Showing posts with label Gianluigi Buffon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gianluigi Buffon. Show all posts

16 February 2020

Angelo Peruzzi - footballer

Italy international who was twice world's costliest goalkeeper


Angelo Peruzzi won every major prize in club football during his years with Juventus
Angelo Peruzzi won every major prize in club
football during his years with Juventus
The footballer Angelo Peruzzi, who made 31 appearances for Italy’s national team and was a member of Marcello Lippi’s victorious squad at the 2006 World Cup, was born on this day in 1970 in Blera, a hilltop town in the province of Viterbo, north of Rome.

Peruzzi defied his relatively short and stocky physique to become one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, renowned not only for his physical strength but also for his positional sense, anticipation and explosive reactions.

These qualities enabled him to compensate for his lack of height and earned him a reputation for efficiency rather than spectacular stops yet he was much coveted by clubs in Italy’s Serie A. 

Twice he moved clubs for what was at the time a world record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.  In 1999 he joined Internazionale of Milan (Inter Milan) from Juventus for €14.461 million but stayed at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza for only a year before switching to Lazio in a deal worth €20.658 million.

That record stood for 11 years until Manchester United bought David de Gea from Atletico Madrid for €22 million in 2011.

His value was based on his outstanding record over eight seasons with Juventus, with whom he won every major medal on offer to a club footballer in Italy, including three Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa (twice), as well as the Champions League, the UEFA Cup, the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

Peruzzi was twice the most expensive  goalkeeper in football history
Peruzzi was twice the most expensive
goalkeeper in football history
Yet before he joined Juventus in 1991 his career had been in danger of suffering a premature and ignominious end.

Even as a young player in the Roma youth system, Peruzzi struggled with his weight.  Former teammates recalled him keeping salami, sandwiches and sweets hidden in his locker to satisfy an enormous appetite.

Nonetheless, his qualities as a goalkeeper stood out. He made his Serie A debut in 1987 at the age of 17 and when Roma sent him on loan to Hellas Verona for the 1989-90 he returned with glowing reports.

However, his weight remained an issue and his decision to take an appetite suppressant in the hope of shedding some pounds quickly backfired on him spectacularly when a doping test produced a positive result for the banned substance Phentermine.

He was banned for a year and Roma were happy to let him go when Juventus offered him a contract. It proved to be the Turin club’s gain as Peruzzi soon replaced Stefano Tacconi as the club’s No 1 goalkeeper and became one of their most reliable performers, never more so than in the Champions League final of 1996 against Ajax, when his two saves in the penalty shoot-out ensured that the trophy went to Juventus.

Head coach Marcello Lippi picked Peruzzi as his No 2 'keeper for the 2006 World Cup
Head coach Marcello Lippi picked Peruzzi
as his No 2 'keeper for the 2006 World Cup
Peruzzi never lost his stocky build, but where he was criticised for it as a young player, as an established player associated with success it became part of his persona, earning him a number of affectionate nicknames, including Tyson, after the heavyweight world boxing champion, il chingialone (“the boar”) and il orsone (“the big bear”).

Although his two big-money transfers were lucrative for Peruzzi personally in signing-on fees and contracts, he did not enjoy the success with Inter or Lazio that he had tasted with Juventus.  He made more than 200 appearances for Lazio over seven seasons but a Supercoppa Italiano medal in his first season and a Coppa Italia in 2004 were his only tangible honours.

Peruzzi earned his first call-up to the Italy national team under coach Arrigo Sacchi in 1995, having been a member of the Italy squad at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. He was the first-choice stopper at Euro ‘96 in England, where Italy did not progress beyond the group stages, and would have gone to the World Cup in France in 1998 as number one goalkeeper had he not suffered an injury before the tournament.

By the time the next World Cup came around, Peruzzi had fallen behind Gianluigi Buffon and Francesco Toldo in the pecking order and was not considered for the 2002 finals.

It was only when Marcello Lippi, one of his former coaches at Juventus, took charge of the national team in 2004 that he came back into favour. He kept goal for two of the qualifying matches ahead of the 2006 World Cup in Germany and went to the finals as number two behind Buffon.  He never made it off the bench but nonetheless received a medal as a member of the winning squad after the azzurri defeated France on penalties in the final.

