The name of Paolo Rossi’s autobiography is ‘I made Brazil cry’ – and this title perfectly encapsulates the match that defined the Italy legend’s career and set the Azzurri on their way to a third World Cup victory in 1982.
Heading into the second round Group C decider between Italy and Brazil at the Estadio Sarria in Barcelona, no one gave the Europeans a chance. Blessed with the attacking fantasy of Zico, Socrates, Eder, Falcao and Cerezo, the Selecao were crushing everyone in their path while Italy had drawn their opening three games before scraping a 2-1 victory over Argentina in the opening match of the second phase.
The undoubted flop of Italy’s tournament prior to the clash with Brazil had been Rossi. The 25-year-old had gone into the finals clearly unfit having only just completed a two-year ban for being implicated in the Totonero betting scandal – a crime the Tuscan claims to this day he never committed.
|VIEW FROM ITALY
|By Federico Casotti| Goal Italy
Paolo Rossi had one man to thank for his incredible resurgence at World Cup 1982: Italy's coach Enzo Bearzot.
"After the game I immediately looked for Bearzot, I owed it all to him, this unbelievable victory, those unforgettable moments. I hugged him, just a hug, there was no need to speak.
"The fact that Bearzot trusted me was fundamental," Rossi told FIFA.
Just five minutes into their clash with Brazil, Rossi repaid his mentor’s faith by heading home a cross from Antonio Cabrini. The goal set motion what is regarded by many as the greatest World Cup game of all time.
The match had everything. There were moments of magic from the likes of Falcao and Bruno Conti. There was controversy with a disallowed goal from Giancarlo Antognoni and some vicious man-marking by Claudio Gentile on Zico. And there was a miraculous goal-line save by 40-year-old Dino Zoff on an Oscar header.
Twice Brazil equalised through Socrates and Falcao, but Rossi in turn struck twice to complete an incredible hat-trick and a 3-2 victory. First pouncing on a Cerezo error to lash the ball past Waldir Peres then, with 16 minutes remaining, instinctively turning a loose ball home from a corner to send the seemingly unbeatable favourites home.
The nation of Brazil was shellshocked. Coach Tele Santana was pelted with rotten fruit upon his return to the country, while Zico described the defeat as the "day football died".
Italy were in the semi-finals and Rossi had been reawakened. He scored both goals as the Azzurri comfortably beat Poland 2-0 at Camp Nou and was again decisive in the final itself against West Germany. He nodded home the opener three minutes shy of the hour mark as his side went on to win 3-1. Italy were world champions thanks to Rossi’s goals.
With six strikes, Rossi won the Golden Boot and he was also awarded the Golden Ball by Fifa as the tournament’s best player. In doing so, he became one of only three players – along with Brazilians Pele and Ronaldo – to win both a World Cup Golden Ball and Silver Ball. His place in World Cup legend, and in the worst nightmares of all Brazilians, is secure.