Sunday, February 28, 2021

What if Parisian nation team in World Cup 2018

This blogger Artur Yanturin of Russia copied many of my blog teams.  This blog was one of them.  It was my Russia All-Time Team here.  His team was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.   His Spartak Moscow All-Time team entry of was published in October 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2017.  His entry of the Dutch-German rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.  He also copied many many of my blog entries.

His Facebook and Instagram

8 Parisians were on the France's 2018 WC Team

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Paris has been a major European hub of many things.  Since the turn of the millennium, the city(or Île-de-France) has became a major area where talented footballers were born.  It was estimated that 6% of all footballers playing in the Big Five European leagues were born over thereThe region provides more players in the 2018 World Cup Finals than any other city in the world.  A total of 16 players came from the area.  Seven of them were on France's World Cup winning team.  To put it into perspective, Catalonia also provided seven footballers for the World Cup winning team of Spain in 2010 and the Catalans of that World Cup Finals were well-documented and given plenty of recognition and credits.  Paris actually had more players on who went to the 2018 World Cup because eight other Paris-born players also went to the World Cup playing for Portugal, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia respectively.
Kylian Mbappé and Paul Pogba 
This blog team is my selection of an imaginary national team from Paris (or Île-de-France) for the World Cup 2018.  All players were born in Île-de-France. Alphonse Areola, Kylian Mbappe, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Mendy, N'Golo Kanté and Steven Nzonzi were on the actual French national team that won the World Cup.  I am including Paris-born players who were capped by non-French national team.  

Team
GK: Alphonse Areola (PSG/France)
An academy graduate of PSG, he spent the early parts of his career on loan, enjoying spells with Lens, Bastia and La Liga side, Villarreal. During his stint with the latter, Areola broke the club record for the longest period of play without conceding a goal, remaining unbeaten for a period of 620. He also spent a season with Real Madrid. Since 2016, he has returned to PSG. He served as France's backup keeper at the 2018 World Cup Finals.
Alphonse Areola
GK: Benjamin Lecomte (Montpellier/France)
In 2010, Benjamin Lecomte made his professional debut with Lorient.  He moved to Montpellier in 2017.  Two seasons later, he joined AS Monaco.  In September, 2018, he received his first callup from the French national team.  He served as a backup against Germany.  At the time of writing, he has not played for France.

GK:Yohann Pelé (Marseille/France)
Yohann Pelé spent most of his career at Le Mans, making his debut in Ligue 2 in a 1–0 defeat at FC Istres in September 2002.  He later played for Toulouse between 2009 and 2012, and for Sochaux between 2014 and 2015.  In 2015, he joined Marseille.  He mainly was a backup to  Steve Mandanda, but he was a starter when Mandanda played for Crystal Palace. He played for the French Under-21 player in 2008.

RB: Kenny Lala (Strasbourg/France)
Kenny Lala started with Paris FC in 2010.  Later, he played for Valenciennes between 2011 and 2015 before joining Lens.  He joined Strasbourg in 2017. With Strasbourg, he was named on the 2018–19 Ligue 1 UNFP Team of the Year.  In January 2021, he moved to Olympiakos in Greece for 2.5 million euros.  

RB/LB: Youssouf Sabaly (Bordeaux /Senegal) 
Sabaly made his Ligue 1 debut with Evian in the 2013–14 season while on loan from Paris St-Germain.  He joined Bordeaux in 2017 without ever playing for PSG first team. He was a member of France victorious squad at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, but he chose to represent Senegal at the senior level.  He went to the 2018 World Cup Finals.

CB: Mamadou Sakho (Crystal Palace/France) 
In 2007, Mamadou Sakho made his debut with PSG, where he was named UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year: 2010–11.  From 2013 to 2017, he played for Liverpool FC, where he earned a cult status with the fans.  After a loan spell, he joined Crystal Palace in 2017.  From 2010 onward, he played 29 times for France.  He went to the 2014 World Cup Finals, but was only on the preliminary list for 2018.
Mamadou Sakho
CB: Presnel Kimpembe (PSG/France) 
Presnel Kimpembe made his professional debut for Paris Saint-Germain on 17 October 2014.  He established himself at the club around 2017.  He has presented both DR Congo and France at the youth level.  In 2016, he was first called by France at the senior level, but he did not make his debut until 2018.  He was a member of France 2018 World Cup winning team.  In Russia, he played 90 minutes against Denmark.

CB: Kurt Zouma (Stoke City/France)
Zouma began his career at Saint-Étienne, making his debut aged 16. He joined Chelsea for £12 million in January 2014, but was loaned back to various clubs. Between 2014 and 2017, he played for Chelsea and then, two loan spells before retirning to Chelsea in 2020.  He earned his first two caps in 2015, but he did not earn his third until 2018.

CB: Medhi Benatia (Juventus/Morocco) 
Born in France of Moroccan and Algerian roots, Medhi Benatia chose to play for Morocco. He first made a name with Udinese and then, AS Roma, where he was considered a top defender in the Serie A.  In the summer of 2014, he joined Bayern Munich.  In 2016, he returned to Italy to play for Juventus.  Since 2008, he has been representing Morocco.  He was a part of the team that went to the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.

LB: Benjamin Mendy (Manchester City/France)
Benjamin Mendy started with Le Havre in 2011.  Then, in 2013, he joined Marseille. He spent a season with Monaco whom he won the national championship in 2016–17. In  2017, Mendy joined Manchester City on a then world-record transfer fee for a defender.  He earned his first cap in 2017.  He was a member of France's 2018 World Cup winning team.
Benjamin Mendy
LB: Ferland Mendy (Lyon/France)
Ferland Mendy started with for Le Havre in 2013.  In 2017, he joined Lyon, where he spent two seasons.  He was named on the UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year for both seasons.  In 2019, he joined Real Madrid.  In November, 2018, he earned his first cap for France after Benjamin Mendy withdrew because of an injury.  He never represented France at the youth level.

DM/CM: Blaise Matuidi (Juventus/France)
Blaise Matuidi began his career with Troyes before joining AS Saint-Étienne. From 2011 to 2017, he played for Paris St Germain. In 2017, he joined Juventus. In 2020, he joined Inter Miami.  At the time of writing, he has represented France at the European Championship of 2012 and 2016 as well as the World Cup Finals in 2014 and 2018.  He has 84 caps.

