|In this series of Flashbacks we
present teams, players and happenings that people remember from the history
of the World Cup.
|Salvatore "Toto" Schillaci celebrating his goal in
the first half. It was his fifth in the tournament and everything went according to plan.
|Claudio Caniggia gave the Italian confidence a
severe knock with his 67th minute equalizer.
|Walter Zenga during the penalty shoot-out. The celebrated Italian goalkeeper
failed to stop any of the Argentine penalties.
|Sergio Goycoechea makes a tremendous save on
Donadoni's penalty and put Argentina in control in the shoot-out.
ITALIAN DREAMS SHATTERED IN MARADONA'S DEN
Naples, July 3rd
1990. The venue and date for the first of the semifinals at Italia '90. The
pre-game hype for this mouthwatering encounter between Italy and Argentina
reached new heights. Newspapers exceeded eachother in describing this match
as arguably the biggest in the history of the game. It wasn't so much about
the exhilarating attacking football - neither of the teams had shown that - it
was the occasion that was so massive. Host nation against defending champions
at Stadio San Paolo, the adopted home ground of the away team's captain and
greatest player in the world, Diego Maradona. Argentina and Italy had shared
the previous three World Cup titles between them and both were determined to
make it to Rome five days later for the Final.
Maradona had guided Napoli to another Scudetto
(Serie A title) just weeks before the World Cup and many Italians feared they
would be outnumbered on the terraces in Naples where Maradona was bigger than
God. Argentina's number ten played mindgames on the press conference the day
before the match when asked about the support his country could get in the
game: "364 days a year the people of Naples are not considered to be worthy
Italians by the people up north. Why should they behave as Italians tomorrow?".
Argentina's national anthem was played under silence
from the crowd - a rarity in these finals. Maradona received hostile booing in
every stadium he played in - the exception was of course the San Paolo in
Naples where he had defied the odds with SSC Napoli time and time again.
Something extra would be needed to crack open the Italian defence which had
been impregnable so far and San Paolo was the perfect venue for Argentina and
Maradona to accomplish that. Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga had yet to concede
a goal in the World Cup much thanks to his phenomenal backline featuring
Bergomi, Baresi, Ferri and Maldini.
Coach Azeglio Vicini's defensive approach to the game gave no
room for Roberto Baggio in the starting line-up. The Juventus-bound world
record signing would instead be replaced by Gianluca Vialli, the man Italy
first and foremost thought would lead the Azzurri to the title before
the tournament started. He had been incredibly inefficient and a huge
disappointment so far. A missed penalty against the United States in the
first round was the closest he had come to scoring in the World Cup.
Vialli's goaldrought gave room for Salvatore Schillaci
to emerge as Italy's unlikely saviour with four goals so far. Reckoned fourth
choice behind Carnevale, Vialli and Baggio before the World Cup, he was now a
certain starter against Argentina.
Italy took control in the opening minutes, but it was
Argentina and Burruchaga who tested Zenga with a wicked shot after 8 minutes,
the first serious attempt at goal in the match. Ten minutes later Schillaci
started the move which also involved Giannini and Vialli before "Toto" pounced
on a rare rebound from Goycoechea to give Italy the lead - his fifth goal in
the World Cup.
The remaining part of the first half became a cautious
contest. Italy sat back and relied on their well-drilled defence to take care
of the few Argentine players ready to cross the halfway line. Shortly before
half-time Maradona received the ball just outside the box, swivelled 180
degrees and fired a good shot at Zenga, but no goal. 1-0 at half time.
A much more attack-minded Argentina entered the field
after the interval. Italy dropped further back and relied on their strong
defence to weather any storm Argentina might create. Vicini's men had already
secured three 1-0 wins in this World Cup and were determined to use the same
recipe to make it four against the world champions. Maradona suddenly was given
more space and was able to control the game with his accurate passing to more
mobile teammates. Caniggia lurked up front and looked sharp as a knife whenever
the ball came near him.
Zenga was forced to make a qualified save from a
dangerous shot by Olarticoechea early in the second half. The following corner
almost cost Italy the lead when Zenga fumbled what looked like an easy ball to
catch. The Argentine pressure increased and after the hour Baresi made a
marvellous goal-saving tackle when blocking Caniggia's effort from a Burruchaga
pass. Argentina were suddenly playing their best football of the entire
Halfway through the second half Maradona had total
control of midfield and played a smart ball out to Olarticoechea on the left.
His accurate cross found Caniggia inside the box who just nodded the ball over
Zenga - who was out of position in no man's land - and into the net. The
Italian defensive wall was finally beaten after 517 minutes, a World Cup
At 1-1, Italy went on the attack again. Vicini made two
quick substitutions. Off went playmaker Giannini and also Vialli who had
another quiet night. Roberto Baggio came on to the crowd's delight along
with forward Aldo Serena, the latter to give Italy more power in the air. Despite the
tactical changes made by Vicini, his team couldn't produce any dangerous
situations in front of the Argentina goalmouth until De Agostini, nine
minutes from time, had his fine effort from close range saved by Goycoechea
after Donadoni had set him up. Time ran out and the teams prepared themselves
for extra-time with Italy looking the stronger side.
