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The Italian national football team is considered as one of the best teams in the World football. In the history of World Cup it is the second most successful team just behind Brazil, having won 4 titles in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006. The team also appeared in 2 finals (1970, 1994) and gained a third place in 1990, fourth in 1978. In 1968 they won the European Championship. The Italian national football team is controlled by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), the governing body of football in Italy.
Nick named ‘The Azzurri’, the Italian team qualified for this year FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil with relative ease will be expected to reach the latter stages, despite having a group that includes Uruguay and England.
Today, to continue our countdown to the World Cup, we will focus at the Top 10 Italian footballers of all time.
10. Fabio Cannavaro (1997-2010, 2 goals in 136 caps)
Fabio Cannavaro has been named the title FIFA’s player of the year in 2006. Along with Franz Beckenbauer and Matthias Sammer, he remains one of the three defenders to have been awarded by this title.
The 40-year-old guided Italy to the World Cup final, 2006 in Germany. Playing in every minute in every encounter, with his stunning performances, Cannavaro earned the nick name,” The wall of Berlin”.
That summer he moved himself to Real Madrid from Juventus and Cannavaro went on to win two La Liga, and the Supercopa de Espana over the course of three seasons in Madrid.
He is in the 10th position in our list of Top 10 Italian footballers of all time.
9. Paolo Rossi (1977-1986, 20 goals in 48 caps)
After being suspended for his alleged role in a betting scandal, Paolo Rossi returned to action just in time for the World Cup in 1982. However, many journalists at that time criticized negatively about his inclusion in the team.
When he struggled throughout the group phase of the World Cup, the criticizers looked to be correct, but something was burning inside him. Rossi suddenly sprung into life by scoring a hat-trick to dispose of Brazil, the pre-tournament favourites. He added his sixth in the tournament during 3-1 victory in the final over West Germany. Rossi won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot awards.
Paolo Rossi won two Serie A titles playing for Juventus and The Cup Winners’ Cup in 1984.
8. Giacinto Facchetti (1963-1977, 3 goals in 94 caps)
Facchetti was the pioneer of attacking football, who has no hesitation in bombing forward to join in with attacks. During his time defenders were instructed not to cross the halfway line, but he changed the rules.
The speedy left-back won Serie A four times with Inter Milan. He also helped to lift the European Cup two times in 1964 and 1965. The Nerazzurri have since retired the shirt holding no 3 in his honour.
In 1968 European Championship , he captained the team to success. They also reached the final of 1970 World Cup under his leadership.
7. Gianluigi Buffon (1997-present, no goals in 139 caps)
Buffon made his debut for Italy in 1997. After that, he has gone on to make more appearances for the Azzurri than any other player. In 2006 World Cup, Buffon kept five clean sheets as Italy were crowned with World Cup glory for the fourth time. For his leadership qualities between the posts, he has become the skipper of both Italy and Juventus.
Juventus parted with a world record fee of £32.6m for him in 2001. Buffon helped Parma to win the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia two years earlier. He has gone on to win many trophies and is regarded to be a hero among the Old Lady’s faithful.
He remains in the 7th position in the list of Top 10 Italian footballers of all time.
6. Luigi Riva (1965-1974, 35 goals in 42 caps)
None has scored more goals than him at the international level for Italy.
The 69-year-old Luigi Riva was one of the heroes as Italy won the European Championship in 1968, scoring in the final against Yugoslavia.
He helped Cagliari to win Serie A title in 1970, despite being blighted by several injuries. This one-club-man received a honor when the club recently retired the number 11 shirt that Riva wore with distinction.
5. Fanco Baresi (1982-1994, 2 goals in 82 caps)
Franco Baresi was a kind of player who won everything. Baresi helped AC Milan to lift Serie A title on six separate occasions and European Cup three times. He was voted as the ‘Club’s player of the century’ in 1999 and AC Milan’s number 6 has been retired to his honor.
He was selected in the squad in 1982 World Cup, although he didn’t feature much in that tournament. But he played as a key figure in 1990 world cup, helping his country to finish third. Four years later the disaster happened while he missed during the final shootout against Brazil.
4. Dino Zoff (1968-1983, no goals in 112 caps)
At Spain in 1982 World Cup, Dino Zoff stood between the posts at the age of 40 and won the world title. Dino remains the oldest player ever to have won a World Cup.
Dino Zoff also holds the record of longest time at the international matches (1,142 minutes) without conceding a goal, the period between 1972 and 1974.
In his club career he won six Serie A titles for Juventus which was followed by Buffon in the same club. Dino Zoff later coached them to success in Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup.
He is holding the number 4 position in the list of Top 10 Italian footballers of all time.
3. Roberto Baggio (1988-2004, 27 goals in 56 caps)
Roberto Baggio will be remembered forever for his skied penalty during the shootout in 1994 World Cup. The event does his ability and contribution to the game a real disservice.
Baggio is Italy’s fourth-leading goalscorer of all time along with Alessandro Del Piero. He scored total five goals in 1994 tournament in USA. Four years earlier, his goal against Czechoslovakia has been voted by FIFA as the World Cup’s seventh best ever goal.
In 1990, he was transferred from Fiorentina to Juventus for a record fee. During his five years in Turin, he won FIFA Ballon D’or in 1993, a Serie A and a UEFA Cup title.
2. Paolo Maldini (1988-2002, 7 goals in 126 caps)
Paolo Maldini, the defender spent half of his 16 years as captain for the Azzurri without winning a major international throphy.
But at the Club level, success was much easier for him. The entire life he played for AC Milan, where he built up an honours list as long as his arm. Maldini won seven Serie A titles, five European Cups, one Coppa Italia, one World Club Cup and five Super Cups. He played in 1990 and 1994 world cup. He also finished runner-up for the 1995 FIFA World player of the year.
1. Giuseppe Meazza (1930-1939, 33 goals in 53 caps)
Meazza showed his talent on his very debut match in 1930, scoring a brace in the match against Switzerland. In 1934 world cup triumph of Italy, the centre-forward scored twice. He then captained the defending Champion Italy to success four years later. His winning goal against Brazil in the semi-final was one of his contributions that was written in golden letters.
There was a rumour that young Meazza was rejected by AC Milan for being too slight. Their loss was then gained by Inter Milan. Meazza was too prolific for Inter, firing them to three Serie A titles and one Coppa Italia. He is the second leading goalscorer for Italy, just two goals short of Riva’s.
Guiseppe Meazza is leading our list of Top 10 Italian footballers of all time..