[SPORTS]:::Bravo Italia! Italia!

No. 60 Monday, March 1, 2010
The 2006 World Cup final played in Berlin, Germany was not one of the best finals ever, but it was noted for the spirit in which thousands of chanting Italians left the Deutschland, shouting Italia! Italia! They had one a fourth World Cup and the jubilation was fanatic.

   That campaign was built on the tradition of the Italians to always rise to the occasion, when at a major FIFA tournament.
   The Azzurri, as they are nicknamed is one the world's premier football nations and having won four titles (1934, 1938, 1982, 2006), second only to Brazil (5), they are again eyeing the prize, this time in South Africa.
   After declining to participate in the first World Cup (1930, in Uruguay) the Italian national team won two consecutive editions of the tournament in 1934 and 1938, under the lead of coach Vittorio Pozzo and thanks to the genius of Giuseppe Meazza, one of the best Italian players ever. Other stars of that era included Luis Monti, Giovanni Ferrari, Silvio Piola and Virginio Rosetta
   In the 1934 World Cup, the host Azzurri defeated Czechoslovakia 2-1 in Rome, with goals by Raimundo Orsi and Angelo Schiavio.
   Their pedigree is unquestionable; they are definitely one the best teams in the world and those drawn in their group for the South Africa 2010 World Cup should be aware, the Italians are strong and will be a force to reckon with.
   Standing in their way of repeating as finalists are the awfully talented Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia. While the group is not as strong as others, Italy will face a stern test not only from Paraguay but also Slovakia.
   In the World Cup finals of 1954 and the 1962 that followed, Italy again failed to progress past the first round, and did not even qualify for the 1958 World Cup. During the early 1960s, the Italian football clubs AC Milan and Internazionale dominated the international scene, the National team was not able to match these results. Italy did not take part in the first edition of the European Championship in 1960 (then known as the European Nations Cup), and was knocked out by the USSR in the round of 16 (second round) of the 1964 European Championship.
   Their participation in the 1966 World Cup is always remembered for their 0-1 defeat at the hands of North Korea. Despite being the tournament favorites, the Azzurri, whose 1966 squad included Rivera and Bulgarelli, were eliminated in the first round by the semi-professional North Koreans.
   The 1970 Italian team was one of the favorites for the title. Exploiting the performances of European champions player like Giacinto Facchetti, Rivera and Riva and with a new center-forward Roberto Boninsegna, the Azzuri were able to came back to a world cup final match after 32 years of desolation. They reached this result after one of the most famous match in football history: Italy vs. West Germany 4-3, which is known as the "Game of the Century". Although they were defeated by the amazing Brazilians, the 1970's team is still recognized as one of the best Italian national teams.
   Four years later saw the Italians with a new generation of players, most famous was Paolo Rossi. Italy played very well in the first round, being the only team in the tournament to beat the eventual champions and host team Argentina. Second round games against West Germany, Austria and Netherlands led Italy to the third place final, where it was defeated by Brazil 2-1.
   They were to be redeemed in the 1982 FIFA World Cup amidst general skepticism and discomfort. Italy qualified for the second round after three uninspiring draws against Poland, Peru and Cameroon.
   Italy's strength finally showed in the second round group, a true Group of Death with Argentina and Brazil - the defending champions and the team favored to dethrone them. In the opener, Italy prevailed 2-1 over Diego Maradona's side after an ill-tempered battle in which Italy's defenders and midfielders proved their mastery in the rougher side of the game. Italy's goals, both excellent left-footed strikes, were scored by Marco Tardelli and Antonio Cabrini.
   After Brazil defeated Argentina 3-1, Italy needed to win in order to advance to the semifinals. Twice Italy went in the lead with Paolo Rossi goals, and twice Brazil came back. When Paulo Roberto Falcao scored to make it 2-2 Brazil would have been through on goal difference; but in the 74th minute Rossi poked home the winning goal in a crowded penalty area to send Italy to the semifinals after one of the all-time greatest games in World Cup history, In the wake of its brilliant second round performance, Italy easily dispatched Poland in the first semi-final with another two goals from Rossi.
   Tardelli's scream after his goal in the final is still remembered as the symbol of Italy's 1982 World Cup triumph. Paolo Rossi won the Golden Boot with six goals, and 40-year-old captain-goalkeeper Dino Zoff became the oldest-ever player to win the World Cup.
   The Azzurri won their fourth World Cup, defeating their long­time rivals France in Berlin, on 9 July, 5-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw at the end of extra time. French captain Zinedine Zidane opened the scoring in the 7th minute with a chipped penalty kick, controversially awarded for a foul by Materazzi.
   Italy remains the.only side to have played in the two World Cup finals that have ended in shootouts; in 1994 and 2006. In South Africa, the Azzurris will be making their 17th finals appearance, their first being in 1968.

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