DM: N'Golo Kanté (Chelsea/France)
Kante made his senior debut at Boulogne and then spent two seasons at Caen. In 2015, he joined Leicester City winning the Premier League in his only season there. The following year, he joined Chelsea, winning the league again in his first season. He also won the PFA Players' Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year and became the first outfield player to win back-to-back English league titles with different clubs since Eric Cantona in 1992 and 1993.
N'Golo Kanté 
CM/DM: Steven Nzonzi (Sevilla/ France)
Nzonzi began his career with Ligue 2 side Amiens. Then, he played for Blackburn Rovers for three years.  From 2012 to 2015, he played for Stoke City.  He joined Spanish side Sevilla for a fee of £7 million in July 2015, and won the UEFA Europa League in his first season.
In November 2017, he made his debut for the senior France squad, and he was part of their team that won the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

LM/CM: Adrien Rabiot (PSG/France) 
Adrien Rabbit spent most of his career with Paris Saint-Germain, making his debut with the first team in 2012 and winning 15 major honours, including four consecutive Ligue 1 titles and a treble in 2015–16.  In 2019, he moved to Juventus in Italy. In 2016, he picked up his first senior cap after the European Championship of 2016.  At the time of writing, he earned 11 caps.

CM: Paul Pogba  (Manchester United/France)
Pogba began his senior career with Manchester United, but he moved to Juventus.  In Turin, he won the Golden Boy Award for the best player under-21 playing in Europe.  He also led Juventus to the Final of the 2015 Champions' League Final.  In 2016, Manchester United broke the all-time transfer fees to sign Pogba.  At the time of writing, he was capped 43 times.  He led France to reach the Final of Euro 2016 and to win the World Cup in 2018.
Paul Pogba
RW: Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City/Algeria)
Born in France, Riyad Mahrez joined Leicester from La Harve in 2014.  He helped Leicester Town to win the Premiership in 2015-2016.  He won the PFA Players' Player of the Year, and was a member of the Premier League PFA Team of the Year as he helped Leicester City win the Premier League.  In 2018, he joined Manchester City. For the national team, he was eligible to play for France. He was selected to play for Algeria at Brazil 2014, but only played in one match. 

AM/LW: Yacine Brahimi (Porto/Algeria)
Brahimi began his career with Rennes. After spending the previous season on loan, he moved to the La Liga club Granada CF in 2013, and then to Porto for €6.5 million one year later. He represented France at all youth levels. In 2013, Brahimi switched his international allegiance to Algeria and made his debut for them a month later, also playing at the 2014 World Cup and the 2015, 2017 and 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, winning the latter tournament.
 
LW/FW: Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich/France)
Coman was a youth product with Paris St Germain.  He made his senior debut there before moving to Juventus in 2014.  In 2017, he joined Bayern Munich.  In 2015, he earned his first senior cap and was a part of Didier Deschamps' team at the European Championship in 2016.  He was considered one of the top young players there.

FW: Kylian Mbappé (PSG/France) 
Mbappe was a well-known youth player in France before making his senior debut with AS Monaco in 2015.  He quickly established himself as one of the best young players in the world.  In the summer of 2017, Monaco sent him to Paris St Germain on loan for a buyout option of around €180 million at the end of the loan. In 2017, he made his national team debut, becoming the second youngest ever French international.
 Kylian Mbappé 
RW/FW: Nicolas Pepe (Ivory Coast/Lille)
Pépé began his club career with Poitiers in the Championnat de France Amateur 2. He played for Angers and Orléans in 2015 before he signed for Lille in 2017, and was named to the UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year in the 2018–19 season. That summer, Pépé joined Arsenal for a club-record fee of £72 million, and won the FA Cup in his debut season.  Born in France to parents of Ivorian descent, Pepe chose to play for Ivory Coast. 

FW: Anthony Martial (Manchester United/France)
Anthony Martial came from the youth academy at Lyon. He played for both Lyon and Monaco before joining Manchester United in 2015. His performance with the Red Devils earned great review.  He won the Golden Bay award in 2015. He earned his foirst senior cap the same year.  He was a member of Didier Deschamps' team at the 2016 European Championship in France.

ST: Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla/France)
Having begun his career at amateurs UJA Alfortville, he joined Toulouse in 2010. He totalled 71 goals in 174 games for them, surpassing André-Pierre Gignac as their greatest league scorer of the 21st century. He moved to Sevilla in 2016, and scored 70 goals in 138 games in 3 seasons. A €40 million transfer to Monaco followed in 2019, and he was Ligue 1 top scorer in his first season back. At international level, Ben Yedder made his full international debut for France in March 2018.
Wissam Ben Yedder 
Players Pool
Jules Koundé (Bordeaux/France), Raphaël Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund/Portugal), Alexandre Letellier (Young Boys/France), Mamadou Samassa (Troyes/Mali), Bingourou Kamara (Strasbourg/Senegal), Saîf-Eddine Khaoui (Troyes/Tunisia), M'Baye Niang (Torino/Senegal), Moussa Sow (Shabab Al-Ahli/Senegal), Alfred N'Diaye (Wolverhampton Wanderers/Senegal), Amine Harit (Schalke 04/Morocco), Raïs M'Bolhi (Ettifaq FC/Algeria), Sébastien Corchia (Sevilla/France), Kévin Malcuit (Lille/France), Nordi Mukiele (Montpellier/France), Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City/Everton/France), Ibrahima Konaté (RB Leipzig/France), Dan-Axel Zagadou (Borussia Dortmund/France/Ivory Coast), Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspurs/France), Amine Harit (Schalke 04/Morocco), Tiémoué Bakayoko (Chelsea/France), Mehdi Lacen (Getafe/Algeria), Jonathan Bamba (St.Etienne/France), Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon/France), Jules Koundé (Bordeaux/France), Jérémy Ménez (Antalyaspor/France), Lucas Digne (Barcelona/France).

