Euro 2020

Towards EURO 2020, the Top 11 All Time of the Italian national football team – Euro 2020

by: Adam Smith


The approach to the next European football championship begins. The 90Min editorial team selected the ideal eleventh of the National Blue retracing the history of continental competition. From 1960 to the present day, the Italians who have left their mark in the competition and in the memory of all of us.

1. P. Gianluigi Buffon

He is the man with the most appearances in the history of the national team. He defended the blue door in four editions of the European Championship, losing the 2000 edition due to a knee problem that cut him off close to leaving for Holland, otherwise he would also have the record of participation in the final stages of the European Championship .  He is the player with the record attendance, including qualifiers, in the history of the European Football Championship. This is enough to explain the choice to entrust Gigi Buffon with the poles of our blue selection.

2. D. Hyacinth Facchetti

In football the Cabal counts and Facchetti in this is second to none. Lucky man, called him his departmental partner Burgnich, with him at Inter. Homo faber lucke suae, the Latins would say. Because certainly Hyacinto wasn’t one to watch. For many the first full-back that the history of football remembers. Size from central defense, but slender physique and great ease of shooting.  It is the captain of Italy in ’68 that will win the European Championship and will be captain in the Mexican World Cup that will give us one of the most beautiful victories of the Italian national team in the semi-final against West Germany. Lucky Man, Sin He scored his first time in the 1968 European Championship semi-final against Urss. Sao Paulo version bombwith people at the other to see the national team. The game ended 0-0 after 120 minutes of battle. Rivera after 4′ remains ko in a harsh contrast of the game and does nothing but limp for the rest of the game (no changes were expected at the time). With the passage of time, Italy, now paralyzed by cramps, manages to block the advance of the Red Army. At the final whistle, German referee Tschenscher calls captains Facchetti and Shesternev into his dressing room. Not to give the list of rigorists. In rebel ’68 there were still no rules of modern football. Other than penalties, the match is decided head-on or cross. Facchetti enters mode Lucky Man, Sin, as if sitting at the roulette table. Red or black, elimination or final. Mazzola and Meadows recalling the episode say: “In all the games and lotteries he always won Hyacinth. When we saw that it was heading towards the draw they knew we were going to win.”. So it was. What happened inside the belly of Sao Paulo is not given to know. Rebel ’68 didn’t get cameras. Facchetti came out with a smile on his mouth and the mown of the final in his hands. In Naples they cried out for a miracle; San Gennaro had sent Italy to the final after 30 years of waiting. Someone said that the coin of the arbitrro had two heads and Facchetti could not lose. The blue captain fed the myth by telling years later:“The referee had to make two throws because the first the coin ended up in a crack on the floor of the dressing room, remaining in the balance. So we had to repeat it a second time.”

3. D. Paolo Maldini

There is no Italy without Maldini. They’re like bread and Nutella. Those perfect pairings, which please everyone and always leave a good taste in the mouth. Paolo is one of the great centurions of the national team, with 126 caps he is third in the list of appearances with the blue jersey. In Europe we have admired its evolution. The first appearance in ’88, in the teen version. A young man of high hopes from a poster for “That’s it.” He is an apprentice alongside “Uncle” Bergomi and Kaizer Franz Baresi. He started at the European Championship in his first season in the senior national team. The one of ’88 is remembered as the edition of the “perfect group”. Italy drew with a glorious match on debut against the mighty West Germany of the vice-champion of the world, dismissed Denmark in the second match and defeated Spain in the decisive match of The European Cup.. In that game Maldini did not let Michel start, forced even to ask for the change in ’73. That European Championship ended in Stuttgart in the semi-final against Urss, which they lost 2–0. Paolo will see him again 12 years later, captain and spiritual guide of Italy at the Dutch World Cup. Twelve years of national team in which he reached a World Cup semi-final in 1990, a final at USA ’94, a quarter-final in France ’98 and a scorching elimination at Euro ’96. In any case Paul has always been there and his Nationals have always come far. The one in 2000 comes to the bottom to play the rematch with France. This time too Paul must bite the bitterest medal. To this day Maldini remains one of the greats of our national team has never raised a title.

