Six years ago from a background of scandal, allegations of corruption, and an attempted suicide, the Azzurri rose up to conquer the world. This was not a new occurrence. In 1980 Totonero had broken, seven clubs, two managers, and twenty players were all punished for their involvement. One of whom was Paolo Rossi who would return from his two-year ban to captain Italy to World Cup glory in 1982. So it's surprising that now Italy find themselves once more competing in a major football tournament amidst the background of corruption some quarters of the media are suggesting this may unsettle the squad.
Then, as now, Italy were not considered amongst the pre tournament favourites. If there was a turning point in that 2006 campaign, a moment when Italy changed gear, it came when the Italian captain was caught off-guard during a routine press conference.
It was clear from Fabio Cannavaro's ashen face that the news was not good. The normally jovial Juventus defender quickly made his apologies and left a silenced press room in Germany. Tragic events were unfolding back home in Turin.
Tuesday 27 June 2006 had started like any other working day for the new Juventus team manager Gianluca Pessotto. After kissing his wife Reana and the heads of his two daughters Federica and Benedetta he left his home on the Via Cavour for the short drive to work. It was after arriving at the club's offices in the Corso Galileo Ferraris that his regular pattern was disturbed. He didn't park in the main internal courtyard as previous days. Instead, he entered by the rear of the building, parking in the executives-only underground car park to avoid meeting anyone. He took the lift all the way to the top floor and clutching rosary beads in his hand, the former Italian international jumped from a third floor window.
His body slammed down hard, rebounding from one car onto another. He suffered multiply fractures. He could only mumble the name of his wife before slipping into a coma. Three major surgeries would follow. Whilst doctors were fighting to stabilise his condition, Italy were locked in a tense match with Australia. News of Pessotto's predicament only reached the players in a post match press conference. But why had one of Juventus' favourite sons tried to take his own life? Some claimed he was depressed, but whatever the extent of other problems in his life the bribery and match fixing scandal which had broken in May is sure to have played a factor in his darkened state of mind.
Juventus were the main club implicated in the Calciopoli scandal, the others being Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina. Before Pessotto's appointment the entire Juve board had resigned and hoped to take with it the stains of impropriety. Some saw the whole scandal as a fortuitous sign. The last time a scandal this big broke in Italian soccer it was 1980's Totonero. For most, certainly for lovers of the Italian game, it was a depressing affair. Their national game had once again been besmirched and defiled by its custodians.
Whilst much of the world's press heaped praise on a strong Argentine side and a resurgent Germany, the Azzurri quietly went about their business. Coach Marcelo Lippi became a pugilist with the Italian media threatening to walk on one occasion. Then came news of Perrotto and the Ukraine game. A Juventus player Gianluca Zambrotta set the tone, the midfielder turned defender rampaging down the flank and slotting the ball home. Forget Zizou. Cannavaro, then Juve's captain, was the player of the Tournament and was in a form few could match. 3-0 and talk of Dark Horses began to seep into the press. Pessottino siamo con te - Pessottino we are with you - read the banner paraded by Zambrotta and Cannavaro after the game.
Still all eyes were on the Germans, the home favourites. National stereotypes are loved in the media. The Germans, ultra-efficient would have the stronger will. The Italians would be broken they bleated. They were wrong. Many falsehoods abound about Italians, one of them being that they capitulate under pressure.
For many, myself included, Italy won the World Cup in that semi-final. The Azzurri absorbed every German assault. Masterful in defence they exhibited the patience that is the mark of all great Italian sides. But penalties have never been kind to the Italians, a shoot out would favour the opposition. They needed to win in open play. Enter Fabio Grosso and the first of his destiny changing strikes - the second would be the winning penalty in the final. The trajectory the ball would take for Alessandro Del Piero to clinch Italy second was as beautiful as anything by Michelangelo. In slow motion the bend Del Piero imparted on that ball was nothing short of perfection.
Over shadowed by Zidane's combustion in the final, Italy nevertheless deserved their victory. It was a sad end to the career France's finest player. It was a replay of that 2006 World Cup Final that the Italians were hoping for in their Euro 2012 quarter-final. They wanted France. They got England. The team they didn't want. Why? Because the Italians know what the English are just beginning to realise - Roy Hodgson is one of the canniest managers in the game.
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