The Azzurri Years – Mexico 1970

Mexico 1970 is deemed by many to be the best World Cup of all time. Whether this was because it was the first Tournament to be broadcast in colour, or because it showcased another great Brazilian team or possibly because it played host to two of the greatest games in World Cup history is unclear. What is clear however is that Italy boasted another team laden with talent, playing their part in a very memorable World Cup. The two outstanding games of the tournament both involved the Azzurri, the Final versus Brazil has gone down as more than just a classic but the best final of any World Cup and the semi final against Germany is still said to be the greatest game of all time. Mexico was in many ways the first modern World Cup and saw many firsts, yellow and red cards being seen together for the first time, substitutes and a new look football all represented a change with the times. Games were also played at Midday to get optimum viewing coverage in Europe despite the temperatures at these times, it really had become the origins of the modern day spectacle we see today.

Italy had not had covered themselves in glory during the group games, a 1-0 victory over Sweden courtesy of a Angelo Domenghini goal had seen the Azzurri look confident. What followed however, were goalless draws with both Uruguay and then most surprisingly Israel which left the press with nothing to write home about apart from Italy’s good defensive record. The next round saw Italy drawn against hosts Mexico in a game which not only did the Azzurri look like a different team but for the first time they looked like they could win the competition. After going a goal down, an own goal from Gustavo Pena a strike from Gianni Rivera and two from Luigi Riva saw Italy advance through to the next stage. Italy’s squad had always been full of talent from and it was only a matter of time before they started to show it.

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The semi finals saw Italy thrown together with a Germany side many thought could win this World Cup – the two giant nations playing out what has been argued to be the game of the century. Roberto Boninsegna gave the Italians the lead in front of 100,000 at the Azteca Stadium and with Italy’s superb defensive record it looked like it may stay like this, however in the 90th minute the Germans equalised forcing the game into extra time. In extra time things exploded when five goals were scored three of them by Italy. Burgnich, Riva and the winner from Rivera saw Italy win 4-3. Franz Beckenbauer had played the game with a dislocated shoulder due all the substitutes being used. It was a remarkable game.

The Final itself – unfortunately for the Azzurri – was all about Brazil. Pele’s team put on a master class that amazed the world and, although Boninsegna’s equaliser had cancelled out Pele’s opener, Brazil went on to win 4-1. Italy could not be too down hearted as even though they had been well beaten they had been beaten by and amazing Brazil team. The newspaper, Rome’s ‘Messaggero’ was quoted saying that the Italians “were beaten by the best footballers in the world”. Italy’s quest for their third World Cup would continue for another twelve years but this was one that would live in the memory forever.

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