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I call them the Doomsday games for Scottish Italians, whenever an English opponent comes along. The last time it happened at a major international championships was Italia ‘90 in the third and fourth place play-off. The last time an Italy v England clash really mattered was at the European Nations of 1980.
Now we go into battle once again on Sunday.
I came up with a list for Football Italia a couple of years ago of a top 10 Italian victories against English opposition. In no particular order, I trot them out here again.
10. Arsenal 0-1 Fiorentina (Wembley, 27/10/1999) In the days when Gabriel Batistuta was the undisputed King of Florence he also ruled London for a night. His thunderous strike into the top corner was worthy of winning a game the Gunners played in their temporary European home at Wembley. The result ensured the Viola, not Arsene Wenger’s men, progressed from their Champions League group.
9. England 0-1 Italy (Wembley, 12/2/1997) The ground was still echoing to a chorus of Football’s Coming Home when little Gianfranco Zola silenced the home support. He snuck in a sweet near-post strike with less than 10 minutes on the clock to give the Azzurri a precious lead. Not surprisingly, a defensive line of Ferrara, Maldini, Cannavaro and Costacurta gave nothing away at the back.
8. Inter 3-0 Liverpool (San Siro, 12/5/1965) They don’t like the memory of this match on Merseyside but it is the stuff of legend at Inter. Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, the Nerazzurri turned the tie on its head. Mario Corso got the ball rolling with a fine free-kick, Joaquin Peiro controversially pinched one off the goalkeeper for the second and Giacinto Facchetti strode forward for the vital third.
7. Roma 3-1 Chelsea (Stadio Olimpico, 4/11/2008) A magical night by Mirko Vucinic allowed the Giallorossi to turn round a desperate group situation. They tore the Blues apart at will and only a late consolation goal gave the result an air of greater respectability. Christian Panucci opened the floodgates, the Montenegrin added two more before John Terry got Chelsea’s goal.
6. Italy 1-0 England (Stadio Comunale, Turin, 15/6/1980) After each drawing their opening games at the Euro Nations 1980 edition in Italy both sides needed a win. A tense contest was decided by Marco Tardelli who spent much of the game marking Kevin Keegan. The Juve man, however, was in the right place at the right time to grab a precious victory.
5. Juventus 3-0 Manchester United (Stadio Comunale, Turin, 3/11/1976) The Bianconeri had lost the away leg by a single goal but they turned this UEFA Cup tie around in some style. Having knocked Manchester City out in the previous round they had the two Robertos to thank this time. Boninsegna struck twice and Bettega once to ensure Juve made it through on their way to their first ever European honour.
4. Milan 2-1 Liverpool (Athens, 23/5/2007) Having lost a three goal lead in Istanbul to the Reds, the Rossoneri made amends in Greece. It was Pippo Inzaghi’s glory night as he struck both goals to give Carlo Ancelotti’s men the Champions League trophy. A late strike for Liverpool set the nerves jangling but this time the men from Italy held on for victory.
3. Inter 3-0 Aston Villa (San Siro, 7/11/1990) The Nerazzurri had been humbled in England losing 2-0 in this UEFA Cup clash. However, Jurgen Klinsmann got a goal back quickly in Milan, Nick Berti popped up at the back post to hammer in the second and then the frail figure of Alessandro Bianchi volleyed home a Fausto Pizzi cross to win a thriller which sent Inter on their way to winning the competition.
2. England 0-1 Italy (Wembley, 14/11/1973) It is known as Fabio Capello’s game but, to Italians, it is much more than that. It was the first time the Azzurri had conquered the “inventors” of football on their home soil. Peter Shilton could only parry out a powerful Giorgio Chinaglia cross and the former England Coach was on hand to sidefoot the ball home and send hundreds of Italian waiters in London home happy.
1. Liverpool 1-2 Genoa (Anfield, 18/3/1992) For years English sides had ruled the European roost and Italy needed a signal that it was now the top dog. It came from the unlikely source of the Grifoni of Genoa. Having won the first leg of this UEFA Cup meeting 2-0 the Rossoblu were in a strong position but they survived a tough night and, thanks to two goals from Pato Aguilera, gave Italian football one of its most famous victories over the English.