Friday, October 31, 2014

Italy Greatest All-time 23 member team

Italy World Cup 1934
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.
Italian diaspora
Southern ItalyCentral Italy,
Northern Italy(excluding Lombardy)Lombardy
Italy after 1982Italy between 1938 and 1982.

Italy won back-to-back World Cups in 1934 and 1938.   From the post-War period until 1968, the Azzurri failed to produce a national team that were as good as the pre-War generation.  However, AC Milan and Inter Milan did well in club competitions, winning 4 European Cups in the 1960's. Then, in 1968, Italy won the European Champion and reached the Final of the 1970 WC Finals.  The team consisted of Giacinto Facchetti, Sandro Mazzola, Gianni Rivera, Luigi Riva and Roberto Boninsegna.  

From then on, they produced great team after great team.  In 1982, Paulo Rossi's goals helped Italy to win their first WC since 1938. In the 1990's, Italy had Roberto Baggio as the trequartistas with Paulo Maldini and Franco Baresi maintaining the backline.  They reached the semifinal of the WC in 1990 and then, the Final in 1994.  In 2006, while the Italian clubs were under investigation at home, the Azzurri rallied and won the World Cup in Germany.

This is my all-time team for ItalyIf there were an All-Time World Cup, this would be the 23 players I would bring to the tournament. 
World Cup 2006
GK: Gianluigi Buffon
Gianluigi Buffon is considered to be one of the greatest keeper ever.  He made his Serie A debut at the age of 17 in 1995 with Parma.  He earned his first cap when he was only 19.  He had a total of 175 caps. His biggest achievement must be winning the World Cup in 2006.  He has been named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year a record eight time. He became the most expensive goalkeeper of all time following his transfer from Parma to Juventus in 2001.  He moved to PSG in 2019.

GK: Dino Zoff
Dino Zoff captained the World Cup winning side in 1982 at the age of 40.  He held the Serie A appearance record until 2006. He was also a part of the team that won the Euro 1968. He achieved great club success with Juventus, winning 6 Serie A titles, 2 Coppa Italias, and an UEFA Cup, also reaching two European Champions' Cup finals in 1972-73 and 1982-83 seasons. He also played for Udinese, Mantova and Napoli.
Dino Zoff in 1982
GK: Giampiero Combi
Combi won the 1934 WC with Italy.  He was considered one of the best in the world during his time.  He spent his entire career with Juventus.  He played 351 games in Serie A, winning five titles – in 1926 (having conceded only 18 goals during the season), 1931, 1932, 1933 and 1934 as part of the first golden age of the club with a record of five championship victories in a row, a feat known as Il Quinquennio d'Oro (The Golden Quinquennium).

CB/RB: Claudio Gentile
Gentile was considered one of the Azzurri's greatest defender.  He went to both 1978 and 1982 World Cup Finals.  He was best remembered for stopping Diego Maradona and Zico at the WC Finals in 1982 as Italy won their third World Cup.  His playing style was very hard. He was capped 71 times.  Gentile played over a decade with Juventus. He also played for Fiorentina and other clubs.
Claudio Gentile vs Zico
CB/RB:  Giuseppe Bergomi
Bergomi was one of Inter Milan's greatest defender, winning one scudetto and three UEFA Cups with them.  He played his entire career with Inter Milan.  He held the record of most appearance in the UEFA Cup. Bergomi won the World Cup in 1982 and appeared in the 1986 and 1990 WC Finals. He was capped 81 times between 1982 and 1998.

CB: Fabio Cannavaro
Fabio Cannavaro was capped 138 times between 1997 and 2010. He was the captain and perhaps, the best Italian player of the 2006 World Cup winning team.  He was named the 2006 FIFA World Player of the Year, and won the Ballon d'Or award in 2006 which made him the third defender to win the award. He started his career with Napoli and had spells with Parma, Inter Milan, Juventus and Real Madrid.
Fabio Cannavaro
SW: Gaetano Scirea
Scirea was the starting libero for Italy's World Cup winning team in Spain 1982 and Juventus throughout the 1980's.  He is considered one of the greatest defenders ever played the game.  He is one of only five players in history to have won all international trophies for football clubs recognized by UEFA and FIFA. He started with Atalanta before moving to Juventus in 1974, where he made his name. He also played in 1978 and 1986 World Cup Finals as well as the European Championship of 1980.