Squad Explanation
-- When I first started this team, I envisioned it to be an "All-French" team.  However, there were some key injuries.  Some of the "non-French" players can fill holes that the team needed badly (see below). After a quick research, I decided to select Parisian-born footballers who played for other national teams. The criteria is now about the birthplace. 
-- I took five non-French players.  They were Youssouf Sabaly (Senegal), Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Nicolas Pépé (Ivory Coast), Yacine Brahimi (Algeria) and Riyad Mahrez (Algeria).  If I only took French players only, their replacements would be Nordi Mukiele (Montpellier), Jules Koundé (Bordeaux), Kingsley Coman (Bayern Munich), Jean-Kévin Augustin (RB Leipzig) and Moussa Sissoko (Tottenham Hotspurs). 
-- Paris sent 16 players to the World Cup Finals. The cities of Montevideo and Sydney had 10 footballers each while Buenos Aires sent 7. 
-- Paris is considered a melting pot.  Only four players selected were white players (I do not know their ethnicity).
-- Alphonse Areola, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Mendy, N'Golo Kanté and Steven Nzonzi were on France's World Cup winning team.  
-- Wissam Ben Yedder, Kingsley Coman, Lucas Digne, Anthony Martial Adrien Rabiot,  Mamadou Sakho, Moussa Sissoko and Kurt Zouma were standby players for the French World Cup team.
-- Eight other Paris-born players went to the World Cup Finals, playing for other national teams.  They were Raphaël Guerreiro (Portugal), Medhi Benatia (Morocco), Amine Harit (Morocco), Youssouf Sabaly (Tunisia), Saîf-Eddine Khaoui (Tunisia), M'Baye Niang (Senegal), Moussa Sow (Senegal) and Alfred N'Diaye (Senegal).
-- The selections of Kylian Mbappé, N'Golo Kanté, Riyad Mahrez and Paul Pogba were self explanatory.
-- Paris St Germain featured 8 players who at one point of his career joined them: Kylian Mbappé, Adrien Rabiot, Presnel Kimpembe, Mamadou Sakho, Youssouf Sabaly,  Alphonse Areola, Blaise Matuidi and Steven Nzonzi (youth career only).
-- Alphonse Areola was the obvious choice for the first goalkeeper.  Then, I took a pair of Ligue 1 regular goalkeepers Benjamin Lecomte and Yohann Pele.  Lecomte played over 40 games for Montpellier HSC that season.  He received his French call-up in September, 2018. In 2017-2018 season, Yohann Pelé was Marseille's backup goalkeeper, but he played many matches because of injuries to Steve Mandanda.  He played in the semifinal of the Europa League.  At 36, he was also more experienced than Bingourou Kamara (Senegal) and Mamadou Samassa (Mali).  He was Marseilles' starter the season before. Meanwhile, Kamara played regularly for his club RC Strasbourg
Benjamin Lecomte
-- Raïs M'Bolhi (Algeria) was probably more famous than the others because he played in the 2014 World Cup Finals for Algeria, but he only played one league game between 2015 to 2018.  
-- Rightback Sébastien Corchia was capped once by France before the World Cup Finals.  However, he was injured from January 2018 to May, 2018.  So I took him out of consideration. Youssouf Sabaly (Senegal) was probably the best option available. Kenny Lala was the rightback of the Year in the Ligue 1 in the 2918-2019 season, but I don't know much about him the season before.  I still selected him based upon that. It is something that I usually do not do.  I was looking at two other Ligue 1 fullbacks Kévin Malcuit and Nordi Mukiele.  I did not know them.  Both players transferred to a new club in the summer of 2018.  Nordi Mukiele's fees was 16 million while Malcuit 11 million. Malcuit was injured during the season.
-- Centerback Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City/Everton) would have made the team, but he was injured.  So I took Presnel Kimpembe, Mamadou Sakho and Medhi Benatia. 
-- I gave the last centerback spot to Kurt Zouma (Stoke/France). At the time of writing, he has settled down with Chelsea.  In the 2017-2018 season, he was on loan with Stoke City.  His club finished second from the bottom with one of the worst defense in the league.  As of 2018, he only earned 2 caps in 2015.  However, he was a standby player for France. Didier Deschamps must have rated him ahead Jules Koundé and Ibrahima Konaté, and I trusted Didier Deschamps' decision. 
-- I seriously considered both Jules Koundé and Ibrahima Konaté.  As of 2021, the two defenders were well-known.  However, in 2018, both were young players.  Jules Koundé established himself as the starter of Bordeaux shortly after making his professional debut around January 2018.  Ibrahima Konaté (RB Leipzig) just turned 19 on May, 2018.  Both might be too young to be included for this World Cup Finals.  Benatia was famous because he played for Bayern Munich and Juventus. He would still get ahead of the two youngsters.
-- Centerback Dan-Axel Zagadou had a broke out season with Borussia Dortmund, but he injured from March to May 2018.  Anyway, he was only 19 years old in 2018.  So I was not seriously looking into him.
-- Raphaël Guerreiro had an injury-filled seasons.  In real life, he returned to action on May, 2018.  Portugal selected him to the World Cup Finals.   However, for the "Parisian national team", I selected Benjamin Mendy and Ferland Mendy.  I do not need to explain Benjamin Mendy's selection. He was the second most expensive defender in the world at the time of the World Cup Finals.
-- Lucas Digne should be ahead of Ferland Mendy in terms of experiences, but he seldom played for Barcelona in the 2017-2018 season.  He made only 11 league appearance.  Ferland Mendy did not earn his first cap until after the WC Finals, but he was a star in Ligue 1.  He was named on the UNFP Ligue 1 Team of the Year: 2017–18.  He probably had better form in 2018 than Digne.
Ferland Mendy
-- Both Benjamin and Ferland Mendy started with second division Le Havre.  And both were Senegalese.   They were one year apart in age.
--Only one of Didier Deschamps' midfielders were not from the area. So I decided to add a single midfielder to replace him.  I was deciding between Moussa Sissoko and Adrien Rabiot for the last spot.  Moussa Sissoko had a poor club form in the 2017-2018 season.  So I took Rabiot.  In real life, Rabiot refused to be a standby player after he failed to make the World Cup team.  He always had some disciplinary problems prior to that, but I overlooked that.  Meanwhile, in the summer of 2017, PSG actually sold Blaise Matuidi to make way for Rabiot. He relatively lived up expectation.  Many pundits believed that he should have gone to Russia with France. His relationship with PSG did not deteriorate to a point where he was in the doghouse until after the summer of 2018. 
-- I also seriously considered Tanguy Ndombele.  With Tottenham Hotspurs after the World Cup Finals, he actually struggled, but at the time of the WC Finals, he was an upcoming player for Lyon that season. But I preferred Rabiot who was more well-established with PSG.
-- Attack midfielder Amine Harit (Morocco) was Bundesliga Rookie of the Year for the 2017-2018 season, but I did not have space for him.  
-- I selected Yacine Brahimi (Porto/Algeria) who could play wide on the left.  I also looked into another left side wide player Jonathan Bamba (St.Etienne/France). He was doing well in Ligue One, but he remained uncapped at the time of writing.
-- Hatem Ben Arfa did not play a single game in the 2017-2018 season. Moussa Diaby only made his professional debut in 2018.
-- Anthony Martial scored 12 goals that season.  However, after Manchester United signed Alexi Sanchez in January 2018, Anthony Martial's playing time was reduced.  His last goal that season was scored on January 22nd, 2018.  At the time of the World Cup Finals, he only scored a single goal in 15 international matches.  France overlooked him for the real World Cup Finals. Nicolas Pepe scored 8 of his 13 goals that season from January 2018 onward. I took both since I needed more forwards.
-- Kingsley Coman was injured from February to May, 2018.  His fitness was a concern. He made a brief appearance in the DFB-Pokal Final on May 19, 2018.  I have dropped players who came back injuries about the same time he recovered, but I decided to gamble with him.  The other position had many alternatives.  For attackers, the alternative would be Jean-Kévin Augustin and Coman could potentially be the star of the team.
-- At the time of writing, striker Jean-Kévin Augustin is still uncapped.  He was RB Leipzig's second top scorer that season. I seriously considered him, but I opted for Coman and Martial who were more famous.
-- Wissam Ben Yedder was Sevilla's top scorer that season with 22 goals.  He was also one of France's standby players.
Kingsley Coman
Formation
I started four players who started for France against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup Final.  Blaise Matuidi was playing as a left wing in the actual game. 







