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italy and the world cup
turning azzuro

by Christopher Pepe
(return to sports)

As Italians, our favorite sporting past-time is soccer -- playing the game, pledging allegiance to our favorite team, and debating the merits of a particular match, coach or player. However, when it comes to international soccer, all Italians agree that the National team, the "Azzurri," must win. And win they have, boasting the third best record in World Cup play (behind Brazil and West Germany), and the second most World Cup Championships, three (behind Brazil's four).

Creation of FIFA
The World Cup is the world's most popular single sporting event. It originates from the Olympic games of the 20th century, when worldwide soccer competition was restricted to amateurs only. With the creation of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) in 1904, the seeds of professional international soccer competition were sown.

The First World Cup
In 1929, three decades after its creation, FIFA announced that the first World Cup would be held the following year. After sorting through the financial difficulty of organizing a global event, FIFA decided that the country that was honored to host the first World Cup would also bear the financial burden of the event. Many European countries still bid for the event (including Italy), but the South American countries rallied behind Uruguay -- and Uruguay was chosen to host the inaugural World Cup in 1930.

There were many considerations for European countries when deciding whether they could join the 1930 World Cup -- the transition period between World War I, the world economic crisis of 1929, and the enormous burden of travelling to South America by ship. Many European countries, including Italy, decided that they were not able to join this first World Cup. Thirteen countries ultimately participated in the event, with all but four European countries staying home. (note: The United States played in this first World Cup, and lost in the semifinals to Argentina). Uruguay was the eventual winner of the 1930 World Cup.

Since 1930, the World Cup has been held every four years in between the Olympic games. (note: due to World War II, there was a 12-year gap between the 1938 World Cup in France and the 1950 World Cup in Brazil). Italy has hosted the global event twice.

Italy's World Cup Success
Following is a brief history and summary of Italy's World Cup success.

Italy 2, Czechoslovakia 1: Qualifying rounds were used for the first time. In the final, Antonin Puc put the Czechs ahead in the 70th minute. Italy's Raimundo Orsi scored 10 minutes later and sent the game into overtime. Angelo Schiavio's score in the 95th minute marked the victory for Italy, the host country.

Italy 4, Hungary 2: In the final, defending champion Italy faced Hungary, which made its way through the tournament in such an impressive manner that it was considered the odds-on favorite to win. Italy took a surprising 3-1 halftime lead, however, and won 4-2.

Brazil 4, Italy 1: Although it was Brazil that won its third World Cup, it was Italy's semifinal victory over Germany that provoked the most fireworks. Germany tied the score at 1-1 with only seconds to go in regulation and took the lead after only five minutes of overtime. Italy struck back twice to take the lead back before Germany tied the score again. Gianni Rivera finally won it for Italy.

Italy 3, West Germany 1: Two soccer giants made it to the final: West Germany, which had defeated France in a nerve-racking penalty kick shootout in the semifinals, and Italy, which had eliminated Brazil (3-2) and Poland (2-0). There was no scoring in the first half. Then, Italy - which had dominated all along - took a 3-0 lead. West Germany scored one goal back, but Italy's three goals were out of reach. With their championship win, Italy joined Brazil with three World Cups.

Brazil 1, Italy 0: A superb World Cup marred only by a disappointing final, in which Brazil won on penalties after a scoreless draw with Italy. There was plenty of goals, excitement, drama and surprises, though, as the World Cup made its first visit to the United States.

(Parts of the preceding article have been reproduced from The World Cup Archive, and The Washington Post)


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