SW:  Franco Baresi
Baresi was considered Italy's greatest libero.  He was capped 82 times.  He led the Azzurri to the semifinal of the World Cup in 1990 and then, the Final in 1994.  However, he missed most of the tournament in 1994.  He was a part of the 1982 World Cup winning team, but he did not play a single match.  He was the captain of AC Milan for 15 years, where he won three European Cups and 6 Serie A titles.  This team was considered one of the greatest club side of all-time.
Franco Baresi
CB/SW: Alessandro Nesta
Nesta is considered one of the best defender of his generation.  He was the Serie A defender of the Year for 4 times. He started his career with Lazio.  Later, he played with AC Milan where he won two Champions' league.  He also played in MLS.  He earned 78 caps.   He played on the 2006 WC winning team, but injured in the third game of the tournament.  He also went to 1998 and 2002 World Cup Finals as well as the European Championship in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

LB: Giacinto Facchetti
Until the emerge of Paolo Maldini, Giacinto Facchetti was considered to be Italy's greatest left back. He spent his entire career with Inter Milan from 1960 to 1978.  He was the star wingback of La Grande Inter where they won back-to-back European Cups in the 1960's.  He was capped 94 times and also won the Euro 1968 with Italy. He played in 1966, 1970 and 1974 World Cup Finals.

LB: Paolo Maldini
Maldini was considered the greatest leftback of all-time.  He won 26 trophies in his 25 year career with AC Milan, including 5 Champions' league trophies. With the Azzurri, Maldini took part in three European Championships, and four World Cups. He reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup in the US and Euro 2000, and the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy and Euro 1988 in West Germany, and was elected into the all-star teams for each of these tournaments, in addition to the Euro 96 all-star team.  He was capped 126 times for Italy. 
Paolo Maldini
DM/CM: Marco Tardelli
He played at the 1978 World Cup Finals in Argentina and the 1980 European Football Championship at home.  He was the unsung hero of Italy's 1982 WC winning team.  He was capped 81 times.  He also won all the three major European competitions with Juventus. He also played for Pisa, Como, Inter Milan and St.Gallen of Switzerland.

DM:  Romeo Benetti
At international level, he represented the Italy national football team on 55 occasions between 1971 and 1980, and took part at the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups, as well as UEFA Euro 1980, achieving fourth-place finishes in the latter two tournaments. He is best remembered for his 5 seasons with AC Milan, winning a Cup Winners' Cup.

CM:  Andrea Pirlo
Pirlo started as an attack midfielder with Inter Milan without success before becoming a regista.  He redefined the regista role in the modern game.  He had 116 caps.  He won the World Cup in 2006 and took Italy to the Final of Euro 2012.  For his club career, he was known for his career with AC Milan.  He played over 280 matches for them, winning two Champions' League titles.  He switched to Juventus late in his career. 
Andrea Pirlo
CM/AM:  Giancarlo Antognoni
He was Fiorentina's greatest ever player .  He was a key player for Italy's WC winning team in 1982, but he missed the Final because of an injury.  He was capped 73 times for the Azzurri.  His career started in the Italian Serie D with the club of Asti Ma.Co.Bi., when he was only sixteen. In 1972, he joined Fiorentina. Because of his loyalty with his club, he never won anything at the club level.  He holds the record for the most appearances in Serie A for Fiorentina, with 341 appearances.

CM/AM: Gianni Rivera
Gianni Rivera was Italy's "Golden Boy"of the 1960's and perhaps their best player in his generation.  He won the Ballon d'Or in 1969.  He led AC Milan to win two European Cups in 1963 and 1969. He was capped 63 times, scoring 15 goals, at four World Cup Finals (1962, 1966, 1970, and 1974). Rivera is remembered for scoring the decisive goal in Italy's extra-time win over West Germany in the semi-final of Mexico 1970.

Gianni Rivera

CM/AM: Sandro Mazzola
He was a part of Inter Milan's "La Grande Inter".  He won four Serie A titles (1963, 1965, 1966 and 1971), two European Cups (1964 and 1965) and two Intercontinental Cups (1964 and 1965).  He won the Euro 1968 with the Azzurri and led them to the WC Finals in 1970.  During his career, he was known for sharing the starting position with AC Milan's Gianni Rivera on the national team. His father was Valentino Mazzola who died when Sandro was 7 years old.

