Former Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff has stated that his nation are one of the favourites to win Euro 2012.
The Azzurri have had a troubled build-up to the competition in Ukraine and Poland, with a betting scandal once more bringing controversy to the game in the country.
Despite this and a 3-0 defeat to Russia in their final friendly before the competition started, the 70-year-old feels Cesare Prandelli’s men can spring a surprise or two.
“Italy are much more than outsiders, as I’d put them among the top four favourites,” he told Radio Mana Mana.
“Everyone seems to think Spain or Germany are the favourites, but I say we’re in there too.
“The Azzurri have a balanced group, but they can get through to the next round.”
Much has been made of Italy’s tactics, with the side expected to change to a 3-5-2 formation against Spain in their opener on Sunday; Zoff is in favour of this.
“I am not surprised by the change in tactics, as a good coach must be versatile and know how to adapt for the occasion based on the players he has.
“Compared to 2006 the squad is much less mature, as there are players like Mario Balotelli, Emanuele Giaccherini and others who are on their first really big European stage.
“It is certainly an advantage not to be at peak physical fitness right now, because it means we can only improve.
“Those who play in the Premier League could suffer fatigue more than the others. As for our pre-tournament friendlies, they are never played with the right determination and therefore are not reliable indicators,” he concluded.
Italians triumph in heavyweight rumble
Under a bright blue Spanish sky, the two best teams in the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™ - Italy and West Germany - played out a highly anticipated final and few of the millions to see the match came away disappointed. A second half outburst by the Italians saw them lift their first FIFA World Cup trophy since 1938, while the Germans would have to wait until Italy 90 to complete their trio of world championships.
Both sides boasted a plethora of talent in their ranks: Zoff, Bergomi, Gentile, Tardelli and a certain Paolo Rossi on the one side; Briegel, Breitner, Forster, Littbarski and Rummenigge on the other. Ninety thrilling, spectacular minutes of football beckoned.
Right from the start
The Squadra Azzura kicked off and immediately sought to impose their pace on the game. But their German opponents, coached by Jupp Derwall, created the first chance with only two minutes on the clock. Littbarski broke down the left and steered a diagonal pass to Klaus Fischer, who found Littbarski again with the return. The winger known as 'Litti' fired goalwards, but Italian goalkeeping legend Dino Zoff gathered easily enough.
German captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was in the thick of the action just a few minutes later, as he wriggled past Bergomi and Cabrini in the penalty area and drove in a shot on the turn, only to see the ball fly narrowly wide of Zoff's goal.
With five minutes on the clock, the Italian bench rose to their feet after a collision in midfield between Wolfgang Dremmler and Francesco Graziani. Graziani went down after a hefty shoulder-charge from the German strongman, and was unlucky to land on his right shoulder. Brazilian referee Arnaldo Coelho waved play on, and Germany put together a move down the left with the Italian striker still prone on the half-way line, his face etched with pain.
Graziani eventually pulled himself to his feet and struggled on for a couple of minutes, but he was obviously in trouble and Allesandro Altobelli came on for the injured front-man after just seven minutes.
After the furious opening exchanges, the game now settled, Germany trying their luck down the right a couple of times. But Littbarski and Rummenigge were unable to find a way past the Italian defence, expertly marshalled by Giuseppe Bergomi.
A quarter of an hour passed with neither side able to break the deadlock, the teams increasingly cancelling each other out in midfield and little of note taking place in front of goal. There was a nervous moment for German keeper Harald 'Toni' Schumacher in the 23rd minute, as Bernd Förster's attempted clearance whistled just over his own bar for a corner. Bruno Conti floated the set-piece over from the left, but the German defence stood firm.
Then Italy broke down the left. Altobelli centred into the box towards Conti, who was being closely marked by Briegel. Conti went down under Briegel's challenge, and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. The German players surrounded Mr Coelho, protesting the defender's innocence, but the penalty award stood.
Schumacher and Antonio Cabrini faced up - the German netminder visibly less tense than his opponent. Cabrini began his run-up, shot - and drove the ball just wide of the right-hand upright. Italy had spurned the opportunity to take the lead.
The first booking of an otherwise fair game up to this point went to Bruno Conti on 31 minutes, after a foul on Karl-Heinz Förster. This and the penalty miss were among the few incidents worthy of note in an otherwise fairly disappointing first half.
