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Rossi resurrects Italy
After a laborious start to the tournament, the Italians came alive - thanks to their star striker Paolo Rossi finding his best form - to win their third World Cup. But this World Cup is also remembered for two games that have passed into football lore: Brazil vs. Italy and, above all, a certain France vs. West Germany semi-final.
No nation has ever had so much time to prepare
a World Cup tournament. FIFA appointed Spain as the host nation to the
12th World Cup, which would play host to 24 teams rather than 16, as had
been the case previously.
Although 24 teams now qualified for the finals, the Netherlands, runner-up in '74 and '78, were not among them-the Dutch having been knocked out in the qualifiers by an impressive French side coached by Michel Hidalgo, which, in turn, only qualified for the second round under duress.
The same first round difficulties were encountered by two other tournament favourites: the West Germans-beaten 2-1 by Algeria-sneaked into the second round following a victory over their Austrian neighbours; and the Italians only made it past Cameroon on goal difference.
Suspense at Seville
But after shaky starts, France, Germany and Italy really came into their own, winning all their second round matches, while England and Brazil foundered-the latter knocked out by the Italians in a stupendous game.
In the first semi-final, the Italians (thanks to two goals by a revitalised Paolo Rossi), proved too strong for Poland in a one-sided game. The other semi-final, however was a completely different story. This fabulously dramatic but ultimately cruel game has become one of the most talked-about encounters of all time. And one which will be eternally regretted by the French. The Germans took the lead through Littbarski, before Platini brought France level with a penalty. In extra-time the Blues led 3 -1 but Germany fought back to equalise and then won the game on a penalty shoot-out.
The multi-talented Squadra Azzurra comfortably beat West Germany in the final (3-1), helped by another goal from their inspiration, Paolo Rossi. Dino Zoff, the 40-year-old Italian captain, was presented with the World Cup trophy by the King of Spain, Juan Carlos. And so Italy became, after Brazil, the second country to win three World Cups.
Sources: FIFA Archives; CFO France 98; Ian Morrison: The World Cup - A Complete Record 1930-1990. Breedon Books, Derby (UK) 1990.; John Robinson: Soccer - The World Cup 1930-1998. Soccer Books Limited, Lincolnshire (UK) 1998