Thursday, February 11, 2021

Top 10 Real Madrid Greatest Goalkeepers

This blogger Artur Yanturin of Russia copied many of my blog teams.  This blog was one of them.  It was my Russia All-Time Team here.  His team was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.   His Spartak Moscow All-Time team entry of was published in October 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2017.  His entry of the Dutch-German rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.  He also copied many many of my blog entries.


His Facebook and Instagram


Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index

Real Madrid is the most successful club in soccer's history.  They have won more titles in Europe than any other clubs. Of course, their players were among the greatest of all-time.  This post is about my Top 10 ranking of greatest goalkeeper in Real Madrid's history.  But every fan has their favourites and opinions.  The ranking is extremely subjective.  Some player played in multi-positions.  Sometimes, people would even argue about the position of each player considered.  For this goalkeeper blog, I do not have this issue.

1st: Iker Casillas (Spain)
Iker Casillas is Spain's most decorated goalkeeper and widely considered to be one of the greatest ever goalkeepers. He spent 16 seasons with Real Madrid and won three Champions' League with Real Madrid.  For Spain, he captained Spain into winning the World Cup in 2010 and two European Championships in 2008 and 2012.  He is capped over 150 times between 2000 and 2016, appearing in every major tournaments in that period. He also played for Porto at the end of his career.
Iker Casillas
2nd: Ricardo Zamora (Spain)
The first ever star goalkeeper in history.  He is also remembered for a spectacular last minute save he made in the 1936 Copa de España final while playing for Real Madrid against FC Barcelona. The award for the best goalkeeper in La Liga, the Ricardo Zamora Trophy, is named in his honour and he was voted one of the greatest players of the 20th century by World Soccer magazine. He was also Spain's most capped player for 45 years.
Ricardo Zamora 
3rd: Franisco Buyo (Spain)
Franisco Buyo at the time of his retirement was the third highest keeper in La Liga appearance record.  He spent over a decade with Real Madrid (1986-1997), winning 13 titles with them. Before Real Madrid, he played for Mallorca, Deportive La Coruna and Seville. He earned 7 caps for Spain between 1983 and 1992. He went to the European Championship of 1984 and 1988 as a backup.
Franisco Buyo
4th: Miguel Angel (Spain)
Miguel Ángel was born in Ourense, Galicia. During his career, after making his beginnings at handball, he played for AD Couto (later renamed Atlético Orense), CD Castellón and Real Madrid, having an 18-year spell with the latter club and being first choice from 1974 to 1978 and in two of his final three seasons; he conquered six La Liga championships, being an active part in four of those.  He had 18 caps. He was in the squad for the 1978 and 1982 FIFA World Cups. 
Miguel Ángel 
5th: García Remón (Spain)
Born in Madrid, Garcia Remón was best known for his spells with Real Madrid. He then began an interesting battle for first-choice status with Miguel Ángel González which would last for the vast majority of his stay in Madrid. Remón would start from 1971 to 1973 and 1979 to 1981.  At the international level, he earned two caps for Spain.
Garcia Remón
6th: Thibaut Courtois (Belgium)
Thibaut Courtois joined Chelsea from Genk in 2011, but he was sent away to Atletico Madrid immediately.  He won the Europa League in his first season and then, a Copa del Rey in his second season.  In his final season, Atletico Madrid reached the Final of the Champions' League, but lost to Real Madrid.  He was the starting keeper for Belgium at World Cup 2014 and 2018, and Euro 2016.
Thibaut Courtois
7th: Juan Alonso (Spain)
Juan Alonso was part of their European Cup victories in 1956, 1957 and 1958. He earned 2 caps for the Spain national football team. Alonso won the Ricardo Zamora Trophy during the 1954–55 season. At the end of his career he played a few matches for Real Madrid's second team, which then played under the name AD Plus Ultra in the second division.
Juan Alonso 
8th: Keylor Navas (Costa Rica)
After starting out at Saprissa he moved to Albacete, and then to Levante in La Liga.  After a great performance With Levante, he won the La Liga Keeper of the Year award for 2014 with Levante.  Then, he led Costa Rica to the quarter-final of the WC in Brazil.  After the WC Finals, he earned a transfer to Real Madrid.  With Real Madrid, he won 3 Champions League titles as their starting keeper.
Keylor Navas
9th: Antonio Betancort (Spain)
Antonio Betancourt played as a goalkeeper for Las Palmas before moving to Real Madrid in 1961. With Real Madrid, he had two spells with a more lengthy spell between 1963 and 1971. In between, he played for  Deportivo La Coruña. He was also capped by the Spanish national team. He went to the 1966 World Cup Finals in England as a backup to José Ángel Iribar.  
Antonio Betancourt 
10th:  Rogelio Dominguez (Argentina)
Rogelio Dominguez played around the same time as Antonio Carrizo.  He earned 59 caps for Argentina.  He missed the 1958 World Cup Finals because he moved to Real Madrid in 1957, and Argentina did not select overseas-based players.  He was on Argentina's 1962 World Cup team. With Real Madrid, he won two European Cups playing alongside Alfredo Di Stefano.  Before Real Madrid, he played for Racing Club in Argentina.
Rogelio Dominguez 
Honorable Mention
Bodo Illgner José Bañón, José Vicente, Diego Lopez, José Araquistáin, Santiago Cañizares, César Sánchez, Agustín.

