Germany and Italy are two most dominating European nations in World Cup football history. Together they have won 7 World Cups and featured in 12 of the 19 finals played so far.
It is hard to believe that Germans carry very poor record against the Italians. These two sides are playing against each other since the first day of 1923. 32 games have been played between them where Italians have won 15 and 10 ended in a draw. What rubs salt on Germany’s wound is the fact that they have never defeated their rivals in any major match so far. It includes matches in WCs and Euros.
Both the giants faced each other for the first time in a major championship at Santiago in 62 WC. It was a goalless match.
Their next major game was played at Estadio Azteta, Mexico City at the Semi final stage of the 1970 WC. Played in front of more than 1,00,000 people, this match is most special in the history of WC. Jahrhundertspiel, or ‘Game of the century’ is the name given to this match. In the honour of this game, a plaque has been commemorated at the entrance of the Stadium.
Italians came on the field as the European Champions. Giacinto Facchetti was the Italian captain, a rock in the traditionally strong Italian defence. West Germany was going strong. Backenbauer was in top form. Uwe Seeler was the captain and at the age of 34, he was playing in his 4th World Cup.
Boninsegna opened the scoring in 8th minute. Italians hold on to this lead throughout the first and second half. Germans showed why they are called the team which never give up. Upholding the tradition, in the injury time, Schnellinger equalized. He had played throughout his career in Serie A. He was the player of A C Milan in those days and had never scored for them. Ironically, it was his first goal in 47 German caps.
Then something matchless happened. 5 goals were scored in the extra time. This feat is still untouched in a World Cup match so far. The floodgate opened in the 94th minute with Muller scored the opener. It was the only time when Germans led the match. Burgnich scored 4 minutes later and soon Luigi Riva took them ahead. Gerd Muller equalized again but barely after a few seconds, in 111th minute, Gianni Rivera on the pass of the Bonninsegna sealed the match.
Their next game at Bunis Aires in 1978 WC was a goalless draw.
They met again at the biggest stage of world soccer in 1982. It was the final of FIFA World Cup. Match was played at historical ground of Santiago Bernabeu of Madrid. Drama started from the first half when Antonio Cabrini shot the penalty wide for Italians. It was Nil-Nil at half time. In the second half, Paolo Rossi opened the sheet in the 57’. Tardelli sealed the coffin with goals in 69th and 81st minute. Germans got the consolation in 83’ but it was too little too late. Dino Zoff, to whom Pele has chosen as ‘Best 3 Goalkeepers of the World’, lifted the cup in the role of captain at the age of 40. He still holds the record as the oldest winner of the trophy. Germans, led by great Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, failed again to crack the Italian bastion.
Their next two matches at major event were in Euro 88 and 96. Both were stalemates with only 2 goals scored in the former.
In this century, both rivals collided for the first time in the Semi final of WC 2006 at Dortmund. History and form was with the Germans. They had never lost at this Ruhr valley ground before. Well, fortunes again favoured the Italian. Astonishingly, all the Italian squad was comprised of players from Serie A. Like the 1970 SF, this game moved to extra time. Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero were the scorers in closing minutes.
Their last game took place in Euro 2012 at Warsaw. Germans were in outstanding form before the game. They had registered 15 wins at a stretch which included tournament and qualifiers. Mario Balotelli scored on a superb Cassano’s pass in 20th minute. He pulled his shirt off after scoring from distance in the 36th. For showing his six packs, he received Yellow card from the referee and thums up applause from opposition GK Neuer. Gianluigi Buffon made some memorable saves in the second half to preserve the lead. Mesut Ozil got a consolation in injury time of second half via a penalty, but Italians marched to the final against Spain. Andreas Pirlo was man of the match in both of these matches.
Surely, this was not the last time when both have locked horns in a major championship. Both have a tradition of producing outstanding players. Their history is rich. Both were the partners of World War 2 but on the football ground, they are the fiercest rivals. Symphony of Beethovan and Operas of Italy can be found on the ground, whenever they have played together. For the fans around the world, this musical rivalry must go on.