4. D. Franco Baresi

Kaiser Franz wins our runoff. Cannavaro has a special place in our “world” formation. Chiellini deserves a mention, too. For now we’re going to leave him out of our typical lineup, hoping to make room for him later. We were undecided to the end. Of good players the list is very long. Cheers and replays are wasted but the national team needs heart beats rather than praise. Every time Baresi made an advance or slipped, he would bounce his heart into every Italian’s chest. Every contrast a tum, every clean entry, another tum. This created the atmosphere to win games. Franco Baresi enchanted for his “manly gladiatorial beauty” by copying a definition of Gianni Brera. The summary is contained in this short video of the debut match of the Italian national team at the ’88 European Championship. To explain why Baresi can’t stay out of our national team, we borrow the words of film director Werner Herzog: “Baresi was the best when he didn’t have the ball because he could read the game: he could understand what was going to happen, and there was never any other player like him who understood the space so well as it happened to him, really sensational. I would really like, in making my films, to be one who can understand the heart of man and spaces like the Amazon just as Baresi understood the game”

5. D. Gianluca Zambrotta

When Juventus took him in ’99 Gianluca liked to play on the midfield line. Then comes Camoranesi and Lippi takes aside the 24-year-old coma to explain to him that if he wants a starting place in that Juve he has to come down to be the full-back. He obeys and in order to wear the black and white jersey he puts the reverse. Today this is a normal thing, you see the example of Cuadrado and Young, but in a 4-4-2 ’99 it was not. Gianluca with prefession and timing has put himself at the service of the team and thanks to his self-sacrifice and the intuition of Marcello Lippi, Italian football was preparing to discover one of the strongest and most consistent full-backs of the last twenty years . Hero of the German World Cup, also sealed by a goal in the quarter-finals against Ukraine, he played three consecutive editions of the European Championship from ’00 to ’08. Zambro never disappoints, one of those you always want to fantasize. Hardly that you miss the game. Never under the six, a clean run, good dribbling and lots of bonuses in attack. We also forgive him the red taken in the semi-final against Holland in ’00. Naive and strict at the same time. Too bad he missed the final; with him on the pitch maybe with France it would have been different.

6. CC. John Rivera

With talent, we can’t use rationality. Gianni Rivera was the strongest fantasist in the history of Italian football. Before the 10 became half-pointed and then fake nueve, stealing a Spanish expression to sanction the definitive demise of the role of finisher. Rivera was all that, he was the archetype of the number 10, when that number still mattered and in a field he scored unquestionably playing with the highest technical figure. This whole style exercise never pleased the legendary journalist Gianni Brera who identified in Rivera the perfect example to conced one of his favorite neologisms; The Abatino. Rivera became a representative of a class of footballers and athletes: “Abatino is an eighteenth-century term, very close – to be frank – to the cycisbeus; a fragile and elegant omelet, so endowed with style to appear mannery, and sometimes fake.“Beautiful to see themselves without physical courage and athletic vigour. Rivera became the prince of this class extended to the entire Italian people. Rivera became a martyr of a new football romance. In an Italy chain and counterattack he found no fertile ground and always had to fight with the press, coaches and insiders who never hid the reservations about him. Gianni Rivera’s relationship with the national team has always been turbulent. In the ’68 year of the European Championship at home, the year when he was supposed to be our beacon, he dragged us to the finals but got hurt after ‘4 of the semi-final played in Naples against the Soviet Union. It remains stoically on the pitch, partly because the regulation did not allow changes. The match was decided by the dime of fate won by Facchetti, but Rivera will not play the final. He will give way to another injured person with one less “er” in his last name. Gigi Riva, he will take the cover of ’68 and hand the trophy to the national team.

7. CC. Daniel De Rossi

Among the many extraordinary numbers Daniele De Rossi’s 21 goals in the club’s career made him the most-scoring midfielder in the history of the national team. The work on the lungs did It Daniel but unlike the one who sang La Liga, the median DDR was also born with good pieids. Feet and insertion time, because Daniel when he sniffed the air of rigor was converted into a relentless killer. He has scored more than many great strikers in the national team. Daniel’s offensive generosity has always been in the fight with his irascibility, not so much for a personal matter, but for the desire to sell to his people, Italy, the figure of a man ready to convert feelings into shares. And every time we spotted the dislike on the court, it was Daniel who gave him the first paw. Whenever there was to incite an inattentive teammate, it was Daniele who echoed the millions of howling voices in front of the TV. Every time the referee did us wrong, it was Daniel who turned our anger into his anger. Daniel was connected with each of us through a stream of emotions that flowed in his vein.