Both sides would need to show more adventure if they wanted to claim the FIFA World Cup trophy at the end of the game. The half-time whistle gave Italy coach Enzo Bearzot and his German counterpart Jupp Derwall 15 minutes to review their tactics for the remainder of the contest.
Proving who's boss
The second period opened with Rummenigge and Kaltz driving their side deep into the Italian half, seeking to up the attacking tempo. But all that resulted was a harmless free-kick from 20 metres, and gradually the Italian midfield took control of proceedings. Jupp Derwall's men sought to counter their opponents' technical superiority with physical strength, but the Squadra Azurra was not be to knocked out of its stride so easily. Building from the back, the Italians' neat short passing game spelled mounting danger for the German defence.
In the 57th minute, with the match becoming a shade scrappier, Stielike brought down Conti out on the left. The German defence was unable to clear the resulting free-kick far enough away from their own penalty area, and Conti took possession some 30 metres from goal.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge upended the striker from behind, and the referee awarded another free-kick. With the Germans still contesting the decision, Marco Tardelli took the award quickly, finding Claudio Gentile unmarked out on the right. Gentile crossed from the edge of the box, and although Alessandro Altobelli was unable to reach it, the moment had arrived for Paulo Rossi to demonstrate why he had earned a reputation as one of the best Italian strikers of all time. Arriving in exactly the right place at just the right time, he buried his header to put Italy 1-0 up. Again the Germans complained, this time for offside, but the goal stood and Italy were in front.
Germans open themselves up
Germany now had to attack to stay in with a chance of victory. Stielike urged his side forward, increasingly joining in his side's attacking moves. But much as Fischer, Rummenigge and Littbarski strove to create openings around the Italian area, the defence held firm and did enough to stifle the Germans' efforts.
Jupp Derwall had to react, and did so in the 62nd minute, bringing on a further striker in the shape of Horst Hrubesch, thus adding height and heading ability to the search for an equaliser. Hrubesch was in the thick of the action just a few minutes later, as his Hamburg team mate Manfred Kaltz drove over one of his famed outswinging crosses. The towering centre forward rose in front of Zoff, but was unable to direct his header.
The pace of the game had increased since Rossi's strike. On 69 minutes, Gaetano Scirea initiated another swift break from inside his own half of the field. On half way, he switched play to the right, where Altobelli joined in the move, advancing to the edge of the area before deceiving Briegel with a neat body-swerve. Rossi then picked up the ball, before glancing to his right and directing a low cross towards the onrushing Scirea. Scirea chose not to shoot, preferring a back-heel to Rossi, who had worked his way free inside the German penalty area. Rossi delivered a short lay-off, which Scirea picked up again, setting up Marco Tardelli 17 metres out in a central position. As he fell, Tardelli drove home into the bottom right corner, catching Toni Schumacher off balance and doubling Italy's lead in an instant.
In the VIP seats, even Italian head of state Alessandro Pertini, seated next to King Juan Carlos of Spain, jumped to his feet with delight. The second goal had the feel of a decider.
Italy have the fight
With only 20 minutes remaining, Germany now had to score twice to force the game into extra-time. Derwall made a further change, replacing his exhausted captain Rummenigge with the fresh legs of Hansi Müller in a last desperate throw of the dice. An element of niggle crept into the play, and Stielike was lucky to escape with only a yellow card after jostling the referee in the 73rd minute.
Germany badly needed a goal to get back into the game, but their attacking efforts were becoming increasingly desperate and devoid of shape. High punts into the box and speculative long-range drives were not enough to drag the two-times world champions back into the Final on the day.
Then, on 81 minutes, Italy put the result beyond doubt. Bruno Conti set off from his own half in the direction of the German goal. With the defence pushed up, Conti had all the time in the world to pick out Allesandro Altobelli, who had escaped his marker 11 metres from goal. Schumacher came rushing out, but Altobelli slipped the ball past him and over the line for Italy's third. The game was as good as over, with Italy nine minutes away from claiming a third FIFA World Cup title.
The final score was 3-1, with Paul Breitner scoring Germany's consolation goal seven minutes from time. But Breitner's reaction spoke volumes about the mood in the German camp: no celebration and not even a smile, just the resigned look of a man who knew his side never had it in them to threaten his opponents' grip on the match.
