Saturday, December 11, 2010

Italy is always considered a favourite, but in 1974 it was not just a favourite – for many pundits it was THE favourite. It was ranked the best team in the world, thanks to statistics: the team did not lose a single match for a long time. More, it did not receive a single goal since 1972. It was the only European team to win against Brazil during the 1973 European tour of the world champions. Italy was playing unattractive catenaccio, but with such a defense it was seen as unbeatable. And what names! Facchetti, Mazzola, Rivera, Riva… and so on. Just listing them was breathtaking… if one was living in the 1960s. And since specialists tend to be oldish men, they tend to value yesterday more than today. The guys are getting grey? But they are helped by the rugged boys from Lazio! Catenaccio is no longer superior tactic? May be so, but nobody can break it. Ugly? May be, but a match lasts 90 minutes and when the opposition lost its mind attacking and attacking, just one counterattack will finish them – Mazzola will score. If not he, Riva then. Or Rivera. Or this asshole Chinaglia. And don’t forget how lethal Facchetti could be… now, remember his goal in 1965? Or was it 1964? There! What? Old farts? Experience is everything, my man!
Italy, seemingly, had no problems – great and vastly experienced coach Ferruccio Valcareg. Two strong goalkeepers – Zoff and Albertosi; terrible defense, led by Facchetti and Burgnich; very skillful midfield with Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera; and good pool of strikers – Riva, Anastasi, Boninsegna, and Chinaglia. Age was not a crime in Italy, unlike in the rest of Europe at the time. Younger guys were included as well and the bad boys of Lazio were not neglected either – which was the Italian understanding of ‘total football’, however illusionary. Everybody was available; nobody suffered from injuries; the stars had iron nerves and patience, and enormous experience, and were – at least everybody believed so – strongly motivated to get revenge for the lost final in 1970. Why bother playing the tournament – just give Italy the world title, it was sure thing anyway. Of course the Italian media fretted and hyped in never ending drama, but cool heads abroad estimated Italy best. Chinaglia and Wilson (and Re Cecconi by association) behaved bad? But they are substitutes, who cares? Look at the haircuts of Mazzola and Facchetti – short, determined!
And so the potential world champions went to West Germany.
Head coach: Ferruccio Valcareggi
No. Pos. Player DoB/Age Caps Club
1 GK Dino Zoff 28 February 1942 (aged 32) 32 Juventus
2 DF Luciano Spinosi 9 May 1950 (aged 24) 16 Juventus
3 DF Giacinto Facchetti 18 July 1942 (aged 31) 73 Internazionale
4 DF Romeo Benetti 20 October 1945 (aged 28) 15 AC Milan
5 DF Francesco Morini 12 August 1944 (aged 29) 6 Juventus
6 DF Tarcisio Burgnich 25 April 1939 (aged 35) 63 Internazionale
7 MF Sandro Mazzola 8 November 1942 (aged 31) 67 Internazionale
8 MF Fabio Capello 18 June 1946 (aged 27) 16 Juventus
9 FW Giorgio Chinaglia 24 January 1947 (aged 27) 9 Lazio
10 MF Gianni Rivera 18 August 1943 (aged 30) 58 AC Milan
11 FW Luigi Riva 7 November 1944 (aged 29) 40 Cagliari
12 GK Enrico Albertosi 2 November 1939 (aged 34) 34 Cagliari
13 DF Giuseppe Sabadini 26 March 1949 (aged 25) 4 AC Milan
14 DF Mauro Bellugi 7 February 1950 (aged 24) 7 Internazionale
15 DF Giuseppe Wilson 27 October 1945 (aged 28) 1 Lazio
16 DF Antonio Juliano 1 January 1943 (aged 31) 17 Napoli
17 MF Luciano Re Cecconi 1 December 1948 (aged 25) 0 Lazio
18 MF Franco Causio 1 February 1949 (aged 25) 10 Juventus
19 FW Pietro Anastasi 7 April 1948 (aged 26) 20 Juventus
20 FW Roberto Boninsegna 13 November 1943 (aged 30) 18 Internazionale
21 FW Paolo Pulici 27 April 1950 (aged 24) 3 Torino
22 GK Luciano Castellini 12 December 1945 (aged 28) 0 Torino
Certain world champions: bottom, left to right: Capelo, Facchetti, Anastasi, Mazzola, Burgnich.
Top: Benetti, Spinosi, Rivera, Zoff, Morini, Riva.
Who can possibly stop Italy with such a team?