Friday, October 31, 2014

Italy All-time 23 member team

This is my all-time team for Italy. If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be the 23 players I would bring to the tournament. 

 Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Italy 1934

Italy won back-to-back World Cups in 1934 and 1938.   From the post-War period until 1968, the Azzurri failed to produce a national team that were as good as the pre-War generation.  However, AC Milan and Inter Milan did well in club competitions, winning 4 European Cups in the 1960's. Then, in 1968, Italy won the European Champion and reached the Final of the 1970 WC Finals.  The team consisted of Giacinto Facchetti, Sandro Mazzola, Gianni Rivera, Luigi Riva and Roberto Boninsegna.  

From then on, they produced great team after great team.  In 1982, Paulo Rossi's goals helped Italy to win their first WC since 1938. In the 1990's, Italy had Roberto Baggio as the trequartistas with Paulo Maldini and Franco Baresi maintaining the backline.  They reached the semifinal of the WC in 1990 and then, the Final in 1994.  In 2006, while the Italian clubs were under investigation at home, the Azzurri rallied and won the WC in Germany.

If there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be the 23 players I would bring to the tournament.  The team is not an All-Star team. I tried to be as realistic as possible.   A few of the players are selected for tactical reasons at the expense of more famous players.

GK: Gianluigi Buffon
Considered to be one of the greatest keeper ever.  He made his Serie A debut at the age of 17.  He earned his first cap when he was 19.  His biggest achievement must be winning the WC in 2006.  He has been named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record eight time. He became the most expensive goalkeeper of all time following his  transfer from Parma to Juventus in 2001.

GK: Dino Zoff
He captained the WC winning side in 1982 at the age of 40.  He held the Serie A appearance record until 2006. He was also a part of the team that won the Euro 1968. He achieved great club success with Juventus, winning 6 Serie A titles, 2 Coppa Italias, and an UEFA Cup, also reaching two European Champions' Cup finals in 1972-73 and 1982-83 seasons.

Zoff in 1982

GK: Giampiero Combi
He was considered one of the best goalkeepers in the world during the pre-War era.  He won the WC in 1934 for Italy.  He  kept a clean sheet for 934 consecutive minutes in 1925-26 season, a record in Italian Football.

CB/RB: Claudio Gentile
He was considered one of the Azzurri's greatest defender.  He was best remembered for stopping Diego Maradona and Zico at the WC Finals in 1982.  He was capped 71 times.  Gentile played over a decade with Juventus.

Claudio Gentile vs Zico

CB/RB:  Giuseppe Bergomi
Bergomi played his entire career with Inter Milan.  He was one of Inter Milan's greatest defender.  He won the WC in 1982 and appeared in the 1986 and 1990 WC Finals. He was capped 81 times.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro
Cannavaro was capped 138 times. He was the captain and perhaps, the best Italian player of the 2006 World Cup team.  He was named the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year, and won the Ballon d'Or award in 2006 which made him the third defender to win the award. He started his career with Napoli and had spells with Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid.
Fabio Cannavaro
SW:  Franco Baresi
Baresi was considered Italy's greatest libero.  He was capped 82 times.  He led the Azzurri to the semifinal of the WC in 1990 and then, the Final in 1994.  However, he missed most of the tournament in 1994.  He was the captain of AC Milan for 15 years, where he won three European Cups and 6 Serie A titles. 

Franco Baresi
SW: Gaetano Scirea
Scirea was the starting libero for Italy in Spain 1982 and Juventus throughout the 1980's.  He is one of only five players in history to have won all international trophies for football clubs recognized by UEFA and FIFA.

CB/SW: Alessandro Nesta
Nesta is considered one of the best defender of his generation.  He was the Serie A defender of the Year for 4 times. He started his career with Lazio.  Later, he played with AC Milan where he won two Champions' league.  He also played in MLS.  he earned 78 caps.   He played on the 2006 WC winning team, but injured in the third game of the tournament.  

LB: Paolo Maldini
He was considered the greatest leftback of all-time.  He won 26 trophies in his 25 year career with AC Milan, including 5 Champions' league trophies. With the Azzurri, Maldini took part in three European Championships, and four World Cups. Although he did not win a tournament with the Italian National team, he reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup in the US and Euro 2000, and the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy and Euro 1988 in West Germany, and was elected into the all-star teams for each of these tournaments, in addition to the Euro 96 all-star team.  He was capped 126 times for Italy. 

Paolo Maldini
LB: Giacinto Facchetti
He spent his entire career with Inter Milan.  He was the star wingback of La Grande Inter where they won back-to-back European Cups.  He was capped 94 times and also won the Euro 1968 with Italy.
DM/CM: Marco Tardelli
He played at the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina and the 1980 European Football Championship at home.  He was the unsung hero of Italy's 1982 WC winning team.  He was capped 81 times.  He also won all the three major European competitions with Juventus. 

DM:  Romeo Benetti
Benetti was a rock hard defensive midfielder at the World Cup in 1974 and 1978. He is best remembered for his 5 seasons with AC Milan, winning a Cup Winners' Cup.

CM:  Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo started as an attack midfielder with Inter Milan without success before becoming a regista.  He redefined the regista role in recent years.  He won the WC in 2006 and took Italy to the Final of Euro 2012.  He played over 280 matches for AC Milan, winning two Champions' League titles.  He switched to Juventus late in his career. 
Andrea Pirlo
CM/AM:  Giancarlo Antognoni
He was Fiorentina's greatest ever player .  He was a key player for Italy's WC winning team in 1982, but he missed the Final because of an injury.  He was capped 73 times for the AzzurriBecause of his loyalty with his club, he never won anything at the club level. 