Three times awarded the Goalkeeper of the Year title in Serie A, Peruzzi retired as a player in 2008 and embarked on a career in coaching.  He immediately found a position among the technical staff at Italy’s national coaching centre at Coverciano before becoming assistant to Under-21 head coaches Ciro Ferrara and Pierluigi Casiraghi.

Ferrara gave him his first club job as assistant head coach at Sampdoria and he is now back in Rome as team co-ordinator with Lazio.

The town of Blera sits on top of a rocky ridge in northern Lazio, some 78km (48 miles) north of Rome
The town of Blera sits on top of a rocky ridge in northern
Lazio, some 78km (48 miles) north of Rome
Travel tip:

Angelo Peruzzi’s hometown of Blera, situated some 24km (15 miles) southwest of the city of Viterbo in northern Lazio and around 78km (48 miles) northwest of Rome, sits on a narrow tongue of rock between two deep gorges.  Its origins go back to Etruscan times, although its history suggests it was of little importance except for a stopping-off point on the Via Clodia, which linked the more important towns of Pitigliano and Sorano.  Some of the Etruscan settlement’s walls still remain intact.

Stay in Blera with Booking.com

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is home to both Lazio and Roma and hosts many important football matches
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome is home to both Lazio and
Roma and hosts many important football matches
Travel tip:

Although the Stadio Olimpico, where both Lazio and Roma play their home games, was opened in 1937, it did not become the Olympic Stadium until Italy had won the right to stage the Games in 1960.  Originally, as part of Mussolini’s ambitious Foro Mussolini (later Foro Italico) complex, it was called the Stadio dei Cipressi.  When its capacity was increased to 100,000 in the 1950s, it became the Stadio dei Centomila.  Nowadays it has seats for 70,634 spectators and is owned by the Italian National Olympic Committee but is used primarily as a venue for football matches, having been refurbished for the 1990 World Cup finals.  It has been the venue for the European Cup and Champions League finals on four occasions.


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(Picture credits: Blera by Robin Iversen Rönnlund; Stadio Olimpico by Andrew; via Wikimedia Commons)

20 November 2018

Giampiero Combi - goalkeeper

Juventus stalwart who captained Italy’s 1934 World Cup winners


Giampiero Combi is seen as  one of Italy's all-time greats
Giampiero Combi is seen as
one of Italy's all-time greats
The footballer Giampiero Combi, who is considered to be one of the best Italian goalkeepers of all time, was born on November 20, 1902 in Turin.

Combi, who spent his entire career with his home-town club Juventus, was Italy’s captain at the 1934 World Cup, which Italy hosted and won, the team coached by Vittorio Pozzo and inspired by the revered Inter Milan striker Giuseppe Meazza defeating Czechoslovakia after extra time in the final of the 16-team tournament.

The achievement in front of excited Italian supporters in Rome capped a marvellous career for Combi, although it came about only by chance.

He had announced that he would retire at the end of the 1933-34 domestic season at the age of 31, having made 40 appearances for the azzurri. But Pozzo had persuaded him to be part of his squad to provide experienced cover for the emerging young Inter star Carlo Ceresoli.

In the event, Ceresoli suffered a broken arm in training a few weeks before the tournament and Combi found himself as the number one. He performed immaculately throughout, conceding only three goals in 510 minutes of football.

He played a particularly important role as Italy beat the highly-fancied Austria 1-0 in the semi-final thanks in no small part to saves by Combi that were hailed by the Italian press as “miraculous”.

Virginio Rosetta (left), Combi and Umberto Caligaris formed a redoubtable combination for club and country
Virginio Rosetta (left), Combi and Umberto Caligaris
formed a redoubtable combination for club and country
Until Italy’s triumph in Spain in 1982, Combi was the only goalkeeper to have been the captain of a World Cup-winning team, although there are now three goalkeepers with whom he shares that distinction.

Dino Zoff wore the armband when the azzurri lifted the trophy in Spain. Since then, Iker Casillas was captain when Spain won in 2010, while the current world champions, France, were led by Hugo Lloris.

Combi, Zoff and Gianluigi Buffon, another World Cup winner, are generally regarded as Italy’s three greatest goalkeepers. Coincidentally, all three played the major part of their club careers wearing the black and white stripes of Juventus.

As well as helping Italy win the first of their four World Cups, Combi was twice a winner of the Central European International Cup - a predecessor of the modern European championships - and won a bronze medal as a member of the Italy team at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.

