Pierre Boisrond

Pierre Boisrond has followed soccer and the World Cup closely for many years and also writes for other websites. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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Argentina vs Italy at the "San Maradona"

    When these two giants face each other, the game is always spectacular. As a matter of fact, the only team that defeated Argentina in the 78 WC was Italy with a goal of Roberto Bettega. In 1982 WC in Spain, Argentina with Maradona lost to Italy; in 1986, Maradona could only tie the game for Argentina in Mexico. So far we could see that history was on Italy’s side.

    These two giants seem to face each other in almost every World Cup. In the 1990 WC, Italy and Argentina had to face each other again in a memorable semifinal. The scene for this dramatic encounter took place in Napoli in the well-known San Paolo Stadium, a place where Diego Armando Maradona gave Napoli their only two scudettos (Serie A Trophies), and rarely lost a game. That San Paolo Stadium is sacred to Maradona who knew that no one could stop him on that day. The fans of Napoli, certainly the tifosi (fans) of Italy as well, apologized to Diego since they had to chant for their national teams. In a place where they considered Diego Maradona as a saint, it would have been very difficult for the Saint Maradona not to look over himself. However, perhaps Diego would have to make a call to the Vatican, but he probably would have received a rejection from the Vatican. Even at his best, Maradona was unable to have a win against Italy; this was his only opportunity to avenge the humiliating loss in 82, the draw in 86.

    The game started with all the drama that one could have imagined. Personally, I had to skip my calculus class as a freshman to witness this battle between Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci and Diego "Dieguito" Armando Maradona. Nothing is more special than playing in the San Paolo Stadium. This stadium should have been renamed to "San Maradona". It seems that Napoli=Maradona and Maradona=Napoli. However, there was Toto Schillaci, the Sicilian played a superb game, and was Italy best player in the World Cup. The level of tactics in the game was at its best, it was Toto Schillaci who started the play that brought Italy's first goal. From the left side of the midfield, Toto managed to get rid of two Argentines, and then gave it to Giuseppe Giannini who got rid of Juan Simon by passing the ball over Simon’s head, and bombarded Sergio Goycochea who pushed the ball to Toto Schillaci who sent it home. It was euphoria in the San Paolo Stadium. Italy rejoiced that goal as if they had won the World Cup. Now we started to see the brilliant plays from both teams that displayed some majestic attacks and deadly counter attacks.

    The pressure was suddenly on Maradona. Could he do it? Would he be able to resist Maldini and the great defender, the Kaiser, Franco Baresi? Would the Argentine defence be able to resist a Giannini, Schillaci, and Fernando DeNapoli? It was drama in the San Paolo, fiesta for the Italians, and a nightmare for the Argentine fans. Toto Schillaci was all over the field, became a nightmare for Argentina's defence conducted by Juan Simon. Just before half time, we saw a spectacular 180 degree shot by Maradona after chesting the ball down and striking it, but Walter Zenga told him not today, Diego. What a game, what an excitement, and the true Argentine fans were unable to sit down since the game was so tense, and playing Italy on their home turf was not an easy task all. The first half ended 1-0 in Italy’s favour.

    In the second half, the game became more intense with some unbelievable plays from both sides. We have seen a determined Maradona, a focused Franco Baresi, and the great Toto Schillaci who truly had the desire to send the men coached by Dr. Carlos Bilardo home. Great players do step it up in great games. Karl Heinz Rummenigue did it for Germany in Spain 82 against France conducted by the French Pele, Michel Platini. Paolo Rossi did it for Italy in Spain 82 against the Brazilian dreamteam conducted by the elegant Dr. Socrates and the great Arthur Coimbra (Zico). Maradona did it against Germany for Argentina in the 1986 WC final when he sent that long pass to Jorge Burruchaga who gracefully placed the ball in the net behind Harald Schumacher and gave Argentina a second World Cup Trophy. Now, could Diego do it again to put Argentina in the final? He had done it against Brasil earlier in the 1990 WC when he passed that ball to Claudio Caniggia who sent the Brasil of Careca back to Rio de Janeiro. He was resurrected by Sergio Goycoechea after missing the penalty against Yugoslavia. Could the maggia of Maradona-Caniggia work again? What a game in the San Paolo! what a drama! What a display by Franco Baresi! What a passion displayed by both teams!

    The fans of the "Albiceleste", the fans of Argentina had to wait for a long period of time to see the equalizer; It was a ball conducted by the unforgettable Maradona; as he received the ball, Maradona decided to give it to Julio Olarticoechea who had all his time to cross the ball and Caniggia punished Zenga with a back header into the unguarded net. One could imagine the drama in Buenos Aires, the sadness in Italy, the drama in my parents home in Petion-Ville, Haiti among those who supported Argentina or Brazil – Too bad, I could not be part of it due to my college studies in the US. Only the true fans of soccer could really understand this sort of drama, celebration, and agony during the period of the game. The drama was not over as the game went to extra-time. There was no Golden Goal at that time.

    Tired as they were, the players continued to furnish the same spectacle. The fans were chanting and waving their flags. It was just the beginning again. The italians made a substitute by bringing on a young Roberto Baggio. Baggio became a nightmare for the Argentine defense. On a free kick, he forced Goycoechea to make a spectacular save. At some point during the game, the Univision commentator, Andres Cantor, was so into the game, and he kept chanting: "Baggio, Baggio, Baggio, Baggio" as the young Baggio tormented the Argentina’s defense. The game became very serious as neither team refused to conceive a goal. Ricardo Giusti got ejected by the French referee, Michel Vautrot, after hitting Baggio in the face. With one man down, Maradona almost gave the game to Argentina as he got rid of four or five Italian players, and placed the ball in a silver plate to Olarticoecha who sent it over the crossbar. It was the end of a 1-1 game, now the game headed to the dreadful suspense of penalty shoot-out.

    Could Goycoechea repeat his heroic performance against Yugoslavia in the quarterfinal? Could Maradona score this time after missing against Yugoslavia? Could Zenga send Italy to the World Cup finals? Had he learned all Maradona’s tricks in the Serie A? Probably not. Franco Baresi put Italy 1-0 up; Jose Serrizuela tied it 1-1; then the young Roberto Baggio stepped up to the plate and put Italy up 2-1. Jorge Burruchaga tied it to 2-2 for Argentina. Luigi de Agostini put Italy up 3-2 before Julio Orlarticoechea tied it 3-3 for Argentina. The suspense continued in San Paolo Stadium. Would Goycoechea save Argentina again, or would Maradona score this time? Donadoni, a specialist in penalty kicks, missed as his strike was saved by Sergio Goycoechea, the best goalie in the WC 90.

    The pressure continued, and this time the whole world focused on Maradona. He must have remembered what happen to Zico against France in 1986 WC. He must have remembered what had happened to Dr. Socrates in the same game and what had happened the French superstar Michel Platini in the that 86 WC quarterfinal. Certainly he did remember what had happened a few days ago against Yougoslavia of Prosinecki and Dejan Savicevic. This time, in San Paolo Stadium in Naples, the place where he is considered a saint, he vowed not to miss it. Maradona rolled the ball gracefully as Zenga went to the other side. Now Argentine was up 4-3; It was up to Aldo Serena to level the score for the Azzurri, but Goycoechea saved again and destroyed Italy's hope of reaching the final. This was a sad moment for Italy, a tough loss at the hands of Maradona and Goycoechea. The expression of sadness in Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci said it all. I always ask myself: Why Toto? Why wasn't your name included in the list of penalty takers?



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