The cautious trend that many teams had adopted in
Italia '90 was also followed by both teams in this semifinal in extra-time. What
looked like a very good match in large parts of the second half of normal time,
turned into a boring match with many free-kicks, throw-ins and play abruptions
in the extra half hour. Argentina coach Carlos Bilardo decided to strengthen his
central midfield with another champion from 1986, Sergio Batista, who took
Basualdo's place. The only highlight in the first extra half was Baggio's
splendid free-kick saved by Goycoechea after 101 minutes.
Referee Michel Vautrot of France added on four minutes
and was about to blow his whistle for half time of extra time when Baggio was
elbowed in the face by Ricardo Giusti in an off-the-ball incident. Neither
TV-cameras or Vautrot was able to fully confirm this so the referee consulted
his linesman Peter Mikkelsen of Denmark and together they made the decision of
sending off the already booked Giusti. Angry Argentinian players threatened the
officials and play was delayed for minutes more and by the time everything was
settled and over, the clock showed more than 8 minutes of injury-time for the
first 15 minutes of extra-time football!
The second half of extra-time was Argentina against the
clock. It was all about bringing the game to penalties. Italy failed to produce
anything noteworthy even with a player more on the field. Serena was even more
quiet than Vialli, and Baggio was easily neutralized by the efficient
Argentinian defenders. Schillaci had no more energy to burn and Italy's
playmaker Giannini was already substituted. The hosts simply ran out of
attacking options and with Argentina determined to sit back and control 1-1,
the last 15 minutes seemed to have little to offer for the 60,000 at San Paolo
and hundreds of millions watching on TV around the world.
But the game could have taken a sensational turn
minutes from full time. Maradona received the ball down by the sideline, shook
off two players, dribbled past two more in the crowded Italian penalty-area,
further three players ran to stop him, but Maradona then played the ball between
them to a totally unmarked Olarticoechea on the 18-yard line with only Zenga to
beat, but his shot went two yards wide. It could have been another golden
assist for Maradona much like the one he set up for Caniggia against Brazil in
the second round.
A penalty shoot-out awaited in the Southern Italian
night instead. Argentina beat Yugoslavia from the spot in the quarterfinal with
goalkeeper Goycoechea as the hero when Maradona missed. Now "Goyco" was
forced to play the hero's role again if Argentina were to reach another World
Cup Final. Ten tired players were now asked to perform one more shot at goal
with an outcome that would influence the legacy of their careers in a good or bad way. Some players
names, regardless of other career accomplishments, are only affiliated and associated with a
decisive penalty, goal or miss, after retirement.
Italy started with Franco Baresi who made no mistake
and blasted the ball past Goycoechea before there was any eye-contact between
the two. 1-0. Josť Serrizuela scored for Argentina with Zenga touching the ball
slightly. 1-1. Baggio's attempt was almost saved by Goycoechea who got both
hands to the ball, but could only push it into the side netting. 2-1. The 1986
World Cup Final matchwinner Jorge Burruchaga sent Zenga the wrong way and
scored with ease. 2-2. De Agostini's penalty was very well placed and
Goycoechea had no chance even if he went the right way. 3-2. Julio
Olarticoechea, still bitter for squandering the chance of being matchwinner in
extra-time, made no mistake in the shoot-out. 3-3.
No misses after the first three rounds of penalties. Next
man was Roberto Donadoni for Italy. The pressure increased for every round and
a miss at this stage could prove fatal. Donadoni's penalty was very good, but
the save from Goycoechea was even better. Advantage Argentina and remarkable
silence in the crowd apart from a small colony of South American fans on the
upper tier of the stadium.
Diego Maradona stepped up for Argentina and took his
penalty in such an arrogant way, and with so little weight on the ball, that it
barely crossed the line. Zenga outplayed. 3-4.
Aldo Serena carried the weight of the entire Italy on
his shoulders when walking the long way from the center-circle to the
penalty-spot. The tall forward had not played particularly well, but was now
selected to take Italy's fifth penalty knowing a miss would mean elimination
from Italia '90. Serena went for full power straight at goal, but Goycoechea
parried the ball and sent Argentina to another World Cup Final, their third in
the last four tournaments.
The outcome of this match haunted Italian football for
years because this was the first of three successive World Cup eliminations on
penalties. Serena's miss this night in Naples was followed by Baggio's against
Brazil in 1994 and Di Biagio's against France in 1998. Italy's consolation in
their own tournament was the 3rd/4th place play-off match win over England and
Salvatore Schillaci's topscorer title.
Argentina were severely weakened in the Final because
of a number of suspensions on keyplayers. Giusti, Batista, Olarticoechea and
Caniggia were all missing. Argentina thus couldn't resist the West German
machine in the final and lost 1-0 after a late Brehme penalty. Carlos Bilardo's
men lost temper and had two players sent off and were dethroned under enormous
hissing from the crowd when picking up the silvermedals.
|Date: July 3rd 1990
|Venue: Stadio San Paolo
|City: Naples, Italy
|Referee: Michel Vautrot (France)
|Italy [3 pens] 1, (1)
|Goals: Schillaci 17
|Line-up: Zenga, Baresi, Bergomi, Maldini,
De Agostini, Ferri, Giannini (Baggio), Donadoni, De Napoli, Vialli (Serena), Schillaci.
|Argentina [4 pens] 1, (0)
|Goals: Caniggia 67
|Line-up: Goycoechea, Simon, Serrizuela, Ruggeri,
Basualdo (Batista), Calderon (Troglio), Giusti, Olarticoechea, Burruchaga, Maradona, Caniggia.
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