This week Football Italiano presents the final part of Rishi Verma’s series of articles investigating the historic link between the Juventus and the Azzurri.
The Shroud of Turin
The Juve connection continued with the arrival of Trapattoni as the new Coach of la Nazionale. His squads frequently consisted of six seasoned Juve players (Gianluigi Buffon, Mark Iuliano, Alessio Tacchinardi, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta and Alex Del Piero) to complement those even more experienced – three of whom were former Bianconeri stars. Despite his coaching career being in decline, many expected the defensive-minded il Trap to at least guide his country to the semi-final stage of the 2002 World Cup, except for Byron Moreno – the referee in charge of the Azzurri’s round-of-16 match against joint-hosts South Korea. Il Trap’s reign eventually ended after two miserable draws in the group stages of Euro 2004 effectively meant that qualification was out of their hands, despite the 2-1 win against the Bulgarians in the last group game.
Marcello Lippi was the third successive ex-Juve Coach to step into the breach. He had brought unparalleled success to la Vecchia Signora, not seen since the days of Trapattoni. The Viareggio native led Juve to five Scudetti, one Coppa Italia, four Italian Super Cups, one European Super Cup, one Champions League and one Intercontinental Cup, so many knew that he had the brains and man-management skills to bring home the World Cup in 2006. The media and fans alike were fed-up with the catenaccio favouring trio of Maldini, Zoff and Trapattoni, and to endure the same brand of football over an eight-year period was too much to bear for even the die-hard Azzurri fan. Preparations for the tournament in Germany were going well, with his ex-charges at Juventus winning back-to-back titles in 2004/05, and 2005/06 – until Calciopoli struck.
Despite the rumours that Juve were to be relegated to Serie C1, Lippi ensured that his Bianconeri contingent (Buffon, Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Mauro Camoranesi and Del Piero) remained focused on the job in hand. Galvanised by everything going around them, Italy started the World Cup finals slowly, however, their confidence improved as they progressed further in the competition. Just as the Totonero scandal in the early 80’s showed the world how resolute the Italians could be, the Calciopoli scandal proved to be even more inspiring in the way the Azzurri coaching staff and players stood up to criticism of the Italian game from all quarters and flew their flag in the face of adversity. Let us remember that this not only affected players from Juve, but also those from Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio. Overcoming Germany in a bruising semi-final encounter, they reached the final where they would meet their conquerors in the Euro 2000 final, France. Four Bianconeri players started the final for Italy (Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro and Camoranesi), with Del Piero coming on as substitute. No other club was represented as much in any final before, as France’s starting XI also included Lilian Thuram and Patrick Vieira, with striker David Trezeguet appearing as an extra-time substitute – taking the total Juve appearances in the final to seven. Throw in ex-Juve players Thierry Henry and the legendary Zinedine Zidane, and you will see just how many world-class players have played for this great club. Another individual honour was bestowed onto a Bianconeri player after the tournament as Buffon won the Lev Yashin award for Best Goalkeeper.
After the zenith of the World Cup win, Lippi left, to be replaced by Roberto Donadoni, and while he inherited much of the World Cup-winning squad, only four Juve members of the squad survived, with defensive duo Cannavaro and Zambrotta moving on to pastures new at Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
With World Cup-winning Coach Lippi resisting the lure of putting his feet up at his beach-front house in Viareggio, he has since set about the task of restoring some confidence in la Nazionale’s quest to successfully defend their world crown in 2010. Recent squads during the World Cup qualifiers suggest that the Azzurri will once again rely heavily on Juventus and its players – especially their defenders. The victorious 1934 team featured the defensive triumvirate of Combi-Rosetta-Caligaris, while the 1982 side fielded Zoff-Scirea-Gentile. With the return of Fabio Cannavaro, both Juve and Italy will restore its fabled three-man defensive units of old, with Buffon in goal, and the central-defensive duo of Cannavaro and Giorgio Chiellini. Camoranesi continues to link the present with the past as he follows the likes of Omar Sívori and Raimundo Orsi as another Juve oriundi, while Vincenzo Iaquinta and Del Piero are in with a chance of going to South Africa.
Looking further ahead, the Atomic Ant – Sebastian Giovinco – will look to make an impact in Juve colours and take on the mantle of Azzurri playmaker. Claudio Marchisio will hope to boss the midfield in years to come and emulate idol Marco Tardelli by scoring in a World Cup final. Juventus’ endless production line of youngsters have made up the majority of the Under-21 sides in recent years, and who is to say they will not continue to mirror their club success with international glory in full Azzurri colours. The Bianconeri, with their record number of appearances for la Nazionale, have made Coverciano a home away from home, and one thinks they will long continue to do so. La Vecchia Signora’s peaks have mirrored success for the national side, while both have hit low points at roughly the same time, too. Are their fortunes really inextricably linked to the other, or is it mere coincidence? You know what to do if you are an Azzurri fan – get your Bianconeri scarf out.