The times when even a defeat against England was a source of pride are very far awaybecause they – the English – were the masters of football – they had invented Football – and the Azzurri felt shy, inadequate and guilty of late in front of them. In 1934 fresh world champion Italy went to London – Highbury stadium – to play a friendly against England. That same England that a few months earlier had deserted the World Cup that we had organized at our home. Sorry but we’re not coming, the English Federation had told us. Ok: they didn’t want to lower themselves to our level. And in short, in that November of 1934, in the mud and fog, Italy lost 3-2, but that was an epic match because after 12 minutes England were already leading 3-0 and in the stands waved the newspapers where they had predicted a sensational 10-0. Actually in the shot pride pushed the various Meazza and Mumo Orsi, Guaita and Serantoni to a comeback, with the goalkeeper Ceresoli who became unsurpassable. The “Peppin” scored a brace and those eleven became legendary as the “Lions of Highbury”.
A year ago – you remember that, right? – own in the Wembley den we won the European Championship, after a 1-1 in extra time, the third draw with this result in the last three cross matches between Italy and England. The truth is that these challenges are almost always cloaked in epic, just remember ours here first victory at Wembley, in November (14) of 1973. Game running out, cross from the right by Chinaglia, the English goalkeeper Ray Clemence dives, but rejects short, right on the feet of Fabio Capello, who deposits the ball on the net and gives great joy to all the Italians in the stands, people who had left to escape hunger and find work in England. Waiters to whom? She was a friendly and five months earlier – at the Comunale of Turin – Valcareggi’s Italy had taken away its first great satisfaction and had managed to beat – after attempts – the English Masters. Goals from Capello – even that time – and from Anastasi. In reality, when he counts Italy he doesn’t miss a beat. We never lost in the final stages of the World Cup and European Championships against the English. But the first win at Wembley in a match with something up for grabs came twenty-three years later, in 1996, again at Wembley: throwing of Billy Costacurta, crossing shot of “Magic Box” Zola, who spent three months earlier at Chelsea.
The most recent victory – the last – is dated 2014 and arrived in Manaus, in the Amazon, in the illusory debut of Prandelli’s national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Marchisio’s goals, Sturridge’s draw and Balotelli’s acute: we thought it was love, but it wasn’t even a gig, but the beginning of the end. And again: he counted for little, if not for the glory, that time in Bari, in the final for the 3rd place of the great disappointed at the World Cup in Italy 90, that of the Magic Nights: in the semifinals Italy had been eliminated by Maradona’s Argentina, England by Matthaus’s Germany who would later become world champion. Well, that day was a party and Roby Baggio, playing cat and mouse with Peter Shilton, scored one of the best goals of his adventure in blue: going to see that goal again, please. Instead, he counted very much in the November 1976because Italy and England were included in the same qualifying round for the Argentina ’78 World Cup: advantage of Antognoni, doubling of Bettega with the highlight of his repertoire, the header dive. Italy and England closed that qualifying round at 10 points, the other two opponents were Finland and Luxembourg and it was the best goal difference that gave Enzo Bearzot’s team the pass to Argentina.
There was always Prandelli on the bench – two years earlier, in a friendly match that was played in Bern – when Italy lost 2-1 against England coached by Roy Hodgson. Advantage of De Rossi, then English comeback with Jagielka and Defoe. That was the Italy that had just come out of an excellent European, finished in 2nd place after being “matata”In the final from Spain. By the way: precisely in that tournament Italy was held back at 0-0 – the only one in the long series of challenges – and then waited for Pirlo’s “spoon” on penalties, an iconic gesture that gave us the semifinal. Ten years earlier – in 2002 in Leeds – it happens instead that Vincenzo Montella lives his only day of glory with the blue shirt, scoring a brace (the only one in the national team) against Eriksson’s England three months before a World Cup (Korea Japan) which would have turned out to be a mockery for Italy’s Trap (Byron Moreno, does he say anything?).
Strange things happen against England, like seeing Growl Gattuso in the scorers’ table. Friendly match in Turin in November 2000, the 1-0 winning goal was signed by the Milan midfielder. For those who love statistics: before and after, in his 73 appearances for the national team, Gattuso has never scored. And finally, a curiosity: not everyone knows that Tardelli’s Scream – yes, the Scream at the 1982 Bernabeu that gave us the World Cup – was actually born two years earlier, at the 1980 home European Championship, when Italy – in Turin – defeated England and Tardelli began – on that very occasion – to perform in the wild race, shouting his joy to the sky. The balance up to now reads: 28 matches, 10 wins for Italy, 8 for England and 10 draws.
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