Italy – Brazil
Italy were having a busy tail end to 1989. This fixture against Brazil, a true heavy-weight clash between the two only countries to have won the World Cup three times, was their seventh of the calendar year, and yet they had three more before New Year.
This was indeed the two giants’ first meeting since the legendary 3-2 Italy win in Barcelona during the 1982 World Cup, where Paolo Rossi had scored a hat-trick to condemn the World Cup favourites to something of a shock defeat. Italy would of course go on to win the tournament, and Rossi would finish as the top goalscorer. It was their tenth meeting altogether, and Italy were so far ahead with five wins against Brazil’s four. The match was met with huge anticipation.
Referee was 46 year old Austrian Helmut Kohl, who was no stranger to the international stage, with this his seventh match since his debut in ’86 in a Holland v Scotland friendly. Mr Kohl was held in high regard by UEFA.
|1 Walter Zenga||29||Internazionale|
|2 Giuseppe Bergomi (c)||25||Internazionale|
|3 Luigi De Agostini||28||Juventus|
|4 Franco Baresi||29||AC Milan|
|5 Riccardo Ferri||sub h-t||26||Internazionale|
|6 Nicola Berti||22||Internazionale|
|7 Roberto Baggio||22||Fiorentina|
|8 Fernando De Napoli||25||Napoli|
|9 Gianluca Vialli||25||Sampdoria|
|10 Giuseppe Giannini||sub 60′||25||Roma|
|11 Andrea Carnevale||28||Napoli|
|12 Stefano Tacconi||32||Juventus|
|13 Ciro Ferrara||on h-t||22||Napoli|
|14 Paolo Maldini||21||AC Milan|
|15 Luca Fusi||on 60′||26||Napoli|
|16 Massimo Crippa||24||Napoli|
|17 Giancarlo Marocchi||24||Juventus|
|18 Roberto Mancini||24||Sampdoria|
|2 Jorginho||25||Bayer Leverkusen|
|3 Aldair||sub 72′||23||Benfica|
|4 Mauro Galvão||27||Botafogo|
|5 Mazinho||23||Vasco da Gama|
|6 Ricardo Rocha||27||São Paolo|
|9 Careca (c)||29||Napoli|
|10 Silas||sub 68′||24||Sporting Lisboa|
|11 Alemão||sub 89′||27||Napoli|
|12 Acácio||30||Vasco da Gama|
|14 André Cruz||on 72′||21||Flamengo|
|15 Geovani||on 89′||25||Bologna|
|16 Tita||on 68′||31||Vasco da Gama|
|18 Bismarck||19||Vasco da Gama|
Italy had been 4-4-2 against Bulgaria, but here Mr Vicini had altered their formation to 3-5-2: Bergomi had come into the centre to accompany Baresi and Ferri. Neither of the three seemed particularly deep, though as you would expect, Baresi appeared to have more freedom on the ball. He was also the left-sided of the three players in the Italian central defence, with Bergomi to the right, Ferri in the middle. However, the two latter would frequently swap positions. De Napoli had been right midfielder in their previous outing. He was given the right wing-back role here, and he was a more attacking nature than De Agostini down the other flank. Berti and Giannini held the central midfield berths, and again Baggio was operating in more or less a ‘free’ role towards the left-hand side of midfield, trying to connect midfield and attack. Vialli often came into the right hand channel and sometimes even as far wide as into right wing positions, with Carnevale less prone to coming equally far wide on the left hand side.
Brazil were at 5-3-2, with Galvão as libero. The two centre-backs, Aldair and Ricardo Rocha, were defending in zone rather than against a specific opponent, with Aldair to the right of centre, Rocha to the left. Jorginho was a much more willing wing-back in joining attack than Mazinho down the opposite flank was. Dunga sat in the holding midfield role, with Alemão just ahead of him, and with Silas spearheading their midfield, trying to lend support to the front two, among whom Careca was working to the right of centre, Müller to the left.
Italy brought on Ferrara for Ferri (who had hurt his shoulder) at half time, and he slotted straight into the position left vacant by the Inter man. Later, Fusi would come on for the stricken Giannini. For the visitors, Tita came on in Silas’ role, Geovani replaced an exhausted and slightly injured Alemão in another straight swap, and they also saw André Cruz on for Aldair, who came off with a slight knock that he picked up only moments earlier. This particular substitution saw the newly arrived defender take Ricardo Rocha’s central left position, with the latter taking over for Aldair to the right of libero Galvão.
