Desperate Italy cling to memories of 1982
Back in the time of tight shorts and second round group stages, the World Cup was very different. Except for Italy that is.
In 1982 the Azzurri drew their three first round group games but still sneaked their way into the second round. A 0-0 draw with Poland, a 1-1 draw with Peru and a 1-1 draw against Cameroon were met with howls of derision but the tradition of Italy being slow starters was born.
Fast forward three decades and the same is happening again. A 1-1 draw with Paraguay and Sunday’s shock 1-1 draw against 78th ranked New Zealand have left the world champions in a pickle but another stalemate against Slovakia on Thursday will be enough to put them though with three points if Paraguay defeat the Kiwis.
No one is talking about Italy successfully defending their title this year, not even coach Marcello Lippi and his team given their slow approach play, lack of ideas and uncharacteristic weakness at the back.
But similar things were being said back in 1982 and look what happened.
Italy beat Argentina 2-1 and then overcame Brazil 3-2 when Paolo Rossi, who previously could not hit a barn door with a banjo, netted a hat-trick for his first goals of the tournament on his way to being top scorer.
Revenge against Poland and a glorious triumph against West Germany (and yes Marco Tardelli’s famous crazy run) followed.
It is very very doubtful the same will happen this time, there is certainly no one as talented as Paolo Rossi in this squad, but if you think Argentina or Brazil have already got this World Cup sewn up in the group stage think again.