CM/AM: Gianni Rivera
Italy's "Golden Boy" of the 1960's.  He won the Ballon d'Or in 1969.  He led AC Milan to win two European Cups in 1963 and 1969. He was capped 63 times scoring 15 goals, at four World Cups (1962, 1966, 1970, and 1974). Rivera is remembered for scoring the decisive goal in Italy's extra-time win over West Germany in the semi-final of Mexico 1970.

Gianni Rivera

CM/AM: Sandro Mazzola
He was a part of Inter Milan's "La Grande Inter".  He won four Serie A titles (1963, 1965, 1966 and 1971), two European Cups (1964 and 1965) and two Intercontinental Cups (1964 and 1965).  He won the Euro 1968 with the Azzurri and led them to the WC Finals in 1970.  During his career, he was known for sharing the starting position with AC Milan's Gianni Rivera on the national team. His father was Valentino Mazzola who died when Sandro was 7 years old.

AM: Valentino Mazzola
He was the best player in the world during the 1940's.  His club team Torino was considered one of the best ever in Italy.  His career, however, was limited by the War.  He never played in the World Cup.  His life was cut short by the Superga Air Disaster in 1949.  He was Sandro's father.

AM/FW: Roberto Baggio
He was the icon of the 1990's.  He was the World Player of the Year, the Ballon d'Or winner and the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1993.  He led Italy to reach the semifinal at Italia 1990 and then, to a second place four years later.  For club football, he started his career with Fiorentina.  He became the most expensive player in the world when he joined Juventus.  He also played for AC Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan and Brescia.

Roberto Baggio
RW/LW: Bruno Conti
Conti was the greatest winger in Italy's history.  He won the World Cup in 1982.  The following season, he helped Roma to win the league title.  He also led them to the 1984 European Cup Final but were defeated on penalties by Liverpool.

FW: Giuseppe Meazza
Meazza is one of Italy's greatest players. He led Italy winning two World Cups in 1934 and 1938.  He was probably the best player in the 1930's.  He played mainly for Inter Milan in the 1930s, scoring 242 goals in 365 games for the club.

ST: Luigi Riva
He was the all-time leading scorer for the Italy.  He won the European Championship in 1968.  He was Serie A top scorer for three seasons. He was probably the best ever player at Cagliari, leading them to win their only scudetti in 1969-1970.

ST:  Silvio Piola
He was the all-time leading scorer in the Italian league.  He was third all-time leading scorer for the Azzurri even through his career was cut short by the World War II.  He won the World Cup in 1938.

ST: Paolo Rossi
He was the hero of Italy's WC winning team in 1982.  Notable for scoring a hattrick against Brazil in Spain, and went on to win the Golden boot. He was also the European player of the Year in 1982. He was a part of the great Juventus team of the 1980's.
Paolo Rossi

Honorble Mention
Walter Zenga, Gianluca Pagliuca, Enrico Albertosi, Lorenzo Buffon, Francesco Toldo, Antonio Cabrini, Renzo De Vecch,
Gianluca Zambrotta, Ciro Ferrara, Armando Picchi, Riccardo Ferri, Alessandro Costacurta, Pietro Vierchowood, Pietro Rava, Gennaro Gattuso, Gabriel Oriali, Giampiero Boniperti, Alessandro Del Piero, FranciscoTotti, Roberto Donadoni, Christian Vieri, Alessandro Altobelli.

Squad Explanation
  • Both Giuseppe Bergomi and Claudio Gentile can play as rightback or a centre-back.  So I took them ahead of other great Italian stoppers and did not bring a pure rightback to the team.   
  • I could not find room for Antonio Cabrini and Renzo De Vecch.  
  • The third goalkeeper is also a tough decision.  Giampiero Combi, Walter Zenga, Gianluca Pagliuca, Enrico Albertosi and Lorenzo Buffon all deserved the final spot.  In the end, I chose Combi because he seemed the be the most famous among the choices. 
  • Italy has too many great trequartistas.  I already have Baggio, Rivera and the Mazzolas on the team.  So I do not have space for Alessandro Del Piero and FranciscoTotti.
  • There are better players than Paolo Rossi, but his performance in Spain 1982 alone got him onto the team ahead Giampiero Boniperti.  I was debating between Boniperti and Rossi.  I might need Boniperti's wide game on the right, but Conti can take care of that.

World Cup 2006
Starting lineup 
Formation 3-4-1-2 
From the La Grande Inter to Antonio Conte's Italy, the libero position is one of the strongest aspect of the Italian game. This formation is built around the position. I believe Gentile would be a better partner than Scirea for Barsei in the back-three.  My lineup also lacks a good right wingback.  So I start Conte there.

Formation 4-4-2 (Diamond)
  • This formation is based on the 4-4-2 used by Arrigo Saachi, Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti. 
  • I started Valentino Mazzola because he was more versatile than the other options.  He could defend, playmake and attack. He also could ply deeper than Rivera.

Arrigo Saachi
Formation III 3-5-2
This formation is based upon Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 used in recent years.  The back three looked great.  Gentile could operate as a rightback, which was a perfect replacement for Andrea Barzagli.  The midfield is tricky.  Claudio Marchisio was a key player for Conte.  I do not have a player liked him.  I do not think Baggio suited to play deep.  So I used Riveria who had played a deeper position before.  Italy almost never used Riveria and Mazzola together on the same field. So I was not sure if the pair would work here.  I do not want to drop Roberto Baggio.  I can easily replace Meazza with him.


  1. Hi Lincoln Chan,
    The greatest Squadra Azzurra often described is like this; 5-3-2;
    Zoff (Buffon now i think)
    Bergomi, Baresi, Scirea, Maldini, Facchetti
    Rivera, Pirlo, Mazzola S.
    Meazza, Baggio