The marching band lined up in the centre circle went for the long versions of both national anthems prior to kick-off. With every formality out of the way, it is the visitors who will proceed to kick the match into action through their forward duo of Careca, who is captain for the occasion, and Müller, famously named after legendary West German striker Gerd Müller, this after Careca has exchanged a few amicable words with his strike partner Carnevale from Napoli inside the centre circle.
The Brazilians show off a couple of their party tricks early on: One particular feature in their game sees Jorginho bomb down the right flank, and it will only take a few seconds for Aldair to play him in behind Carnevale, who immediately is seen in a left midfield position. The Brazilians are intent on stroking the ball between themselves early on, and another feature which will be seen from time to time is their eagerness to play one-twos; this is particularly visible between the front two. Müller and Careca let the Italian defence become acquainted with one of their trademarks within the opening minute. In Italy’s first venture into Brazilian territory, Aldair will bring down Vialli from behind, and the referee makes a stop in play as he realizes that the home forward a) plays with his socks rolled down around the ankles and b) is without shin pads. He orders Vialli, who is in some discomfort after the tackle, to head for the touchline to get these issues sorted. Mr Kohl is a no-nonsense referee, so he would be one that players listened to. Before four minutes is played, it is the home side that carves out the first opening, and it is Baggio and Carnevale who play two one-twos in quick succession between themselves to see the latter have his shooting opportunity blocked away for a left wing corner. The opening is frantic.
Italy set out in a 5-3-2 of their own, possibly to counter Brazil’s expected formation with which the Latin Americans had enjoyed great success during the summer’s Copa América. However, the home side have mobile players who can adapt to a 4-4-2 in an instant. Bergomi is originally part of the three man central defence, but is no stranger on the break to let himself be released down the right hand side, although this territory predominantly belongs to wing-back De Napoli. They also see Vialli and Carnevale, their front two, move about quite freely during the opening exchanges. And in midfield Berti appears keen to make an impression, usually a strong runner off the ball. He clearly brings something different to the side with his runs, as Giannini next to him is much more a kind of player who likes to operate with the ball at his feet.
The visitors are not afraid to let the ball do the work as they stroke it between themselves. Both Dunga and Alemão, two of their three central midfielders, are looking to have the ball early in the game, and they will mostly try to search for one of their front two with quick passes along the deck. There is also Silas right behind the strikers, but he does not seem to get into any kind of rhythm inside the first ten minutes, and is very sparingly used. Brazil also lack width down the left hand side, as Mazinho is predominantly fixed on keeping himself to his defensive area. This could’ve been an outlet for Silas, but either he’s instructed to try and keep a central position or he is just unwilling to enter far left space. Thus, there is not a lot of trouble going on behind De Napoli’s back, and both Ferri and Bergomi are anyway quick to close Müller down if he tries to make inroads from this side. On seven minutes Baresi is penalised 30 yards from Zenga’s goal as he body-checks Careca. The Austrian referee tells the Italian star defender to tuck his shirt into his shorts, unfazed by Baresi’s legendary stature within the game; Baresi is always seen like this. An untucked shirt is more or less a trademark of his. The defender walks away and only makes a half-hearted attempt at tucking the shirt back in. Mr Kohl turns and faces another direction. From the direct free-kick, Dunga strikes the Italian defensive wall. There is not a lot happening directly in front of the two goalkeepers.
Despite the lack of goalmouth action, there is pace to the game; both sets of players are constantly on the move. It is clear that the game has great significance to both teams. Neither wants give an inch. Ferri almost has a lapse of concentration deep inside his own half as he is about to let Müller in, but the defensive hard man redeems himself with a last gasp tackle. At the other end, Baggio is still looking for one-twos with one of his forwards, but the Brazilian defenders are unwilling to give the home team’s strikers much space. The attempted triangles are futile. And then what looks like a promising sequence of passes involving Carnevale, Baggio and Giannini comes to nothing. The visitors’ defence stands its ground. The Brazilian defensive is impressively solid.