Ranking Explanation
-- The criteria is mainly based upon their performance for Real Madrid, but I do not have a formula for ranking.  
-- Iker Casillas definitely suppressed Ricardo Zamora as Real Madrid's greatest ever goalkeepers.  A big part of Zamora's greatness came during his stint with Barcelona.  For Real Madrid, Iker Casillas was more iconic.  He won three Champions' League with Real Madrid. 
-- Francisco Buyo, Garcia Ramon and Miguel Angel were almost the same. Franisco Buyo was undisputed starter for a longer time.
-- Garcia Ramon had a rivalry with Miguel Angel for their duration of their careers in Madrid, and Miguel Angel spent 18 years while Remon lasted 15 years.   On this blog of mine, Remon is ahead of Miguel Angel because that blog is about Real Madrid under Miguel Munoz.  He spent longer time with manager Miguel Munoz.  For this blog, it is about the entire history of Real Madrid. Rogelio Dominguez also was ranked higher over there because of what he did for Miguel Munoz.
-- Thibaut Courtois was unranked when I created this in 2021, but I elevated him to the 6th position after he won the Champions' League Final in 2022.  His individual performance against Liverpool in the Final was probably the best ever for a Real Madrid goalkeeper in a EC/CL Final.  At the time of writing, he already played more games for Real Madrid than Keylor Navas. So it was obvious to rank him ahead of Navas. In time, he might go higher.  Francisco Buyo, Miguel Angel and Garcia Remon did not have the same international reputation as Courtois, but they were long time servant to the club. Iker needs no introduction while Ricardo Zamora was the club's first star player.
-- I might have overrated or underrated Keylor Navas, but he had three straight Champions' League titles.  Juan Alonso also won three European Cups.  I ranked him ahead of Navas, but I do not believe a single spot the between the two really mattered.
-- Agustin was an understudy of both Miguel Ángel and García Remón.  Basically, I selected him because he played with the ‘Quinta del Buitre’ (the ‘Vulture Squadron’).  He is the biggest question mark on the list.  I was deciding between him and José Vicente Train.
-- Rogelio Dominguez played in the same time as Amadeo Carrizo.  Dominguez actually played more than Carrizo for the Argentine national team.  He had 58 caps between 1951 and 1963, while Carrizo only had 20 caps between 1954 and 1964.
-- I also rewarded Juan Alonso and Rogelio Dominguez for European glories.
-- I didn't really know how to rank Bodo Illgner against others.  I previously rewarded him with the 10th place for bringing the Champions League home after 32 years, but he dropped off the list after Thibaut Courtois's epic Champions' League in 2022.
-- Diego Lopez played better than Iker Casillas in his time with Real Madrid. He did send Casillas to the bench. But I only put him on honorable mention. His career here was short.
-- Jerzy Dudek was a popular player within the locker room.  He was known as the unsung hero of the club even through he only played a few games in Madrid. However, I cannot put him on honorable mention because he was more of a "cheerleader".
-- The list consisted two goalkeepers who won a World Cup for their country respectively.  Iker Casillas captained Spain as they won the World Cup in 2010.  Bodo Illgner won the World Cup for West Germany in 1990.  He was not a member of Real Madrid at the time.
-- Santiago Cañizares lost his place to Bodo Illgner around the mid-1990's.  He was never a full time starter here.  In 1998, he moved to Valencia and achieved legendary status with them.
-- César Sánchez started as a backup for wonderkid Iker Casillas. He eventually became first-choice in the 2001-2002 season after a loss of form by Casillas.  He even started in the Champions League Final that year, but was substituted by Casillas after suffering an injury.  Casillas went on to won the MOTM in that final.
-- Agustín would be my 11th at the time of writing.  He played in the same time as García Remón, Miguel Ángel, José Manuel Ochotorena and Francisco Buyo.  He appeared in the 1985-1986 UEFA Cup Final after José Manuel Ochotorena was injured.
-- José Manuel Ochotorena was only the main starter for a single season, where he was injured and missed the UEFA Cup Final.
-- In time, we will see how we rank Thibaut Courtois.  As of 2021, his team has not achieved as much as the others in question.  He definitely would be 11th or higher.  The others have all spent longer time here and contributed more to Real Madrid's victories.
-- Julio Iglesias is recognized as the most commercially successful continental European singer in the world and one of the top record sellers in music history, having sold more than 100 million records worldwide in 14 languages.  He was a goalkeeper for Real Madrid Castilla in the Segunda División before an automobile accident ended his career in 1963.
-- I am not familiar with José Bañón.


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

What if Italy went to Euro 1992

This blogger Artur Yanturin of Russia copied many of my blog teams.  This blog was one of them.  It was my Russia All-Time Team here.  His team was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.   His Spartak Moscow All-Time team entry of was published in October 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2017.  His entry of the Dutch-German rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona was written in 2020, but mine was uploaded in 2014.  He also copied many many of my blog entries.

His Facebook and Instagram

Euro Qualifiers Italy vs Norway, November 1991
Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.


Between 1990 and 1994, Italian football was enjoying one of its Golden era.  The Serie A was the best league in the world.  The national team was filled with special players such as Roberto Baggio, Paulo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Gianluca Vialli, but yet it failed to qualify for the 1992 European Championship.  Their qualifying campaign started poorly with two draws.  On June 1991, Norway beat Italy 2-1 in Oslo, which set up a must-win situation for Italy against the Soviet Union on October, 1991.  The game ended up a goalless draw and Italy was out of the tournament with two games remaining.  Azeglio Vicini was sacked after the game and Arrigo Sacchi replaced him as the manager of Italy after the game.

The story did not end there.  In December 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed.  Their national team also ceased to exist.  Briefly, a rumor surfaced that Italy might replace the Soviet Union at the European Championship that coming summer in Sweden.  However, the Association of Football Federations of the Commonwealth of Independent States was formed on 11 January 1992 and the CIS national team replaced the Soviet Union for the Finals.  The idea of this blog is to create a scenario where Italy replaced the Soviet Union. And I was not creating a team under neither Azeglio Vicini nor Arrigo Sacchi.  Both managers had their own preference in which I disagree.  So I am the manager of this team.
Italy vs Switzerland 1992

Prediction
In the actual tournament,  Germany, France, Netherlands, England and Sweden were the pre-tournament favorites, but Denmark defied the odds to win the tournament by beating Germany in the Final.  Originally, Yugoslavia qualified for the tournament, but the team was disqualified due to the Yugoslav wars.  Denmark became a late replacement, but was not expected to do well.  Manager Richard Møller Nielsen was not respected in Denmark.  He had issues with many Danish players and Michael Laudrup decided not to join the team in Sweden.  Germany, on the other hand, was newly reunified.  Former East German players like Matthias Sammer, Andreas Thom and Thomas Doll reinforced the team that won the World Cup two years earlier, but Lothar Matthias was injured.  Meanwhile, the Netherlands was the defending European champion.  Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard were in their prime.  They were joined by a young Dennis Bergkamp.  France under Michel Platini qualified for the Finals with a 100% winning record.  Jean-Pierre Papin was the Ballon d'Or winner in 1991.  England lost just once in two years since their semifinal appearance at the 1990 World Cup Finals. They were unbeaten in the qualifiers, but was injury plagued for the Finals.  Paul Gascoigne was missing.  Of course, Sweden as the host was not to be underestimated. 

