Saturday, 15 May 2010


ITALIA 90, Semi-Final: Italy v Argentina

As host nation the Italians were under tremendous pressure to deliver on a night of huge drama in Naples. Diego Maradona stoked the pre-match fires by pleading with the Napolitan people to support him (his club side was Napoli) rather than their native Italy. On paper Italy had the armoury to see off the defending champions, but there was something about the way Argentina had bluffed their win through to the last four that cast a doubt in the back of the minds of many.

This was the clash between the last two winners of the World Cup; the Hosts v the Holders. Argentina had lost the tournament opener to Cameroon and consequently only just sneaked through their group in third place, meaning that they faced Brazil in their first knock-out match. They sneaked an extremely lucky 1-0 win with a late Claudio Caniggia goal, and only won their quarter-final against Yugoslavia on penalties, despite a potentially key spotkick miss by Maradona. The gods appeared to be smiling on the Albiceleste.

Italy had grown in stature as the tournament had progressed; they hadn't conceded a single goal in their five matches and Salvatore Schillaci was leading the line with four goals to date. He duly delivered again 17 minutes into the semi-final to calm home nerves, but Italy could not add a second goal and Caniggia equalized midway through the second half with a flicked header. The pendulum didn't swing however, and it was the Italians who pushed more to find a winning goal, coming close in the closing stages. Extra-time was typified by the inevitable fear of losing, and the emotional roller-coaster of the penalty shootout loomed large. With the scores tied at 3-3, Roberto Donadoni saw his kick saved by Goycochea, and the brave Maradona stepped up to banish the memory of his quarter-final miss and put Argentina ahead. Aldo Serena's next penalty was also saved by Goycochea, and the Italian dream of becoming the first country to win a fourth World Cup was over.

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