ITALY

The great idol of the Tifosi in the successful 1930s Italian team that won back to back World Cups, Guiseppe “Peppino” Meazza was the Azzurri's first superstar footballer.
The man with the black, sternly combed-back hair was an elegant, but also very effective forward with a marked sense for goals.
Such was his legendary status the San Siro stadium was renamed after him in 1979, having played for both Milanese clubs.

Paolo Rossi's career lay in tatters in 1980, after he was suspended for two years following an alleged "fixing" scandal playing for Perugia.
He was immediately recalled to international football in time for the 1982 World Cup in which he was the tournament sensation and top scorer, including that memorable hatrick which knocked out favourites Brazil.

Due to his creative style of play, eye for goal, flair, and technical skill, Alessandro Del Piero was known as a "fantasista" in Italy and regarded as one of the best Italian players of all time, helping the national team to win the 2006 World Cup.
He is the joint 4th highest scorer for Italy, alongside Roberto Baggio, with 27 goals in 91 appearances.

The football media refer to a "Del Piero Zone" ("Gol alla Del Piero" in Italian), a style of scoring involving a dribbling approach from the left flank, followed by a precise, curling lob into the far top corner of the goal, from outside the area.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time, Roberto Baggio came fourth in the FIFA Player of the Century Internet poll.
The best player of his generation, he inspired awe throughout the footballing world, and was beloved back home, yet never quite won over his, usually conservative, Italian coaches.
In 1993, Baggio was named FIFA World Player of the Year and won the Ballon d'Or.

Blessed with perfect poise and control he almost single-handedly led Italy to the World Cup Final in 1994, but missed the crucial penalty in the shoot-out against Brazil.
It proved to be another near-miss for one of the greats of the modern game.

Nicknamed the 'Divine ponytail' due to his hairstyle and buddhist beliefs, Baggio is the only Italian ever to score in three World Cups, 1990, 1994 and 1998, and holds the record for most goals scored in World Cup tournaments for Italy, along with Paolo Rossi and Christian Vieri.

At the 1990 World Cup held in Italy, Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci replaced Andrea Carnevale during Italy's first match against Austria and his life turned on its head. He scored the decisive goal as the match ended with a 1–0 win for the hosts. Against the USA, Schillaci again made an appearance as a sub, but he started the next match, against Czechoslovakia, alongside Roberto Baggio. Italy won 2–0, with Baggio and Schillaci both scoring. Schillaci also opened the scoring in Italy's matches in the second round and quarter-finals, against Uruguay and Ireland respectively.

For the semi-final against Argentina, Gianluca Vialli replaced Baggio, whereas Schillaci kept his place in the team. The match ended 1–1, with Schillaci scoring his fifth goal of the tournament, but Italy were eliminated after a penalty shoot-out.

Schillaci scored the winning goal in Italy's 2–1 win in the third-place match against England from a penalty, and won the Golden Boot, with six goals. He retired from international competition with seven goals in sixteen caps after scoring his only other goal for Italy against Norway in 1991.
Schillaci's international career only lasted a year but surely never has there been a more memorable one for such a short space of time.

Marco Tardelli sprinting towards the bench, fists pumping, head shaking wildly, on
the verge of tears and screaming ‘Goal!’ after scoring in the 1982 World cup final
against West Germany was the symbol of the Azzurri‘s third World title.

To watch Tardelli’s triumph is to see the true passion football is capable of inducing, encapsulated in one simple, euphoric moment. And that is why it remains the purest, most uplifting and most memorable goal celebration in history.

The 1934 World Cup finals mixed sports and politics, as it was staged under the Fascist rule of Benito Mussolini in Italy.
A regular spectator at Rome's Nazionale stadium during the second World Cup, Il Duce made the tournament his Berlin Olympics, using the competition to showcase Italy and trumpet his Fascist regime to the world, while at the same time uniting the country behind the national team.

This was the first finals for which teams had to qualify to take part, and the only ever where the reigning champions have not participated.
Italy became the second World Cup champions, beating Czechoslovakia 2–1 in the final after extra time.
Critics contended the Azzurri only won because the tournament had been staged on their home soil. It was an argument Italy emphatically refuted four years later.

As a symbol and legend for club and country, he played for 14 years for the Azzuri, making his debut in 1988 before retiring in 2002 with a record 126 caps and four World Cup participations. He has also worn the captains armband a record 74 times for his country.

Maldini was a very technical player, his timing in the tackles were perfect and he had great pace for defender. He had the ability to play as both a left back as well as a centre back.
He won the 1994 world player of the year award of World Soccer Magazine, with a unique distinction of being the first defender to do so.

During his two-decade-old career, he played only for AC Milan and holds the record number of appearances in Serie A and won seven titles.
He participated in eight UEFA Champions league finals, winning five.
Few have drawn such widespread admiration from team-mates and opponents alike. "Quite simply the best there is" was the description used by the Juventus striker Alessandro Del Piero.

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