AM: Valentino Mazzola
He was the best player in the world during the 1940's.  He was the captain and symbol of the "Grande Torino", the team recognised as one of the strongest in the world during the second half of the 1940s, with whom Mazzola won five Serie A championships.  His career, however, was limited by the War.  He never played in the World Cup.  His life was cut short by the Superga Air Disaster in 1949.  He was Sandro's father.

RW/LW: Bruno Conti 
Conti was the greatest winger in Italy's history.  He had 47 caps. He won the World Cup in 1982 and also took part at the 1986 World Cup Finals in Mexico.  Except with two loan spells with Genoa, he played his entire career with AS Roma. The season after the World Cup Finals in 1982, he helped Roma to win the league title.  He also led them to the 1984 European Cup Final but were defeated on penalties by Liverpool.

AM/FW: Roberto Baggio
Robert Baggio was the icon of the 1990's.  He was the World Player of the Year, the Ballon d'Or winner and the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1993.  He led Italy to reach the semifinal at 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy and then, to a second place four years later in the USA.  For club football, he started his career with Fiorentina.  He became the most expensive player in the world when he joined Juventus.  He also played for AC Milan, Bologna, Inter Milan and Brescia.
Roberto Baggio
FW: Giuseppe Meazza
Meazza is one of Italy's greatest players. He had 53 caps, scorimg 33 times. He led Italy winning two World Cups in 1934 and 1938.  He was probably the best player in the 1930's.  He was the best player at the 1934 World Cup Finals. He played mainly for Inter Milan in the 1930s, scoring 242 goals in 365 games for the club. He also played for AC Milan, Juventus, Varese, and Atalanta.

ST: Luigi Riva
Luigi Riva was the all-time leading scorer for the Italy.  At international level, Riva won the 1968  European Championship and was runner-up at the 1970 World Cup with the Italian national team; he also took part at the 1974 World Cup. With 35 goals in 42 appearances (in all official competitions) between 1965 and 1974. He was Serie A top scorer for three seasons. He was probably the best ever player at Cagliari, leading them to win their only scudetti in 1970.

ST:  Silvio Piola
Silvio Piola was the all-time leading scorer in the Italian league.  He was third all-time leading scorer for the Azzurri even through his career was cut short by the World War II.  Piola won the 1938 FIFA World Cup with Italy, scoring two goals in the final, ending the tournament as the second best player and the second highest scorer.

ST: Paolo Rossi
Rossi was the hero of Italy's WC winning team in 1982, notably for scoring a hattrick against Brazil in Spain, and went on to win the Golden boot. He was also the European player of the Year in 1982 because of his performance at the WC Finals. His club career was associated with Juventus.  He was a part of the great Juventus team of the 1980's.  He won the 1985 European Cup as Juventus' second top scorer.  He also went to the 1978 World Cup Finals.
Paolo Rossi

Honorble Mention
Walter Zenga, Gianluca Pagliuca, Enrico Albertosi, Lorenzo Buffon, Francesco Toldo, Antonio Cabrini, Renzo De Vecch,
Gianluca Zambrotta, Ciro Ferrara, Armando Picchi, Riccardo Ferri, Alessandro Costacurta, Pietro Vierchowood, Pietro Rava, Gennaro Gattuso, Gabriel Oriali, Giampiero Boniperti, Alessandro Del Piero, FranciscoTotti, Roberto Donadoni, Christian Vieri, Alessandro Altobelli, Filippo Inzaghi, Daniele De Rossi, Giorgio Chiellini