On paper, Italy was as good as any of the main contenders in the summer of 1992.  Italy had a heartbreaking loss in the semi-final of the 1990 World Cup Finals held in Italy.  The backbone of the 1990 team reminded in their prime.  This same basic team also reached the Final of the 1994 World Cup Finals two years later.  . 

In 1990, Juventus broke the transfer record to sign Roberto Baggio from Fiorentina. In the summer of 1992, Gianluca Vialli joined Juventus from Sampdoria in another transfer record.  That same summer, the record was broken again when Gianluigi Lentini joined AC Milan from Torino.  So in the summer of 1992, three of the four most expensive players in the world were Italians.  Meanwhile, AC Milan won Serie A title with an undefeated record in the 1991-1992 season.  Sampdoria reached the Final of the European Cup before losing to Johan Cruyff's Barcelona.  Torino also finished second in the UEFA Cup.  

Group of Death
In real life, Italy probably would end up in the Group of Death with Germany, Netherlands and Scotland in replacement of the CIS (Soviet Union). For the Italians, the Germans were beatable.  Germany had a better record against Italy in the 1980's and 1990's, but Italy never lost to Germany in a World Cup Finals or an European Championship Finals.  Germany actually started the tournament slowly. On their first match, Thomas Hässler scored a last minute freekick to save them from a loss against the CIS.  History would tell you that the CIS had lost their hearts in the tournament, but they actually managed to draw the Netherlands on the second match. By the last match, Germany was on the brink of elimination and CIS seemed to be in a better position.  Germany only reached the semifinal ahead of the CIS because the CIS self-collapsed against Scotland.   Meanwhile, between 1978 and 2008, Italy never lost to the Netherlands. In short, Italy "owned" both Germany and the Netherlands at that point in time. So it is very possible that Italy could produce much better results than the CIS.
Italy 1-0 Germany, 1992
In fact, Italy played all three teams in their Group that same year.  In March 1992, Italy beat Germany at home 1-0. Gianluca Vialli was sent off in a previous friendly match against Bulgaria.  The Italian FA quickly organized a match against San Marino so that Vialli could serve his suspension and play against Germany.  However, Vialli did not play.  Lothar Matthaus who missed the Euro 1992 because of an injury played against Italy.  Nine other German starters on that match also started against the CIS on the first match of Euro 1992.   And then, in September, Italy beat Netherlands 3-2 away with Baggio and Vialli playing together while Marco Van Basten, Ruud Guilt. Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp started for Netherlands.  Two months later, Scotland and Italy played to a goalless draw in a World Cup Qualifier.  Those results actually does not really mean much, but for the reason of this blog, Italy went 2-1-0 against their "group" members in 1992 and "qualified" for the semifinal against Denmark in my "imaginary" tournament .  However, beyond the semifinal would be unpredictable as destiney belonged to Denmark in 1992.

Team (only 20 players in 1992)
GK: Gianluca Pagliuca (Sampdoria)
Gianluca Pagliuca made his name with Sampdoria, winning the league in 1990-1991 and reaching the European Cup's final in 1992.  In 1994, Inter Milan broke the world transfer record for a keeper to sign him.  While at Inter, he reached UEFA Cup Final twice, winning it in 1997-1998.  For the national team, he was the starting keeper at both USA 1994 and France 1998.  In total, he had 39 caps.
Gianluca Pagliuca 
GK: Walter Zenga (Inter Milan)
Zenga was considered one of Italy's greatest keepers.   He played 58 times for Italy, notably at the 1990 WC Finals in Italy. He had five clean sheet, a total of 518 minutes without conceding a goal, a record still standing in the WC Finals.  He played mainly for Inter Milan, but also with Sampdoria, Padova and New England Revolution in the MLS of the USA. He won two UEFA Cups with Inter Milan. 

CB/RB:  Giuseppe Bergomi (Inter Milan)
Giuseppe 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. At the international level, Bergomi was a part of the strong defensive units of the national team throughout 1980's.  He was capped 81 times between 1982 and 1998. He won the World Cup in 1982 and appeared in the 1986 and 1990 World Cup Finals. 

SW: Ciro Ferrara (Napoli)
Ciro Ferrara was considered one of the best defenders in the world during his prime.  However, his career with the Azzurri was limited by the same period with some of the greatest defenders in history. He only had 49 caps between 1987 and 2000. For club football, he played nearly a decade for Napoli during Diego Maradona's years before moving to Juventus.  At Juventus, he won 6 scudettis and the Champions' League in the 1995-1996 season.

SW: Franco Baresi (AC Milan)
Franco Baresi was considered Italy's greatest libero.  He was capped 82 times for the Italian national team.  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. 
Franco Baresi 

CB: Alessandro Costacurta  (AC Milan)
Alessandro Costacurta was Baresi's partner at central defense for both club and country. He was a part of 5 Champions' League winning team for AC Milan.  However, he only played 59 times for Italy because largely of injuries. He went to two World Cup Finals (in 1994 and 1998), as well as a European Championship in 1996. With Italy, he managed to reach the 1994 World Cup Final, which was lost against Brazil on penalties.

CB: Riccardo Ferri (Inter Milan)
Riccardo Ferri spent most of his career with Inter Milan.  With them, he won two UEFA Cups in 1991 and 1994, and a Serie A title in 1989.  He had 45 caps.  He played at the 1988 European Championship and the 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy. Between 1994 and 1996, he played with Sampdoria along side his former Inter Milan teammate Walter Zenga. He was named World Soccer Team of the Year twice.

CB: Pietro Vierchowod (Sampdoria)
Pietro Vierchowod was the son of an Red Army soldier.  He was widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian centre-backs of all-time. With Roma, he won a Serie A title in 1983. With Sampdoria, he won four Italian Cups, one European Cup Winners' Cup and another scudetto. In 1995 he signed for Juventus and won his only Champions League in 1996 at the age of 37.   He held the 5th all-time appearance record in Serie A.  Capped 45 times.  He was the youngest member of Italy's WC winning team in 1982.  

