout, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma making two saves (a third England penalty was going in the post).

World Cup Victory

Italy hosted the World Cup for the first time in 1934, marking their first appearance in the competition. This squad was led by the legendary Giuseppe Meazza, arguably the greatest Italian player of all time. Meazza was a prolific goalscorer and ball virtuoso, earning the nickname “Il Genio” from the Italian press. The team was coached by Vittorio Pozzo, who popularized a 2-3-2-3 formation with two half-backs and two inside forwards.

After defeating the United States 7-1 in their first World Cup match, Italy was set to face Spain. The game ended in a 1-1 tie, with the home team benefiting from several contentious decisions. In the rematch, Italy defeated Spain 1-0 thanks to a Meazza goal. They went on to win the World Cup on their debut, defeating Austria 1-0 in the semi-finals and Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the finals. Meazza was declared the tournament winner.

Because of the addition of the talented young striker Silvio Piola, many pundits believed that Italy’s squad at the 1938 World Cup was even stronger than the previous one. Italy proved them wrong by defeating Norway, France, Brazil, and Hungary on its way to winning its second World Cup in a row. According to rumors, the team received a telegram from Italian fascist Prime Minister Mussolini saying, “Win or die!” before the finals. However, this was never proven.

Bonus: Interesting and Quick Soccer Facts About Italy

The History of Soccer in Italy

Because soccer originated in the United Kingdom, it is not surprising that the British introduced the game to the Italians. The sport was invented near the end of the nineteenth century, and the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio was established in 1898. However, Italy only participated in international competitions during Mussolini’s reign in the 1930s.

The Group Pack

National football teams have traditionally worn kits depicting their country’s flag, but this is different for the Italians. Their team uniform is blue and white with an Italian flag on the shirt, despite their flag is red, white, and green.

The top 20 soccer teams in Italy compete in Series A. This is the top professional soccer league in Italy. Juventus of Turin is the most dominant team in Serie A right now. A.C. Milan, Internazionale Milano, A.S. Roma, S.S. Lazio, and S.S.C. Napoli are their long-standing rivals.

Success in Italian Football

Historically, the Italian soccer team has consistently ranked high in comparison to other national teams from around the world, winning numerous awards. They won four World Cups: in 1934, 1938, 1982, and 2006. With these four victories, Italy has surpassed Brazil as the second most successful country in World Cup history.

Soccer is still the most popular sport in Italy today, with over four million people participating each year. Italians become extremely patriotic when their team plays because it is a part of their culture and history. Despite the fact that many sports are popular in Italy, soccer is by far the most popular. If you want to see the Italians play soccer, watch one of their televised matches, which are broadcast worldwide.

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