Squad Explanation
-- Gianluigi Buffon, Dino Zoff, Paulo Maldini, Gaetano Scirea, Franco Baresi, Giacinto Facchetti, Silvio Piola, Giuseppe Meazza, Roberto Baggio and Gianni Rivera are automatic selections.  No need to explain.  The Mazzolas probably also deserved automatic selections as well.  
-- Italy won two World Cup in the 1930's.  Silvio Piola, Giuseppe Meazza and Giampiero Combi played on those teams.
-- From the 1982 World Cup winning team, I selected Dino Zoff, Gaetano Scirea, Franco Baresi, Giancarlo Antognoni, Giuseppe Bergomi, Claudio Gentile, Marco Tardelli and Paulo Rossi.
-- Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Pirlo and Alessandro Nesta are on the 2006 World Cup winning team.  
-- The third goalkeeper is also a tough decision.  Giampiero Combi, Walter Zenga, Gianluca Pagliuca, Enrico Albertosi and Lorenzo Buffon all deserved the final spot.  In the end, I chose Combi because he seemed the be the most famous among the choices. 
-- Both Giuseppe Bergomi and Claudio Gentile can play as rightback or a centre-back.  So I took them ahead of other great Italian stoppers and did not bring a pure rightback to the team.   
-- I could not find room for Antonio Cabrini and Renzo De Vecch.  They are behind Giacinto Facchetti and Paolo Maldini. Antonio Cabrini is one of the greatest leftback ever coming from Europe.  I still could not find a spot for him.  That said a lot of about the depth of Italian defenders.  Renzo De Vecch went back too far in history.  I preferred the modern defender after "Catenaccio" was invented.  The Italian defenders were revolutionised by the system. 
-- Fabio Cannavaro was the hero of the 2006 World Cup team and perhaps, the best player of the tournament.  That tournament separated him from other great Italian defenders who did not make the list.  He is also second cap leader for Italy behind Buffon.
-- Andrea Pirlo won a World Cup in 2006.  He starred for both AC Milan and Juventus. Somehow, I found him still underrated by many fans.  I considered him among the greatest ever from Italy. He also played in an unique role (deep lying playmaker).  His playing style changed the way I felt about the game and th role of a playmaker playing deep. So I actually put him on starting lineups.
-- Giancarlo Antognoni's career would have been better known if he played for another club.  He was also injured during the 1982 World Cup Finals.  The spotlight went to Paulo Rossi and the Italian defence.  
-- Italy has too many great trequartistas.  I already have Baggio, Rivera and the Mazzolas on the team.  So I do not have space for Alessandro Del Piero and FranciscoTotti.
-- Valentino and Sandro Mazzola are father and son.  Sandro Mazzola and Gianni Rivera played in the same era, and was often not on the same field together.
-- There are better Italian players than Paolo Rossi, but his performance in Spain 1982 alone got him onto the team ahead Giampiero Boniperti.  I was debating between Boniperti and Rossi.  I might need Boniperti's wide game on the right, but Conti can take care of that.
-- All "oriundo"players, except the ones uncapped by other national teams are listed elsewhere. Luis Monti, Raimondo Orsi and Enrique Guaita would be the probably only players seriously cosidered for a spot here.  Omar Sívori's greatness was for Juventus, not the Azzurri.
-- I might have overrated Luigi Riva, but he is Italy's all-time leading scorer.  He is a classic target man. Perhaps, Christian Vieri could also be my target man.  Vieri is underrated because he moved clubs too many times.  He did not established himself as a club legend anywhere.  He also missed out on the 2006 World Cup victory.

Starting lineup 
Formation 3-4-1-2 
From the La Grande Inter to Antonio Conte's Italy, the libero position is one of the strongest aspect of the Italian game. This formation is built around the position. I believe Gentile would be a better partner than Scirea for Barsei in the back-three.  My lineup also lacks a good right wingback.  So I start Conte there.

Formation 4-4-2 (Diamond)
  • This formation is based on the 4-4-2 used by Arrigo Saachi, Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti. 
  • I started Valentino Mazzola because he was more versatile than the other options.  He could defend, playmake and attack. He also could ply deeper than Rivera.

Arrigo Saachi
Formation III 3-5-2
This formation is based upon Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 used in recent years.  The back three looked great.  Gentile could operate as a rightback, which was a perfect replacement for Andrea Barzagli.  The midfield is tricky.  Claudio Marchisio was a key player for Conte.  I do not have a player liked him.  I do not think Baggio suited to play deep.  So I used Riveria who had played a deeper position before.  Italy almost never used Riveria and Mazzola together on the same field. So I was not sure if the pair would work here.  I do not want to drop Roberto Baggio.  I can easily replace Meazza with him.


  1. Hi Lincoln Chan,
    The greatest Squadra Azzurra often described is like this; 5-3-2;
    Zoff (Buffon now i think)
    Bergomi, Baresi, Scirea, Maldini, Facchetti
    Rivera, Pirlo, Mazzola S.
    Meazza, Baggio

  2. why not albertini in the list ??

  3. Very informative article, Which you have shared here about the italy soccer team. I am impressed by the details that you have shared in this post and It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. I would like to thanks for sharing this article here. Truc tiep bong da vip

  4. Lincoln, I think Cabrini was a left back, not right back.