In his time at Juventus, where he earned the nickname Uomo di Gomma - Rubber Man - for his extraordinary agility, Combi was a Serie A champion five times between 1926 and 1934.

Giuseppe Meazza (centre) and Giampiero Combi (right) were on opposite sides in Serie A matches
Giuseppe Meazza (centre) and Giampiero Combi (right) were
on opposite sides in Serie A matches
The combination of Combi and the full backs Virginio Rosetta and Umberto Caligaris formed a formidable defensive partnership for both Juventus and the Italian national team.

Combi’s 370 appearances for the Turin club over 13 seasons was the most by a goalkeeper for the club until Zoff (476) overtook him in the 1970s with Buffon eclipsing even Zoff with 656 appearances between 2001 and 2018.

Another record held by Combi for many years was his feat of playing for 934 consecutive minutes during the 1925-26 season without conceding a goal.  It stood for an incredible 90 years before it was bettered by Buffon, who went unbeaten for 974 minutes during the 2015–16 Serie A season.

Ironically, Combi could have spent his career with Turin’s other club - Torino - but after a trial match they let him go on the grounds that he lacked the strength and athleticism to be a successful footballer.  Juventus, however, saw him as a good prospect and he joined their youth team.

At the 1934 World Cup, Combi found himself up against another of the world's great 'keepers in Spain's Ricardo Zamora  He was given his first-team debut in 1922 in circumstances that were similar to his recall to the national side at the World Cup in 1934, asked to step up after the regular Juventus goalkeeper, Emilio Barucco, was injured.    Combi soon became first choice for the bianconeri and was selected for the Italy national team for the first time in 1924, although his azzurri debut did not go as he had hoped, Italy losing 7-1 to the brilliant Hungary. He later claimed that the match was one of the most important of his career, making him resolve to work harder at his game.    After he finally did retire in 1935, Combi worked for Juventus and for the national federation in various roles as well as developing a career in industry. He died at
At the 1934 World Cup, Combi found himself up against another
of the world's great 'keepers in Spain's Ricardo Zamora 
He was given his first-team debut in 1922 in circumstances that were similar to his recall to the national side at the World Cup in 1934, asked to step up after the regular Juventus goalkeeper, Emilio Barucco, was injured.

Combi soon became first choice for the bianconeri and was selected for the Italy national team for the first time in 1924, although his azzurri debut did not go as he had hoped, Italy losing 7-1 to the brilliant Hungary. He later claimed that the match was one of the most important of his career, making him resolve to work harder at his game.

After he finally did retire in 1935, Combi worked for Juventus and for the national federation in various roles as well as developing a career in industry. He died at the age of just 53 in August 1956 after suffering a heart attack at the wheel of his car.

In his memory, Juventus named the first team's training ground after him and created a Giampiero Combi award for excellence among their youth players. The Merano Littorio sports ground, purpose built as a base for the the Italian national team during the 1934 World Cup, was also renamed in his honour.

The Castello Della Rovere in Vinovo is a link with the town's historic past as a ceramics centre
The Castello Della Rovere in Vinovo is a link with
the town's historic past as a ceramics centre
Travel tip:

The Turin football team trains at a state-of-the-art complex at Vinovo, a town situated about 14 km (9 miles) southwest of the city centre. Vinovo, which has a population of just under 15,000, is notable for being the home of the Castello Della Rovere, which was built at the end of the 15th century by Cardinal Domenico della Rovere and represents a rare example of Renaissance architecture in Piedmont.  In the 18th century the castle became the headquarters of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory, and as such became the core of the community as a major employer, the town growing in terms of size and amenities as a result. Nowadays, the castle hosts the campus of St. John International University, a private American university, surrounded by a vast park featuring an artificial lake.

The beautiful city of Turin at dusk with the unmistakable Mole  Antonelliana to the right and the alpine peaks in the distance
The beautiful city of Turin at dusk with the unmistakable Mole
Antonelliana to the right and the alpine peaks in the distance
Travel tip:

Turin was once the capital of Italy, yet tends to be overshadowed by other cities such as Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice when it comes to attracting tourists. is best known for its royal palaces  Yet there is much to like about a stay in elegant Turin, from its many historic cafés to 12 miles of arcaded streets and some of the finest restaurants in Piedmont, not to mention the beautiful royal palaces that echo the city’s past as the seat of the once dominant House of Savoy. Yet because visitors do not flock to Turin in such large numbers prices tend to be a little lower than in the better known tourist cities.

