------by FIFAworldcup.com


07-05-2006 09:37

On Tuesday evening, Dortmund will host the fifth FIFA World Cup™ duel between Germany and Italy. FIFAworldcup.com looks back at the previous meetings between the sides and discovers that, strange as it may seem, the 2006 hosts have yet to record a win in the fixture.

'Match of the Century'
A date indelibly etched in the footballing history of both Germany and Italy is 17 June 1970. Even now, fans of both sides lapse into fond reminiscence on the subject of the 1970 FIFA World Cup semi-final at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, often referred to in both countries as the 'Match of the Century'.

There can hardly have been a more dramatic and tense encounter in the long history of the FIFA World Cup. Franz Beckenbauer, wracked with pain from a dislocated shoulder, did what he could despite the handicap of playing with an improvised sling. The Kaiser wobbled but never threw in the towel as Germany finally fell to a 4-3 defeat after extra time in an epic struggle with the balance of play in permanent flux.

Germany went behind to an early Roberto Boninsegna strike, as the Italians' legendary catennaccio defensive tactics consistently thwarted their attacking intentions. But Italy had not counted on a significant contribution from Karl-Heinz Schnellinger. The defender - the first German footballer to play in Italy with AC Milan - latched onto a Jurgen Grabowski cross on 92 minutes with practically the last kick to send an extraordinary match into extra time.

Gerd Muller claimed a typically opportunistic goal on 95 minutes to edge the Germans in front, but Beckenbauer's team faded as the heat and an energy-sapping quarter-final against England took their toll. Tarcisio Burgnich (98 minutes) and Luigi Rivera (104') duly turned the game on its head in a whirlwind six minutes.

Muller hauled the Germans back into it five minutes into the second period of extra time, but the final word went to Gianni Rivera who polished off a flowing move by the Azzurri to seal a historic victory after 112 pulsating minutes. "I fell to my knees and embraced my team-mates. And believe me, at that very moment, the kisses from Riva and Boninsegna tasted as if they were Gina Lollobrigida and Sophia Loren," Rivera reflected.

1982 Final: Triumph for Italy
Under a gloriously blue Spanish sky the teams met again in the FIFA World Cup Final 12 years later. The likes of Dino Zoff, Giuseppe Bergomi, Claudio Gentile, Marco Tardelli and of course Paolo Rossi lined up against Hans-Peter Briegel, Paul Breitner, Bernd Forster, Pierre Littbarski and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, holding out the prospect of 90 thrilling minutes for fans watching around the world.

The most memorable incident of the first half was Antonio Cabrini's missed penalty, but the match really took off in the second half. The Italians seized control of midfield and camped out in the German half. The game entered a scrappy phase and the Azzurri won a string of free-kicks. Tardelli swung over one of the set-pieces to Gentile, who provided the perfect lay-off for Rossi, rising with the natural-born instinct of a clinical goal-poacher to nod home the opener.

Germany were now compelled to switch to attack in a bid to stay in the game. Stielike drove Germany forward time and again and joined in the attacking effort led by Fischer, Rummenigge and Littbarski as the Germans clustered around their opponents' penalty area, but the Italian defence stood firm.

Tardelli's shot from the edge of the area caught Harald Schumacher wrong-footed to make it 2-0 to Italy. The image of the jubilant Tardelli has since become legendary: the scorer raced across the field with clenched fists, his mouth wide in ecstasy - a picture of pure bliss. Alessandro Altobelli settled the issue with a third for Enzo Bearzot’s men, before Breitner made the scoreline marginally more respectable for the Germans.

Two goalless draws
The story of FIFA World Cup meetings between Germany and Italy actually began back in 1962 in Santiago, Chile. Their 0-0 draw in a group-stage encounter was nothing like a fair reflection of the play, as the game was actually an action-packed affair with chances aplenty at both ends. Germany's Uwe Seeler hit the bar in the first quarter of an hour, while at the other end Omar Sivori and Gianni Rivera squandered golden opportunities.

The goalkeepers ended up the true stars of the show, the young Wolfgang Fahrian for the Nationalmannschaft, a surprise choice in goal on his 21st birthday, while the opposing goal was tended by Lorenzo Buffon, a distant relative of current Italy shot-stopper Gianluigi Buffon.

The teams also produced a stalemate in their opening match of the second group stage at the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Thick fog enveloped the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires where two obdurate defences cancelled each other out. Germany, who had played out two goalless draws in the initial group stage and only impressed in a 6-0 victory over Mexico, celebrated the goalless draw against Italy as if it were a victory. "Germany – the world champions of defence", the Argentine press wrote at the time.

When the teams meet for the fifth time in Dortmund, Germany will again require a solid defence if they are to advance to the Final, although they do possess a proven forward line. One thing is certain: there appears to be little chance of a tedious encounter on Tuesday.