CB/LB: Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)
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 Italy, Maldini took part in three European Championships, and four World Cups. Although he did not win a tournament with Italy, he reached the finals of the 1994 World Cup and Euro 2000, and the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1988. He was capped 126 times for Italy.  
Paolo Maldini 

CM: Fernando De Napoli (Napoli)
Fernando De Napoli was a part of the successful Napoli side that also featured Diego Maradona.  He served as Maradona's defensive foil in the midfield.  He won the scudetto in 1987 and 1990, the Coppa Italia in 1987, the UEFA Cup in 1989, and the Supercoppa Italiana in 1990. For his country, De Napoli took part in the 1986 World Cup Finals, Euro 88 and the 1990 World Cup Finals.

DM: Nicola Berti (Inter Milan)
Berti started his career as a seventeen-year-old with Parma under manager Arrigo Sacchi. After three seasons at Fiorentina he was signed by Internazionale in 1988 where he formed a notable midfield partnership with Lothar Matthäus, and was part of a team which won the 1988–89 record breaking Scudetto. He also won two UEFA Cups. At the international level, he earned 39 caps.  he appeared in both 1990 and 1994 World Cup Finals.

CM: Demetrio Albertini (AC Milan)
Demetrio Albertini was the deep-lying playmaker of the great AC Milan team of the 1990's.  He won 5 league titles in the 1990's and the Champions' League title in 1994. At the end of his career, he played for Atletico Madrid, Lazio and Barcelona. At the international level, he played for his country 79 times.  He went to the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, Euro 96, and Euro 2000. He was voted into the team of tournament at Euro 2000.

AM/CM: Giuseppe Giannini (AS Roma)
Nicknamed "Il Principe" (The Prince),  Giuseppe Giannini  was a symbol of Roma before the emerge of FrancescoTotti.  He played for AS Roma between 1982 and 1996. After AS Roma, he played in Austria for Sturm Graz, and for Napoli and Lecce in Italy. At the international level, Giannini was capped 47 times for Italy between 1986 and 1991, scoring 6 goals. He represented Italy at both Euro 1988 and the 1990 World Cup Finals hosted by Italy.

RW/LW/CM: Roberto Donadoni  (AC Milan)
Roberto Donadoni was one of Italy's greatest wingers.  He was a vital part of AC Milan's squad under both Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello, winning six Serie A titles, three European Cups, four Italian Supercups, three European Super Cups, and two Intercontinental Cups during his time at Milan. He went to the World Cup Finals in 1990 and 1994, where Italy finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. At the end of his career, he played briefly in MLS and Saudi Arabia.
Roberto Donadoni

RW: Attilio Lombardo (Sampdoria)
Lombardo is best known for his two spells at Sampdoria, especially during the club's golden period in the 1990's. He is one of the few players that has won the Serie A title with 3 different teams: Sampdoria, Juventus, and Lazio. At international level, he represented the Italy national football team on 19 occasions, although he was never called up for a major tournament.  He was capped 19 times between 1990 and 1997.

RW/LW: Gianluigi Lentini (Torino)
Gianluigi Lentini started with Torino.  He was once the world's most expensive footballer, when he moved from Torino to AC Milan for £13 million in 1992.  He was a key part of their side during the 1992–93 season under manager Fabio Capello.  In 1993, he had a serious car accident in which he never regained his former form after recovery.  He played for many clubs after the accident.  He was capped 13 times between 1991 and 1996.

FW/AM: Roberto Baggio (Juventus)
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
AM: Gianfranco Zola (Napoli)
Gianfranco Zola played with Diego Maradona at Napoli as a young player. He played for Parma between 1993 and 1996, winning the 1995 UEFA Cup. He moved to Chelsea in 1996 and won the FWA Footballer of the Year.  His transfer to Chelsea started a wave of foreign players heading over to England. For Italy, he only played 35 times for Italy due to overcrowding of attack midfielders during his prime. 

ST: Pierluigi Casiraghi (Juventus)
Casiraghi began his playing career in Italy in 1985, with his hometown club Monza. He moved Juventus in 1989.  Between 1993 and 1998, he played for Lazio, before ending his career with Chelsea in the Premier League.   He earned 44 caps and scored 13 goals for Italy.  He went to the 1994 FIFA World Cup Finals, and was also a member of Italy's UEFA Euro 1996 squad.

CF/FW: Gianluca Vialli (Sampdoria)
With Sampdoria, Vialli won the Cup Winners' Cup in 1990.  In 1992, he made a world record breaking transfer to Juventus.  In 1996, he helped Juventus to win their first ever Champions' League.  He went to Euro 1988.  However, at Italia 1990, he was unimpressive and lost his starting spot to Roberto Baggio and Salvatore Schillaci.  After the WC Finals, he had a feud with manager Sacchi that forced him out of the national team.
Gianluca Vialli

Players considered
Francesco Baiano, Roberto Mancini, Dino Baggio, Salvatore Schillaci, Luca Marchegiani, Stefano Tacconi, Giuseppe Signori, Ruggiero Rizzitelli, Daniele Massaro, Luigi De Agostini, Dino Baggio, Alberigo Evani, Massimo Crippa, Stefano Eranio, Alberigo Evani, Giancarlo Marocchi, Alessandro Bianchi, Luca Fusi, Amedeo Carboni, Mauro Tassotti, Giancarlo Marocchi, Ruggiero Rizzitelli, Alessandro Bianchi, Alberto Di Chiara.
 