Ten minutes from the half-time whistle, Silas chips a delightfully weighted ball in behind Baresi and De Agostini, and Jorginho comes bursting into the area. However, as the ball approaches the byline, and with De Agostini charging back, his angle becomes acute, and he can not get a proper shot away to threaten Zenga. As it happens, the ball drifts rather harmlessly through Zenga’s six yard area and goes out for a goal kick. Only a minute later Alemão lets one fly low from 23-24 yards. He strikes the ball well, but Zenga is equal to the shot and manages to palm it away for a left wing corner for the visitors, for whom Silas seems to have come to life. The same man will have a cross from a deep right wing position only two minutes from half time, where Zenga has to dive down and palm the ball away before it reaches Müller on the far post. It is the visitors who arrive to the best opportunities during the first 45 minutes. The teams come in locked at 0-0.
Vialli and Baggio restart the game for the hosts. Italy have brought on Ferrara for Ferri, who took a knock right before half time when he clashed with Careca, seeing the Napoli player directly replace the Inter hard man as the most central of the three stoppers. Within 50 seconds of the restart, Berti has committed fouls against both Aldair and Silas, but Mr Kohl doesn’t even give the midfielder a talking to. Then there is also a foul from Carnevale on his buddy Careca, as the two Napoli strikers cross paths on the Brazilian right wing. Carnevale is trying to aid Ferrara in preventing Careca from getting through. It must be said that Carnevale goes through quite a bit of defensive work on the Italian left hand side, work which should not go unnoticed. Shortly after, when Jorginho’s resulting free-kick has been cleared by the Italian defence and they threaten to break forward, there’s another challenge between club team mates when Alemão brings down De Napoli from behind to effectively put an end to the counter-attacking opportunity. So far, though, the match has been played in good spirits, even if Vialli twice went to the ground after tackles from behind during the opening half.
The two teams are generally cancelling each other out. The match is like a quality frame of snooker, where neither contestant is in an attacking mood; they’re both doing their best to avoid mistakes. Brazil are seeing more of the ball at the start of the second half, and Müller is showing some promise when he moves forward at pace with the ball at his feet, only to be taken out by Ferrara. He might not be a vastly recognized goalscorer, the Torino based forward, but he adds speed to the Brazilian attack. With only three or four players inside the home side’s half of the pitch at any given time, the visitors do need inspiration and unpredictability from their most forward players. Careca is slower, more predictable. Baresi seems to have him well under control so far. Müller has generally been quiet, but he is capable of making bursts like the one that saw Ferrara bring him down some 25 yards from goal, to the left as the Brazilians look at it. Alemão has a go from the resulting free-kick, although his shot does not present the flamboyant character of Zenga with much trouble, as he easily collects.
The game only has one booking: It is Dunga who sees yellow as he brings down Giannini 30 yards from Taffarel’s goal. There had been a few niggly fouls from both sets of players in the few sequences leading up to Dunga’s violation, and Mr Kohl probably felt he had to make it clear that he would not tolerate any nasty play. He was having a decent game, was the Austrian referee, even if he had been lenient with Vialli after he had removed again the shin pads which he had put on in the second minute of the game, as told by the official. Baresi also continued playing with his shirt outside of his shorts, like he always was anyway, and Kohl did not again confront either with their deviations. It is when Giannini again is felled that Italy create their hitherto greatest opportunity. The build-up had included Bergomi and Baggio, and as Giannini flicked the ball onto Carnevale to race into the 18 yard area and proceed to hit Taffarel’s right hand post with a low shot, the Roma midfielder had been wiped out by Ricardo Rocha from behind. The tackle, which yielded no retribution from the referee, left Giannini in a heap on the floor, and he was unable to continue. Aldair had deflected Carnevale’s strike onto the post. Mr Vicini brought on Napoli midfielder Fusi to replace ‘the little prince’.
After the introduction of Fusi in place of Giannini, what shape would the Italian midfield take? At first one got the impression that Fusi slotted into Berti’s centre right position, with Berti switching over to centre left, where Giannini had been. However, this is not right. Berti would continue where he had been all match so far, and the substitute would take directly over from Giannini. However, Fusi’s first ten minutes easily gave the impression of a more mobile player than the one he had replaced. The Roma ace had been somewhat static, often using the centre circle as his playground. Fusi was comfortable to exit this area and come forward, something which left Berti with greater defensive responsibility than he had so far had. There was consensus on the Italian bench that one of their two central midfielders should have a counter-weight role when the other ventured forward, and surprisingly often this task fell to Berti, who had easily been the more adventurous of the starting two central midfielders.