More reading:

How Vittorio Pozzo led Italy to two World Cups

The record-breaking career of Dino Zoff

Giuseppe Meazza - Italian football's first superstar

Also on this day:

1851: The birth of Queen Margherita of Savoy

1914: The birth of fashion designer Emilio Pucci

1978: The death of Giorgio de Chirico - founder of metaphysical art

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4 September 2018

Giacinto Facchetti - footballer

The original - and best - attacking full back


Giacinto Facchetti in the famous blue and black striped shirt of the all-conquering Inter-Milan
Giacinto Facchetti in the famous blue and black
striped shirt of the all-conquering Inter-Milan
The footballer Giacinto Facchetti, who captained Italy at two World Cups and won four Serie A titles plus two European Cups for Inter Milan, died on this day in 2006 in Milan.

He had been suffering from pancreatic cancer. When his funeral took place at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, more than 12,000 fans joined the mourners marking his life. His remains were then taken back to his home town of Treviglio in the province of Bergamo.

Apart from being regarded as the model professional and a pillar of moral decency, Facchetti was seen as a player ahead of his time, the first attacking full back who was a master in both disciplines of his game.

Under the coaching of Internazionale’s great Argentine-born coach, Helenio Herrera, he became integral to the defensive system known as catenaccio, of which Herrera was one of the highest profile advocates.

But Facchetti also knew exactly when to turn defence into attack and to exploit his speed and athleticism going forward. Inter were known as a defensive team but they were also one of the best at punishing opponents with rapid breakaway attacks. In more than 600 appearances for Inter, Facchetti scored 75 goals, the most by any defender in the history of football in Italy.

The Italy team that won the 1968 European Championships with Facchetti, the captain, at the back, on the far right
The Italy team that won the 1968 European Championships
with Facchetti, the captain, at the back, on the far right
Some commentators believe he was the inspiration for West Germany's Frans Beckenbauer, who watched Facchetti's spectacular incursions from left back, his thundering right-footed shots, and asked himself why he, as a libero or sweeper, should not also make forward runs. He did, and came to be seen as one of the greatest all-round players the game has seen.

Facchetti’s prowess as a goalscorer was no accident. When Herrera spotted him playing for the youth team at his local club CS Trevigliese, he was a centre forward, but Herrera knew instantly he was the kind of player he wanted at full back.

Born in 1942, Facchetti had been a bright student. He once had ambitions to become a doctor but the chance to play professional football won the day. He made his Serie A debut for Inter against Roma in May 1961, at the age of 19.

Apart from Trevigliese, Facchetti played for no other club than Inter. With the so-called ‘Grande Inter’ team of the 1960s and early ‘70s, he won the scudetto in 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1971, the European Cup in 1964 and 1965, and two Intercontinental Cups in 1964 and 1965.

Facchetti remained with Inter after his playing career ended, as a coach and then club president
Facchetti remained with Inter after his playing
career ended, as a coach and then club president
In an era where the European Cup - unlike today’s Champions League - was a straight knock-out, Herrera’s Inter were the perfect team, sitting deep and soaking up pressure, then pouncing on the break, utilising the creative brilliance of Sandro Mazzola, Mario Corso and Luis Suárez up front. Only Jock Stein’s Celtic - the so-called Lions of Lisbon - denied Inter a European Cup hat-trick when they reached the final again in 1966.

Selected for the national team for the first time in May 1963, Facchetti went on to win 94 caps, a total surpassed only by Dino Zoff, Paolo Maldini, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon.

He captained the azzurri 70 times, leading them at the World Cup finals 1970 and 1974, having played at his first World Cup in England in 1966, when Italy suffered the humiliation of being beaten by North Korea.

But Italy bounced back to win the European Championships in 1968 and then took part in two of the finest World Cup matches of all time in Mexico in 1970, first defeating West Germany 4-3 after extra time in the semi-finals in front of 102,000 fans in a baking hot Azteca Stadium, with Facchetti leading by unstinting example, followed by the final in which the Brazil of Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto put on one of the greatest exhibitions of exhilarating attacking football ever seen to win 4-1.

Facchetti saw out his career at Inter, first on the technical staff and latterly as nominal president, effectively protecting the actual owner and besieged ex-president, Massimo Moratti.