8. CC. Andrea Pirlo

Andrea Pirlo played his first game in a European Championship final against Sweden on 18 June 2004. In the era marked by the total football of Dutch descent made then paradigm football by Barcelona, Pirlo despite having never worn the Balugrana shirt, far from having Spanish or Dutch geniuses, was one of the greatest interpreters in the new way of playing the role of the midfielder. Disappeared the pure number 10 he disguised himself as a fantasist by staking himself from the traffic of the midfield. He was among the first to understand the limits of the classic dribbling zone. A ZPL (limited dribbling zone) in which Pirlo left the others in the column going to probe alternative routes lowering between the two central defenders. There was an era not far away when players in distress threw the long ball towards the tip, away from goal and close to that of opponents. Pirlo was so serene and elusive that since the day of his advent everyone began to take refuge in him. Sorting center of each stage of the game, shock for defense, finisher for the attack. Diapason for low exterior insertions. The most Spanish of the Italians, the last fantasist. It is no coincidence that his manifesto at the European Championships is represented by the performance against the red furies in the first match of the Euro 2012 group when he sent to the Christmas Toto for the goal of the blue advantage and drove the three architects of tiki-taka Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta crazy.

9. ATT. Mario Balotelli

In the ranking of the top Italian scorers in the European football, Super Mario is the player to have scored the most goals in a single edition. In 2012 he led the Italian attack of Prandelli. A national team that came out with broken bones from the South African World Cup, a blue wreck that just four years earlier lifted the last World Cup in the sky of Berlin. Mario, fresh winner of the Premier League with Manchester City, moves from light blue blue to lead Italy’s attack. An atomic attack, in the sense of unstable and ready to explode at any moment. To Mario’s responsiveness is added that of Antonio Cassano, in a mix that would horrify even the “comrade Legasov”. With Antonio they devisate the perfect plan to disintegrate Germany. The others take them for fools, they have overgrown eyes; they’re not joking at all. The first Mario bagged it head after a fake body of Antonio that brushes from the left a perfect cross. The second is the history of the European Championship. Crescent to come out of the offside, Montolivo memorized on Balotelli’s right run. He runs off to the head with Neuer. He can do anything, but he chooses the most difficult solution. Botta’s first intention to left under the intersection. To the face of the Spread, to the face of those who gave Italy for drug dealing, to the face of criticism. Mario undresses and shows off his muscles. For a day we all feel stronger, for a day the whole of Italy goes out in the street bare-breasted.

10. ATT. Francesco Totti

Francesco Totti goes down in the history of europeans for the patent of the “spoon”. The year of copyright is 2000. In the office of the Amsterdam Arena in front of the eyes of the whole of Holland, Francis makes a Steve Jobs-style presentation. You know when the former Apple CEO pulled the first MacBook air out of a paper bag, leaving everyone speechless? Francis did the same thing with a soccer ball. He waited for the eyes of the audience to be all for him, focused on the penalty puck as if it were the stage fire. He waited to get him in front of the tallest goalkeeper of all. What comes out of Francis’ foot is a caress, not a shot. Pizzul, bewildered, tries in the of his head to find a right term to define that gesture.  Francesco Totti from Rome had just invented the spoon, a modern version of the “Panenka”. Francesco Totti had just sent an entire country into ecstasy and Italy was heading for the second time in its history towards the European Championship final.

11. ATT. Gigi Riva

Gigi Riva is the symbol of the Italian national team. With 35 goals he still holds the record of goals scored with the blue shirt. But out of those 35, there’s one that weighs more than anyone. He scored on 10/06/1968 in the final of Rome against Yugoslavia. Gigi Riva that European lives him on the bench blocked by a painful pubalgia that hit him just after the end of the qualifying phase. Riva led Italy with six goals, a hat-trick and three more goals in a double match against Switzerland. He missed the playoff against Bulgaria and in the final phase (in the semi-final and final times) Valcareggi decided to bring him to the bench more as a recognition than for utility. The blue attack is entrusted to the milanist Prati. Italy defied fate with the dime in the semi-final against the Soviet Union. In the final they finished 1-1 with Yugoslavia after extra time: the replay had to be played and Valcareggi was afraid that the accounts with luck were exhausted. For this surprise he takes out Prati and in the repetition of Rome of June 10 in attack there is no number 11 but the number 17, that of Gigi Riva: “I am not a collector of jerseys, but some I kept it”, told Riva. “I am particularly attached to one of these, and strangely it is not my classic No.11 but the No.17 that Valcareggi gave me for the 1968 European Championships despite the groin injury. Before the race was repeated, the mister told me I was going to play and asked me to hold on as much as I could. And so I scored the goal of the lead. It was a wonderful evening. The next morning I found myself at Rome airport without even understanding how I got there!” . Thunderbolt takes 10 minutes to unlock the game and put his signature on the only European victory in the history of the Italian national football team.