Brazil make their first substitution halfway through the second half when Tita comes on for Silas, who had not had a bad game at all. Yes, there had been times when one had been wanting to see a bit more movement off the ball, especially as there was no one attacking their left hand side during the first half, but whilst on the ball Silas had left a good impression. The 31 year old Tita of Vasco da Gama took over Silas’ role. Only a few of minutes later, Lazaroni brought off another of his more impressive players when Aldair, who’d picked up a knock, was substituted with André Cruz. The right-sided of the three central defenders had been an integral part of a tight defence, and the player who replaced him was a giant. Cruz, though, was a natural left-footer, so he would slot into the central left position, where Ricardo Rocha had played until then, with Rocha coming over to fill in for Aldair to the right of libero Galvão. Would the visitors’ defence suffer as a result, or would they remain water tight until the end of the match?
The number of substitutions made so far, totalling four, has slowed the pace of the game down somewhat. We’re approaching the 75 minute mark, and there’s still waves of attacks in both directions, or attempted attacks perhaps is a better way of putting it. Not a lot goes on inside either penalty area. However, one breakdown, like when Tita picks up a misplaced Fusi pass meant for Berti on the right hand side, soon leads to another as Müller’s subsequent pass in the direction of Careca’s collected by De Agostini. In this particular attempt, they’re halted a few yards inside the Brazilian half, as libero Galvão has come right through Baggio in a poorly timed tackle. This is the third bad tackle from behind on an Italian forward, after Ricardo Rocha’s twice gone in hard on Vialli earlier. Mr Kohl still kept his yellow card in his pocket. The intensity and eagerness not to lose is still represented within both camps. When Fusi a couple of minutes later releases De Napoli with an exquisite pass down the right hand side, it is a rare moment of space to exploit for a player within either team. Unfortunately, the Napoli midfielder can only direct his attempted cross behind Taffarel’s goal. As it is, the game has 0-0 written all over it.
Then comes the match defining moment. Drawing conclusions too soon is always a risk in football. Tita, who’s been prone to keeping himself towards the left since coming on, receives the ball out wide a few yards inside the Italian half and plays it forward for Careca some four or five yards outside the penalty area. He’s being tightly marked by his Napoli colleague Ferrara, but the defender’s penalized for having used his body too actively in the challenge. There does not appear to be a great deal of danger, even when you take into consideration the opponent and their rich history in hitting screamers from distance. The position is to the left of goal. Alemão soon walks away, so there’s Careca, Tita and Cruz left as possible takers. It is a position that seems to favour a right-footed shooter, but up steps the massive figure of André Cruz to curl it over the wall and into the top left corner. Goooooooooooool! Zenga’s rooted to his spot. No ‘keeper in the world can save a fire-cracker like the one Cruz had just struck. 13 minutes from time it is the visitors who can celebrate. They have Italy just where they want them. They have been collectively organized, as opposed to that ill-fated afternoon in Espanyol’s stadium in Barcelona more than seven years earlier. And they had just produced that moment of quality to find the back of Zenga’s net. What will the Italians’ response be?
The home side have had their most creative outlet Baggio silenced. They are unable to break down the Brazilian defence in the remaining minutes. There’s an effort from Baresi from all of 30 yards after a short free-kick rolled into his path, but even if it is well struck, Taffarel has no problems saving it. Brazil have controlled midfield, where Alemão and Dunga have both been efficient. Losing Giannini to injury probably didn’t help the home side’s cause, but it is unlikely that he would have made much of a difference in the latter stages anyway. Two minutes from time there’s a final substitution when Alemão, who had gone down after a challenge from Napoli team mate Fusi inside the Italian half of the centre circle, is taken off to be replaced by Geovani. ‘The German’ and his tireless running has played a big part in Brazil seeing off the Italian threat. That Carnevale manages to get his head to a Bergomi cross as he creeps in between Ricardo Rocha and Galvão seconds from time is only academic. He doesn’t get any power behind his effort, and it sails into the arms of a grateful Taffarel. 68 seconds into time added on the Austrian referee calls game over.