The Basilica of San Martino in Treviglio was originally built in 1008
The Basilica of San Martino in Treviglio
was originally built in 1008
Travel tip:

Treviglio, where Facchetti was born, is situated about 20km (12 miles) south of Bergamo and about 40km (25 miles) east of Milan. Known as the town of courtyards, its main sights are the Palazzo Municipale, which dates back to 1300, and the Basilica of San Martino, originally built in 1008 and remade in the in Lombard-Gothic style in 1482, with a Baroque facade added in 1740. The bell tower dates to the early 11th century.  The historical Bar Milano, in Piazza Manara, was founded in 1896 and still retains the original furniture of the century and a counter in Art Nouveau style.

The Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, where 12,000 Inter fans turned out for Facchetti's funeral
The Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, where 12,000
Inter fans turned out for Facchetti's funeral
Travel tip:

The Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio is in south west Milan in Piazza Sant’Ambrogio. It was originally built by Aurelius Ambrosius, who was a lawyer who became Bishop of Milan by popular demand, on the site of an earlier Christian burial ground. It was named after him after his remains were placed there, before being rebuilt in the 11th century and further modified in the 15th century.

More reading:

The record-breaking career of Paolo Maldini

Gianluigi Buffon's long-running success story

The brilliance of Luigi Riva

Also on this day:

The Feast Day of Saint Rosalia

1850: The birth of military leader Luigi Cadorna

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18 December 2017

Gianluca Pagliuca – record-breaking goalkeeper

No one has saved more penalties in Serie A matches


Gianluca Pagliuca played for Italy in the 1994 World Cup final
Gianluca Pagliuca played for Italy
in the 1994 World Cup final
The footballer Gianluca Pagliuca, once the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, record-holder for the most appearances by a goalkeeper in the Italian soccer championship and still the stopper with the most penalty saves in Serie A, was born on this day in 1966 in Ceretolo, a small town about 10km (6 miles) from the centre of Bologna.

Pagliuca made 592 appearances in Serie A, taking the record previously held by Italy’s World Cup-winning captain Dino Zoff for the most by a goalkeeper in the top division of the Italian League. He held the record for 10 years from September 2006 until it was overtaken by another of Italy’s greatest goalkeepers, Gianluigi Buffon, in 2016.

He played for four major clubs in his career, starting with Sampdoria, with whom he won the Serie A title – the Scudetto – in 1990-91, playing in the team that included Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Mancini, Beppe Dossena, Attilio Lombardo and Ivano Bonetti.

After Sampdoria, he represented Internazionale in Milan, his home-town club Bologna and the small club Ascoli, from Ascoli Piceno in Marche.

He also made 39 appearances for the Italian national team and was chosen for three World Cup finals squads, picking up a runners-up medal in the United States in 1994, even though his participation was marred by a suspension for two matches.

Pagliuca was renowned for saving penalties
Pagliuca was renowned for saving penalties
This followed his red card in Italy’s group match against Norway, when he was sent off for handling the ball outside his penalty area, in the process becoming the first goalkeeper to be dismissed in the history of the World Cup finals.

Pagliuca’s achievements with Sampdoria, where he also won a European Cup-winners’ Cup medal and a runners-up medal in the Champions League following a 1-0 defeat against Barcelona at Wembley, earned him a move to Inter in 1994 for a fee of £7 million, which at the time was the highest fee to be paid for a goalkeeper.

At Inter he played in two consecutive UEFA Cup finals, defeating Italian rivals Lazio in the second, and might have stayed in Milan longer had new coach Marcello Lippi not brought in Angelo Peruzzi from his former club, Juventus, to be first choice.

At that time, in 1999, Pagliuca had the possibility of continuing his career in England with Aston Villa, a club he had followed as a teenager when satellite TV channels first allowed Italian audiences to follow English football.

He chose instead to join Bologna, his first love as a boy growing up in the city’s outskirts, although he said that playing at Villa Park for Inter in a UEFA Cup tie in 1994 had been one of the proudest moments of his career.

Pagliuca won the Serie A title with Sampdoria
Pagliuca won the Serie A title
with Sampdoria
Inter lost that tie on a penalty shoot-out, although in keeping with his reputation Pagliuca did save one of Villa’s penalties. In Serie A, his tally of 24 penalty saves has still not been beaten.

