3354: Germany v. Italy- The World Cu
by : Hugh Larkin
Germany against Italy is a semi-final between teams who have each won the World Cup three times. It will be the fifth time they have clashed in Finals tournaments and the previous four have included a Final and a semi.
1962Surprisingly, the two nations didn’t meet until the 7th World Cup in Chile. They were drawn together in Group B and the two European giants played out a fairly uninspiring 0-0 draw. Italy’s next game was against hosts Chile in a real roughhouse of a game with two Azzuri dismissed.
Chile won 2-0 and had already qualified when they met West Germany in the last group game. The Germans won comfortably and Italy went out but the Yugoslavs ended German interest in the quarter-finals. One interesting note is that Italy had a Buffon in goal in that tournament too.
1970In Mexico the two sides met in one of the World Cup’s all-time great matches. It was the semi-final and both teams were packed with stars. Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller on one side, Luigi Riva and Sandro Mazzola on the other.
Boninsegna scored early for the Italians, who at the time were firmly wedded to defensive excellence. An early score was merely an incentive for them to shut up shop for the rest of the game. And they so nearly did it too until the Germans produced yet another of their last gasp party pieces. The unlikely figure of massive defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger arrived at the far post to volley a cross in the 90th minute.
Extra-time in the heat and altitude of Mexico was always going to be tough. It turned into a goalfest as the Germans lead 2-1, then Italy pulled it back to 3-2 , only for that man Muller to net his second. At 3-3 and with Beckenbauer playing with his arm in a sling, Boninsega went on a mazy run and his cross was calmly slotted home by ‘Golden Boy’ Gianni Rivera.
Brazil ran over Italy in the Final 4-1 but 7 of the losing German side became World Cup winners in 1974.
1978The 1978 tournament in Argentina used a second group stage to decide the finalists, as in 1974. Italy and West Germany met in the opening second stage game and again they played out a goalless draw, through the Azzurri had the better of matters. Both sides caution compromised their chances of reaching the Final
Holland were playing vibrant attacking football and the two European giants found the Dutch too hot to handle. The ‘Oranje’ hammered Austria, played out an exciting draw with West Germany and then beat Italy thanks to a pair of truly stunning long range goals. Holland made the Final and Italy went to the Third Place play-off where Brazil beat them.
1982The two met in the Final in Spain and Italy certainly went in as favourites. After pitiful displays in the initial group, Enzo Bearzot’s team were sparked to life by finding themselves in a three-team group with Argentina and Brazil. Forced to shed their caution by the quality of the opposition they beat both South Americans and Poland in the semis.
By contrast, West Germany had been dour throughout- a 0-0 with England, the shocking fixing of a game with the Austrians to eliminate Algeria and then Schumacher’s assault on Battiston in the semi-final had endeared them to no one.
Even the Final looked set to go Germany’s way when Antognoni the Italian schemer was suspended. Then full back Antonio Cabrini missed a penalty after 24 minutes and they lost striker Graziani to injury. Yet in the second half they took the Germans apart; Paulo Rossi grabbed yet another goal and then Marco Tardelli ended a wonderfully patient Italian move orchestrated by that prince of sweepers, the late, great Gaetano Scirea.
It ended 3-1 but Germany finished a well beaten side. Of their players that day Pierre Littbarski would be part of the winning team in 1990- ironically in Italy. If Italy had won their penalty shootout with Argentina, the two sides would have played out a second Final.
As Germany’s last World Cup win came in Italy, the Azzurri might think its appropriate that they replay the complement. Whatever happens, this will be a semi-final to remember between two of the four giants of the competition.
30 June 2006