Italy had changed their formation to counter the dangers of Brazil, but it didn’t suit them as they were bossed in midfield by Alemão and Dunga, who kept the Italian players quiet. Baggio, who had played so well in the recent win against Bulgaria, was quiet throughout, and Carnevale’s low shot which hit the post early in the second half was the home side’s best opportunity. It was a thoroughly professional job by the Brazilians, whose reputation continues to grow after their recent Copa América and World Cup qualifications successes. They were perhaps not causing an awful lot of threat to the Italian defence themselves, but their formation seemed to suit them far better than the Italian version suited the home side. It is back to the drawing board for Mr Vicini, whereas Mr Lazaroni can look forward to their final two fixtures of a massive 1989: at home to Yugoslavia and away to Holland.
1 Zenga 6.9
a solid display, although he is not over-worked. Gets down well to Alemão’s shot. Commands his area. No goalkeeper in the world would have saved Cruz’ goal, so not to blame for the goal he let in
2 Bergomi 6.8
steady, just like you’d expect from the rock-solid defender
3 De Agostini 7.0
fine game by the Juventus player, who may not be as attacking per instruction as De Napoli opposite, but he makes himself available and is usually accurate in his passing
4 Baresi 7.0
secure defensively, and in the second half he is seen across the halfway line on a few occasions. Powerful shot after Cruz’ goal, but straight at Taffarel
5 Ferri 6.6
marks well but has two heavy touches inside his own half which could’ve been costly. Hurts his shoulder after a challenge with Careca just before half-time and does not reappear for the second half
(13 Ferrara 6.8
unspectacular. Needlessly gives away the free-kick for the goal. Struggles in keeping Napoli team mate Careca quiet)
6 Berti 6.6
not his match. Hardly makes use of his normally intelligent runs off the ball, and lacks creativity when in possession
7 Baggio 6.7
the Brazilians had done their home work on him, and he was unable to excel, also exposed to some brute force by the visiting defenders
8 De Napoli 7.1
constantly running, keeps Mazinho busy, but does not succeed with his crossing. Excellent cover work when having to backtrack
9 Vialli 6.7
does a lot of running, but is no goal threat. Too often seen in wide positions or, as towards the latter stages of the game, too deep. On the receiving end of a few strong challenges by Brazilian defenders
10 Giannini 6.8
until he’s carried off after going down in a challenge as he flicks the ball through for Carnevale to hit the post with a shot, he’s been the playmaker, the midfield man most likely to try to instigate attacks. Sometimes slows play down by running with the ball
(16 Fusi 6.7
is tigerish and wants to impress, but does not have necessary quality on the ball to be the perfect partner for Berti)
11 Carnevale 7.0
gets into a couple of heading positions, but can’t get enough power to make them a threat. Also close to scoring along the ground when he strikes the post early in the second half
1 Taffarel 7.0
very solid in everything he does, and makes the penalty area his
2 Jorginho 6.9
so energetic it is almost frightening, but lacks precision in his crossing
3 Aldair 7.4
has pace, agility, positional awareness, body strength, is assured on the ball – limitless potential! Part of a very solid defensive line. Comes off with a slight knock
(14 André Cruz –
is a bit untidy in open play, but strikes a sensational free-kick for the goal)
4 Mauro Galvão 7.1
assured in defence, strong in the challenge. Keeps himself at the back and only has one visible contribution inside the Italian half
5 Mazinho 7.0
does not let much through down his side. Good left-back display for a right-footed defensive midfielder
6 Ricardo Rocha 7.4
a no-nonsense defender whose tackling is sometimes a bit too aggressive. A big presence in the air, and makes a nuisance of himself in the opinion of the Italian forwards
7 Müller 6.9
runs well with the ball at his feet, but is a bit light-weight, and does not carry much of a goal threat
8 Dunga 7.4
along with Alemão chiefs the midfield. Does even more dirty work than said team mate, but is also less efficient when in possession. As you would expect
9 Careca 7.0
despite not testing Zenga, he works tirelessly up front and is clever in his movement. Excellent link-up play with Müller
10 Silas 6.9
shows a lot of nice touches, runs at pace with the ball at his feet, but drifts out of the game for longer spells. Substituted for tactical reasons
(16 Tita –
has time for some nice touches, and takes up a long-awaited left-sided position)
11 Alemão 7.7
a masterful display of midfield dominance through strength, vision, flair and workrate. Carried off with a knock after being tackled by Napoli team mate Fusi, but is probably more jaded than injured
(15 Geovani –
only gets a couple of minutes to make an impression, and hardly touches the ball)