The all-time World Cup

March 18th 2005
Yokohama, International Stadium
0-3 (0-1)

      GOALS                   33'  0-1  Giuseppe Meazza
                              48'  0-2  Romeo Benetti
                              55'  0-3  Silvio Piola

      REFEREE                 Rudi Glöckner (East Germany)

      ATTENDANCE              71,000

      YELLOW CARDS            Bölöni, Petrescu, Hagi (ROM) - Ferri (ITA)

      ROMANIA (Coach: Emerich Jenei, system 4-4-2)

      16 Helmuth Ducadam
       2 Dan Petrescu                (-52)
       6 Cornel Dinu
       5 Miodrag Belodedici
      14 Stefan Sames
      12 Anghel Iordanescu           (-64)
       4 Gheorghe Popescu
       8 Ladislau Bölöni
      10 Gheorghe Hagi (captain)
      13 Marius Lacatus              (-70)
       9 Dudu Georgescu

       3 Emerich Vogl                (+52)
      15 Radu Nunweiler              (+64)
      20 Iuliu Bodola                (+70)

      ITALY (coach: Vittorio Pozzo, system 4-3-3)
       1 Dino Zoff
       2 Giuseppe Bergomi
       5 Riccardo Ferri              (-59)
       6 Franco Baresi (captain)
      15 Paolo Maldini
      14 Marco Tardelli
       8 Romeo Benetti
      12 Sandro Mazzola              (-71)
       7 Giuseppe Meazza
       9 Silvio Piola                (-80)
      11 Luigi Riva

      20 Fulvio Collovati            (+59)
      17 Giancarlo Antognoni         (+71)
      21 Christian Vieri             (+80)


    Italy won the match against Romania by a clear margin, but it hadn´t been as easy as it seems. In the first half, Italy had a very difficult time against a strong Romanian team and the defence had a lot of work to do. But this Italian team, like so many before, was just superb defensively and they were well up to their task. After the break, when the Squadra Azzurri decided it within ten minutes, they could ease down when Romania tried to prevent injuries and yellow cards with the match against Hungary, that would probably decide about their qualification for the second round, ahead.

    Emerich Jenei, the Romanian coach, thought that an extra hurdle in midfield would cause problems for Italy. He excluded one striker and Mircea Lucescu was the victim. Gheorghe Popescu became the fourth midfielder and in his place, Miodrag Belodedici took command of the defence. Iuliu Bodola was replaced by Marius Lacatus. After winning the battle with Hungary, Italian coach Pozzo only brought Sandro Mazzola in place of Gianni Rivera. The famous Rivera/Mazzola rivalry that had made the headlines in 1970 had survived until this All Time World Cup. No other changes were needed. So there was still the backline of World Cup 1990 that was preferred to 60's/70's heroes Burgnich and Facchetti and World Cup 1982 winners Scirea and Collovati.

    Romania proved to be able to withstand Pozzo's starstudded side in the first half. Very well prepared it seemed, they concentrated on disturbing the Italian build up at an early stage. Popescu, with all his stamina, had the order to lure Mazzola all over the pitch. Romania combined well through Iordanescu, who had recovered from his injury sustained against Paraguay, and Bölöni. The influence of Gheorghe Hagi however, who played more from the right to escape from the confrontation with Tardelli, was rather small just like in the previous match against Paraguay. He saw little of the ball. Italy lent back and relied on their impressive defence. Through Riva they tried to counterattack but at first, this wouldn't really work. The first chances to score were for Romania. Iordanescu released a shot that was dropped by Zoff. The rebound by Georgescu was blocked by Bergomi. All that left Romania was a corner kick. Moments later a fine pass from Bölöni fell over Maldini. Lacatus shot it towards goal but Zoff was back in business and made no mistake this time.

    After half an hour Romania had to lower the pressure on Italy and against teams of this stature that is dangerous. And it proved. The first real attack immediately led to 1-0. Benetti was the one to set it up. He opened to the left flank for Riva, who fizzed past Petrescu. A second later it was Belodedici's turn and Meazza, until that moment not in the match, arrived just in time to convert Riva's cross: 0-1. Not quite deserved, but Italy just didn't have to play well to score. Defending well and striking when the opponent loses attention, a quality in itself. Romania knew that it had a mountain to climb.

    Romania got rattled after that goal. The midfielders lost the grip they had had earlier and Italy, though playing carefully and not wasting too much energy, got more and more of the match. Riva was unstoppable for Petrescu who was a fine player going forward but vulnerable when having to control a fast outside left, when it came down to pure defending. It resulted in a yellow card when Petrescu found no other method than pulling Riva's jersey. It was the second caution for Romania, Bölöni had got the first one for protesting. Petrescu was taken off by Jenei shortly after the break and Emerich Vogl got his chance to stand up against Riva. But Italy was on song now and wanted to do business. Within ten minutes of the second half, the gap was created and Romania were knocked out.

    Just like Petrescu, Vogl couldn't hold Riva who was too quick and goaldirected. The second half had just begun when he served Piola whose header was blocked by Dinu but got stuck 20 metres from goal. There came Benetti, who pulled the trigger and the ball went in from the post: 0-2. Ducadam, Romania's goalkeeper, was left without a chance. And seven minutes later things got even worse for the yellowblue when Piola didn't need any assistance to score himself this time. The pass, again, came from Riva and Piola shrugged off Belodedici to fire the 3-0 on the scoreboard. After making everything clear, Italy were satisfied and they withdrew to the place they felt most comfortable, to their own defence. Riccardo Ferri, also owning a yellow card after fouling Georgescu, made place for Fulvio Collovati which didn't mean a loss of strength. And apart from that, Romania didn't try anymore. The Italian defence, led by example by the impressive captain Baresi, wouldn't give up any chances. It was 0-3, over and done.

    Italy had started the match too slow, but they also proved again to be able to attack, create chances and score when it was needed. They had shown against Hungary and they had done it again today. The potential the Azzurri had with them was equally superb in attack as in midfield or defence. Simply a very strong team, hard to beat with enough depth in the squad to exchange a few players every now and then without weakening. Late in the match Antognoni subsituted Mazzola and Vieri came in place of tiring Piola. It made little difference. Italy were almost certain of the second round, only a heavy defeat against Paraguay could spoil the party for them. Romania got a new and last chance, against Hungary. That would certainly be a big clash between the neighbours from the Balkan.

    Next Tuesday, in Munich under guidance of referee Jack Taylor, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria meet in group B. Everything at stake in this match. Bulgaria have to win after losing unfortunately to Czechoslovakia. The Yugoslavs have a more comfortable position but can not afford to lose either. Their coach Miljanic is likely to replace injured Sekularac with Davor Suker. They played a fine match against Scotland and are handled as the clear favourites for this match. But Yugoslavia have a history of underachieving in tournaments. How will it be this time? It certainly depends a lot on Hristo Stoichkov. The Bulgarian star wants the world to know that he belongs among the very best and has a fine possibility to show it this time against a team that is not too strong defensively. But can Bulgaria control those beautiful individual players like Petrovic, Dzajic and Stojkovic? But one can also ask whether Katalinski and his men can control Asparukhov, Stoichkov, Bonev and Jakimov. The outcome remains to be seen but we'll experience that in the next match of the All Time World Cup.


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