He also saved a penalty in the shoot-put that settled the 1994 World Cup final in Pasadena, although Italy were beaten by Brazil after both Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio missed with their kicks and Daniele Massaro saw his attempt saved.

When Pagliuca announced his retirement while playing for Ascoli in 2007, he was 40 years old and had racked up an incredible 786 competitive appearances in all competitions.

Since quitting as a player, Pagliuca has combined working for Bologna as a member of the coaching staff with appearing on Sky Italia and the Mediaset subscription channels as a pundit.

Ceretolo is a popular residential area outside Bologna
Ceretolo is a popular residential area outside Bologna
Travel tip:

Ceretolo, where Pagliuca was born and played his first football with the Polisportiva Ceretolese amateur club, was for many centuries a hamlet outside the larger town of Casalecchio di Reno, a few kilometres outside Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region.  It has an 18th century church, dedicated to the saints Antonio and Andrea and a bell tower that survived both an earthquake in 1928 and bombing in the Second World War. In more recent years it has grown into popular residential area.

The church of San Michele in Bosco offers panoramic views over the city of Bologna
The church of San Michele in Bosco offers panoramic views
over the city of Bologna
Travel tip:

Visitors to Bologna can enjoy impressive panoramic views across the city by taking only a short trip out of the city centre into the Colli Bolognesi, the hills just to the south of the city, which itself is built on a flat plain at the southern edge of the Po Valley. One good vantage point is the church of San Michele in Bosco, which was built during the Middle Ages and refurbished by Olivetan monks in the 17th century as part of a religious complex that included a convent. The churchyard can be reached by a 10-minute bus ride or on foot from the centre and offers a view across the whole city.

Also on this day:












9 July 2016

Fourth World Cup for the Azzurri

Triumph in Berlin for Marcello Lippi's team


Fabio Grosso, who scored Italy's winning penalty in the final
Fabio Grosso, who scored Italy's
winning penalty in the final
Italy's footballers won the World Cup for the fourth time on this day in 2006, defeating France in the final in Berlin with the outcome determined by a penalty shoot-out.

The victory made Italy only the second nation after five-times champions Brazil to win the World Cup four times or more.  They were successful previously in 1934, 1938 and 1982 and have been runners-up twice, in 1970 and 1994.

Italy reached the final in 2006 by defeating hosts Germany in the semi-final in Dortmund, an attacking match determined by two goals in the final moments of extra time from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero after goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had pulled off some stunning saves.

In football terms, the final was a much less captivating spectacle, with each team scoring in the first 20 minutes but unable to find a second goal. It was marred by the sending off of France's Zinedine Zidane in his last competitive match before retiring from the game.

Zidane was shown the red card for head-butting the Italian defender Marco Materazzi 10 minutes into extra time.

The two had been the key figures during the 90 regulation minutes, Zidane having given France the lead with a seventh-minute penalty controversially awarded for a foul on him by Materazzi.

Materazzi equalised in the 19th minute with a header from a corner, scoring his second goal in a tournament in which he had also received a red card, in the round-of-16 match against Australia in which the Italians only just scraped through.

The incident that led to Zidane's expulsion came after the two appeared to engage in a brief conversation on the field.  The French player began to walk away from the Italian but then suddenly turned round and head-butted Materazzi in the chest with such force that he knocked him to the ground.

Italian fans celebrate at the Circus Maximus in Rome, where captain Fabio Cannavaro and his team showed off the trophy after winning the 2006 World Cup
Italian fans celebrate at the Circus Maximus in Rome, where
captain Fabio Cannavaro and his team showed off the trophy
The final was overshadowed by the sending-off, only the fourth in a World Cup final and there were lasting repercussions.  Zidane was fined by football's international governing body FIFA and volunteered for community service in place of a suspension from football because his retirement meant any ban from playing was meaningless.

Materazzi was also fined and given a two-match ban after he admitted using insulting language to Zidane. However, he always denied that he made comments of a racist nature and after a two-year fight won damages from three English newspapers over allegations that he had done.

In the penalty shoot-out, David Trezeguet's miss for France enabled semi-final hero Fabio Grosso to be Italy's man of the moment again when he then scored his spot kick, giving Italy a 5-3 win.

Italy had lost all three previous World Cup shoot-outs in which they had been involved, including the 1990 semi-final against Argentina when they were hosts, and the 1994 final in the United States, when Brazil won.