Perhaps their extraordinary semi-final with France had taken too much out of the Mannschaft. Or maybe Italy were simply too good on the evening. One thing was certain: the technically gifted southern European side were worthy world champions at Spain 1982.
|Full Name : Dino Zoff
Date Of Birth: February 28, 1942
Place of Birth: Mariano del Friuli, Italy
Height: 182 cm
National Career: 1963-1972
Caps: 112 (0)
Dino Zoff (born February 28, 1942) is an Italian former football goalkeeper and is the oldest winner ever of the World Cup, which he earned as captain of the Italian team in the 1982 tournament in Spain, at the age of 40.
Zoff was a goalkeeper of outstanding ability and has a place in the history of the sport among the very best in this role. He holds the record for the longest playing time without allowing goals in international tournaments (1142 minutes) set between 1972 and 1974. With 112 caps he is third only to Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini in number of appearances for the Azzurri.
After retiring as a footballer he went on to become coach for several Italian clubs and the Nazionale.
Dino Zoff was born in Mariano del Friuli, Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Italy), and is presumably the best goalkeeper in the history of football.
Zoff's career got off to an inauspicious start, when at the age of fourteen he had trials with Inter Milan and Juventus F.C., but was rejected due to a lack of height. Five years later, having grown by 33 centimetres, he made his Serie A debut with Udinese, though Zoff made only four appearances for Udinese before moving to Mantova in 1963.
In 1968, Zoff was transferred to Napoli. In the same year he made his debut for Italy, playing against Bulgaria in the quarter final of the 1968 European Championships. Italy proceeded to win the tournament, Zoff taking home a winners' medal after only his fourth international appearance.
Left out of the Italian starting eleven in the 1970 FIFA World Cup, Zoff resumed his success after signing for Juventus in 1972. In eleven years with Juventus, Zoff won the Serie A championship six times, the Coppa Italia twice and the UEFA Cup once. However, Zoff's greatest feat came in the 1982 FIFA World Cup, where he captained Italy to victory in the tournament at the age of 40, making him the oldest ever winner of the World Cup. He followed in the footsteps of compatriot Giampiero Combi (1934) as only the second goalkeeper to captain a World Cup-winning side. He was also voted as the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
Zoff holds the record for the longest stretch (1142 minutes) without allowing any goals in international football, set between 1972 and 1974. That clean sheet stretch was ended by Haitian soccer player Manno Sanon's beautiful goal during the 1974 World Cup. He also held the records for the oldest Serie A player and most Serie A appearances (570 matches) for more than 20 years, until the season 2005/2006 when the record were broken by S.S. Lazio goalkeeper Marco Ballotta and A.C. Milan defender Paolo Maldini respectively.
After his retirement as a player, Zoff went into coaching, joining the technical staff at Juventus, where he was head coach from 1988 to 1990. In 1990 he was sacked, despite winning the UEFA Cup. He then joined Lazio, where he became president in 1994. In 1998 Zoff was appointed coach of the Italian national team. Using a more open and attacking style than usually used by Italian sides, he coached Italy to a second-place finish in Euro 2000, suffering a cruel extra-time defeat at the hands of France in the final, when in the 90th minute of the game, Italy were 1-0 up and less than sixty seconds from winning the tournament before France scored to equalise and go to extra time. A few days later Zoff resigned, following strong criticism from A.C. Milan president and politician Silvio Berlusconi.
Zoff returned to Lazio, but resigned following a poor start to the 2001/02 season. In 2005, he was named the coach of Fiorentina. But after saving the team from relegation on the last day of the season, Zoff was let go.
Zoff and Gianpiero Combi (in 1934), are the only goalkeepers to have won the FIFA World Cup as captain of their national team. Zoff is also the oldest player ever to have won the trophy .
«He was a level-headed goalkeeper, capable of staying calm during the toughest and the most exhilarating moments. He always held back both out of modesty and respect for his opponents. At the end of the Brazil match, he came over to give me a kiss on the cheek, without saying a single word. For me, that fleeting moment was the most intense of the entire World Cup». (Enzo Bearzot)
Seria A: 1972-73, 1974-75, 1976-77, 1977-78, 1980-81, 1981-82 (6 Titles)
Coppa Italia: 1978-79, 1982-83 (2 Titles)
UEFA Cup: 1979
UEFA Championship: 1968
FIFA World Cup: 1982
Coppa Italia: 1990
UEFA Cup: 1990
November 2003: Italy's Golden Player - the best Italian player of the last 50 years, selected by the Italian Football Federation
FIFA 100 (125 greatest living players, as selected by Pelé): 2004