1990 World Cup (Italy)
1990 Italy was the host so they had a distinct advantage to win the World Cup that year. They had a strong team lead by Roberto Baggio and the goal scoring leader Salvatore Schillaci. Italy didn’t give up a goal in its first 5 matches thanks to stellar defence and amazing goalkeeper Zenga who still holds the record for shutout minutes. They lead Argentina 1-0 late in the game until the nightmare began when Argentina scored a lucky goal on a mixup by the goalkeeper. They wound up going to penalty kicks and Italy lost. It was a devastating defeat to get eliminated after giving up only one goal in six games!!! This was the beginning of my hatred for PKs!!! I was so happy to see Maradona and Argentina lose the World Cup final to Germany thanks to a late PK!!! Sweet justice but it still didn’t take away the anguish of what should’ve been.
1994 World Cup (USA)
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse or anymore painful, here came the World Cup hosted by the USA…right here in our own backyard. Italy had basically the same team so they were one of the favorites again. Baggio shined and became an international superstar as he lead Italy to the final vs Brazil. Italy outplayed Brazil but could not score a goal and came very close on several occasions. So guess what happened? Yes. Italy lost on Penalty Kicks once again! To add insult to injury, their star Baggio missed the last shot giving their nemesis Brazil the championship. Brazil also topped Italy in the 1970 final but at least it wasn’t by PKs!
1998 World Cup (France)
France was the host country so they were the favorites with Brazil. Italy collided with France in the quarterfinals and France could not score a goal on Italy! Unfortunately, Italy could not score either! So yet again Italy wound up in a PK and they suffered the same painful exit from the World Cup! How could it be possible that my beloved country could lose three straight World Cup by the dreaded PK? Why were they so bad at it? Didn’t they ever practice it? Are they just too emotional? France went on to crush Brazil in the finals 3-0 and I envisioned that it should have been Italy hoisting the trophy.
Italy lost to one of the hosts, Korea in a new painful way. This time it was not the dreaded PK but extra time. Italy lead 1-0 when Korea scored very late on a defensive mistake to tie the match with 2 minutes left to send it to extra time. Italy’s star Vieri had a couple of easy chances to win it but he completely missed his shots as did a couple other players who were one on one with the Korean goalkeeper. Korea wound up scoring a golden goal off a header to eliminate Italy.
There were no expectations for this Italian team because the country was dealing with a match fixing scandal. However, there was something special about this squad. They had a solid defense with Carnevallo and crew and everyone took turns scoring goals. They didn’t rely on any one star for goals as in the past. They kept on winning and made the finals vs its nemesis, France! The finals didn’t start well as the referees gave Zidane a PK early on which he barely converted for the early lead 1-0. Italy showed great heart by tying the match with a tremendous header by Mattarozzi. Italy actually scored a beautiful goal to take the lead by Toni that the refs took away with a bogus offsides call! Italy also hit the goalpost so I began to worry that we were snakebit again. Sure enough, we couldn’t score the game winner so we were headed to PK yet again! Unlike all of the other years when I wouldn’t even watch the shootout because of nerves, this time I felt compelled to watch every second of it. I don’t know why but I had a strong positive feeling about this time. I really loved these guys. I refused to believe that they would lose. I also felt that we were due to finally win one of these horrific things! I thoroughly enjoyed the way all five Italians made their kicks and the one man who missed for France was the very same player who eliminated Italy with a golden goal in the 2000 Euro Cup finals! By the way, Italy lead France 1-0 with seconds left in injury time when they tied the game and then went on to win it. Ugh! Well, this time Italy won a penalty kick shootout for the first time ever at the World Cup and it was for the championship! I watch video highlights from the 2006 and 1982 World Cup championships to help ease all of the painful memories I’ve just shared here for you.
Oh and this too.. from the 1982 World Cup in Spain when Paolo Rossi lead Italy to the World Cup title! I have wonderful memories of this because I was in Italy that entire summer so it was the experience of a lifetime!
Here’s the final vs West Germany
Here’s the classic Italy-Brazil match that many consider the best ever (Italy winning 3-2!)
- In the 1980 EuroCup hosted by Italy in the meaningless 3rd place match Italy lost a heartbreaking 9-8 PK to Czechoslovakia.
- In the EuroCup final in 2000 Italy gave up a late injury time goal that lead to the golden goal nightmare defeat to France. Still hurts till this day.
- In the 2008 EuroCup Quarterfinals Italy lost on PKs to eventual winners Spain who could not score on us! This lucky result for Spain begins their so-called “Golden Era”. I say whatever. Luckiest team in history.
- In the EuroCup finals in 2012 Italy lost again to Spain but this time in the finals 4-0 in an embarrassing display that I did not watch at all till this day. I refused to watch my beloved Azzurri lose this way. Super Mario was anything but. Sure, he single-handedly beat the great German machine 2-1 with both goals in the semifinals but he and his whole team were exhausted from their match.
- In the 2o13 Confederations Cup semifinals Italy lost yet again on PKs to Spain! Yes, another defeat in the penalty shootout to the luckiest team ever, Spain! The score was 7-6 as both teams made their first 6 in a row then Italy does what they do best…miss PKs. In the game, neither team could score. The good news? Well, I got to enjoy watching Neymar and Brazil pound Spain in the finals 3-0 in what everyone believed would be a preview of the final for the following year’s World Cup final held also in Brazil. This result officially gave notice to the world that Spain’s golden era was over.
Some positive results in Penalty Kick Shootouts for Italy
- In the 2000 EuroCup semifinal Italy defeated the Netherlands. They would go on to the final only to lose one of the most painful losses ever by giving up 1-0 lead to France in injury time and then lose the title to a golden goal by Trezeguet
- 2006 World Cup Finals vs France. As described above, Italy somehow, someway won a PK shootout on the biggest stage of all…the World Cup final!!! 5-3 when all five players made their kicks perfectly even when the franch goalkeeper guessed which way they were kicking on 3 occasions! On the other hand, the great Italian goalkeeper Buffon guessed the wrong way on all 4 kicks he faced but France missed its one shot when it hit the crossbar! So after three painful exits in 1990, 1994 & 1998 on PKs Italy finally won one of these hideous things!
- 2012 EuroCup Quarterfinals Italy defeated England 4-2 in PKs after falling behind early by missing first. Buffon made some brilliant saves.
- 2013 Third place match between Italy and Uruguay at the Confederations Cup in Brazil. They tied 2-2 in the match but Italy won the PK shootout thanks to 3 saves by the legend Buffon. Thrilling result vs a stout opponent featuring Suares, Forlan and Cavani (who scored 2 exciting goals).
Summary: So after dropping the 1980 EuroCup PK and the first three PKs in the WorldCup then winning the 2000 EuroCup semifinal PK and the WorldCup final on PKs in 2006 and then losing again on PKs in 2008 at the EuroCup, Italy won at the 2012 EuroCup vs England but lost again to Spain in dramatic 7-6 PK shootout at the 2013 Confederations Cup before beating Uruguay in PK shootout thanks to Buffon’s 3 saves to make its PK record 4-6. Breakdown is: 1-3 in World Cup, 2-2 in EuroCup and 1-1 in Confed Cup.
Comment on “The Ecstasy and the Agony”