On their return to Italy, captain Fabio Cannavaro and his squad met Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and prime minister Romano Prodi, with all of the players, plus coach Marcello Lippi and his technical staff, awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic.

This was followed by an open-top bus parade through Rome to the Circus Maximus, where the players assembled on a stage to show off the trophy.  An estimated 500,000 people turned out to salute their heroes.

The elaborately decorated facade of the Basilica di Santa Croce, one of many fine buildings in Lecce
The elaborately decorated facade of the Basilica
di Santa Croce, one of many fine buildings in Lecce
Travel tip:

Marco Materazzi hails from Lecce, a city in Puglia renowned for its Baroque architecture and sometimes nicknamed the Florence of the South.  The attractive city centre contains the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre but much of what visitors see was built in the 17th century, including the elaborately decorated Basilica di Santa Croce.

Travel tip:

Circus Maximus is the site of a Roman chariot racing stadium in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, not far from the Colosseum.  The stadium alone could accommodate more than 150,000 spectators and the remains can be seen in what is now a vast area of parkland, regularly used as a venue for open air concerts because of the potential for huge audiences.

More reading:


How Paolo Rossi's hat-trick stunned Brazil

Marcello Lippi - the coach who masterminded 2006 victory

Italia 90: Semi-final agony for Azeglio Vicini

Italia 90: Schillaci matches Rossi by winning the Golden Boot


(Photo of Fabio Grosso by David Ruddell CC BY-SA 2.0)
(Photo of fans in Circus Maximus by Alessio Damato CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Basilica di Santa Croce by Tango 7174 CC BY-SA 4.0)

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28 January 2016

Gianluigi Buffon – goalkeeper


Record breaking footballer still at peak of his career


Gianluigi Buffon is goalkeeper for Italy and Juventus
Gianluigi Buffon
Picture courtesy of Puma
Italy and Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was born on this day in 1978 in Carrara in Tuscany.

Widely considered by football experts to be the best goalkeeper in the world, he is known for his outstanding ability to stop shots.

He holds the record for the most clean sheets, both in Serie A and the national side, and he has won numerous awards.

Now aged 38, Buffon has announced that he will probably retire after the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.

He has played a record 154 times for Italy and is expected to be first choice at this summer’s European Championships in France.

Buffon, whose nickname is Gigi, was born into a family of athletes. His mother, Maria, was a discus thrower and his father, Adriano, was a weight lifter. His two sisters both played volleyball for the Italian national team and his uncle was a prominent basketball player.

Watch 10 of Gianluigi Buffon's greatest saves



His grandfather’s cousin, Lorenzo Buffon, was also a top goalkeeper, playing for AC Milan and Italy, representing his country at the 1962 FIFA World Cup.

Gianluigi Buffon began his career with the Parma youth team at the age of 13 as an outfield player. When both of the team’s goalkeepers were injured he was asked to deputise in goal and within two weeks he had been promoted to first team 'keeper.

Buffon saves a penalty from England's Ashley Cole during Italy's quarter-final shoot-out win at Euro 2012
Buffon saves a penalty from England's Ashley Cole
during Italy's quarter-final shoot-out win at Euro 2012
When he transferred from Parma to Juventus in 2001 for 100 billion lire, more than 51 million euros (the equivalent of £32.4 million) he became the most expensive goalkeeper in history and the record still stands.

Buffon auctions off his captain’s arm band after every match to benefit the charities he supports.

UPDATE: Since this article was written, Buffon spent the 2018-19 season playing for Paris St Germain in France, returned to Juventus for two more seasons and rejoined his boyhood club, Parma, last summer, continuing to play in Serie B, the second tier of the Italian championship. He retired from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Travel tip:

The city of Carrara in Tuscany, where Buffon was born, is famous for the quarries that produce white and blue-grey Carrara marble. Among the sights worth seeing in the centre of the town are a decorative 12th century Duomo and a 16th century Ducal Palace, the Palazzo Cybo Malaspina, which is now the headquarters of a Fine Arts Academy.


Palazzo Cybo Malaspina in Carrara
Photo: Davide Papalini (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Juventus Football Club, colloquially known as Juve, play at Juventus Stadium in Corso Galileo Ferraris in Turin. You can book a ticket to visit the club’s museum and tour the stadium, which will even give you the chance to see inside the club's dressing rooms. For more details go to www.juventus.com