Squad Explanation
-- Azeglio Vicini managed Italy until October, 1991.  And then, Arrigo Sacchi took over after Italy was eliminated. I did not like how Arrigo Sacchi and Azeglio Vicini would handle the national team between 1990 and 1994.  Vicini used different attacking lineups for every match and ignored Roberto Baggio for most of the Euro 1992 Qualifiers while Sacchi favored players from AC Milan.  So this team was basically a hybrid of a team from both managers.  Giuseppe Bergomi, Paulo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Roberto Baggio and Gianluca Vialli were the core of my team.  I also retained Fernando De Napoli, Walter Zenga and Giuseppe Giannini who did not feature much under Saachi.  Saachi also did not use Giuseppe Bergomi. But I would not say my team was more of Vicini than Sacchi, but it probably only reflected the year 1992 as a transitional period between the two World Cups.
-- Italy participated in the 1992 USA Cup held a few week before Euro 1992.  I did not really use it as a reference since Arrigo Sacchi used this tournament to experience new players and lineups, but most of the newcomers actually never made it beyond this tournament.  In general, Sacchi had capped nearly a hundred players during his tenure and most of them never figured much with the national team.  
Italy vs Portugal, USACup 1992
-- Six players were not on the 1990 World Cup team.  They were Pierluigi Casiraghi, Gianfranco Zola, Alessandro Costacurta, Demetrio Albertini, Gianluigi Lentini and Attilio Lombardo.  Albertini, Costacurta and Zola made their debut under Sacchi in the period before the Euro 1992 Finals.  I "promoted" several younger players to the squad.  Gianfranco Zola, Alessandro Costacurta and Demetrio Albertini.  In real life, they made their senior national debut after Italy failed to qualify for the Euro finals.  Both Pierluigi Casiraghi and Gianluigi Lentini earned their first cap in February, 1991 against Belgium.  Lentini actually started at the critical qualifier against the USSR.
-- Azeglio Vicini played for Sampdoria in his playing career.  In the early 1990's, Sampdoria was a top club, but he did not use much of Roberto Mancini, Gianluca Vialli, Pietro Vierchowod, Attilio Lombardo and Gianluca Pagliuca.   Except Mancini, I took the other Sampdoria players.
-- Five players came from AC Milan, where they won the scudetti with an undefeated record.  The players selected were Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta, Roberto Donadoni and Demetrio Albertini.
-- Since 1982, seven of the nine third-placed teams at the World Cup have gone on and failed to qualify for the following European Championship.  In 1992, Italy was the third straight teams that failed to qualify after Poland and France failed in the previous two tournaments. 
Goalkeepers
-- Walter Zenga and Gianluca Pagliuca were the automatic selections for the two goalkeeper position.  They were Azeglio Vicini's choices during that perid.
-- For three consecutive years (1989–1991), Walter Zenga was nominated by IFFHS the best goalkeeper in the world, ahead of goalkeepers like Michel Preud'homme, Rinat Dasaev and Andoni Zubizarreta.  He was the regular starter of the national team.
-- At the time of Euro 1992, Gianluca Pagliuca was capped 4 times by Italy.  One of his cap came against Norway in an European Championship qualifier in November, 1991.  The match was a meaningless game played after Italy had fell to qualify for the Finals.
-- There were no third goalkeeper in 1992, but Luca Marchegiani or Stefano Tacconi probably would be my other options.
-- Luca Marchegiani became Italy's starting goalkeeper after Euro 1992, but eventually, the number one spot belonged to Gianliuca Pagliuca who became the starter in the 1994 World Cup Finals. 
-- Stefano Tacconi was capped 7 times between 1987 and 1991. He was Zenga's backup until the emerge of Pagliuca as Zenga's understudy.
-- Giovanni Galli left AC Milan in the summer of 1991.  He continued at a high level for Napoli, but he was uncapped since the 1986 World Cup Finals.  In the 1991-1992 season, Sebastiano Rossi established as AC Milan's number one, but he was never capped by Italy.  
Defenders
-- Basically, I included the entire defensive unit from the 1990 World Cup team, except Luigi De Agostini.  The defensive unit was basically "who's who" in football.  Franco Baresi (32) and Pietro Vierchowod (33) were older, but Paolo Maldini (23), Ricardo Ferri (26), Giuseppe Bergomi (28) and Ciro Ferrara (25 ) were all in their prime. Marco van Basten named Pietro Vierchowod and Riccardo Ferri as two of the best defenders he ever faced, while Gabriel Batistuta described Vierchowod as the best defender in the world in 1992. I did not try to change things around.  
-- I took Alessandro Costacurta over Luigi De Agostini because I wanted a new face on the defence. He made his debut with Azzurri immediately after Sacchi took over in 1991. By the summer of 1992, he had been a regular starter for AC Milan in the previous three seasons.  On the other hand, De Agostini was 32 in the summer of 1992.  He left Juventus for Inter Milan in 1992, a move seemed to the beginning of the end for him at the time.  He was also dropped by Arrigo Sacchi.  However, it might be a mistake.  Without De Agostini, Paolo Maldini would be the only defender who could play as a wingback. 
Alessandro Costacurta
-- I considered Moreno Mannini, Amedeo Carboni and Mauro Tassotti for fullbacks, but I kept Giuseppe Bergomi and Ciro Ferrara.  Both Ferrara and Bergomi were dropped by Sacchi.  Ferrara did not play for him again until 1995 while Bergomi did not return to the Azzurri until the 1998 World Cup Finals under Cesare Maldini.  Nevertheless, both players were among the top defenders in the world.
-- Mauro Tassotti was the only member of AC Milan's back four who was not selected.  In real life, he did not win his first cap for Italy until age 32, under Arrigo Sacchi, in a 2–2 home draw against Switzerland in a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifier on 14 October 1992.  Moreno Mannini also did not get his first cap until February, 1992 when he was 30 years old.  Amedeo Carboni was 27 years old when he first play for the senior national side also in 1992.
Midfielders/Wingers
-- In midfield, I took two blue-collar players Fernando De Napoli and Nicola Berti.  De Napoli was known as "Rambo" while Berti served as a "Mezzala" for Sacchi.  In real life, De Napoli earned his last cap on March, 1992 against Germany.  He also left Napoli for AC Milan in the summer.  After 1992, his career went downhill, but I would not know that in the summer of 1992.  I was also reluctant to drop him for Dino Baggio who just had a breakthrough season with Inter Milan. 
-- Carlo Ancelotti retired at the end of the season.  His role was limited throughout the season.  Saachi only gave him a single cap in 1992, which was more liked a friendly farewell cap for him.
-- Giuseppe Giannini played in some qualifiers for Azeglio Vincini, but Sacchi did not select him after the Euro qualifiers.  His last international match was the critical qualifier against the Soviet Union in 1991.  Nevertheless, he was only 27 at the time of Euro 1992. I needed a "regista" so I took him.
-- I wanted to inject some young blood onto the team.  In real life, both Demetrio Albertini and Dino Baggio helped Italy to win the European Under 21 Championship playing the second leg of the Final in Sweden  7 days before the Euro 1992 Final.  Both were capped by Italy in the senior level in 1991.  Albertini had established as a member of AC Milan's undefeated team that season while Dino Baggio was on loan with Inter Milan.  I took Albertini because I needed a "regista" to backup Giuseppe Giannini. 
Demetrio Albertini's senior debut in 1991
-- Both Vincini and Sacchi did not feature Attilio Lombardo much, but he was named "World Soccer Best XI" in 1992.  Then, I took Gianluigi Lentini.  After a great performance in the 1991-1992 season, he became the most expensive player in the world when he signed for AC Milan.  Of course, Roberto Donadoni was an automatic selection.  I did not consider Stefano Eranio whom Sacchi favored.
Forwards
-- The center of my offense (even the team) would be Roberto Baggio.  A year later in 1993, Baggio would be named as the FIFA World Player of the Year.  In the 1991-1992 Serie A season,  he was the second Top Scorer.  In 1992,  he was already an emerging superstar.  He was the hero of the World Cup in 1990, but Vicini ignored him for the Euro 1992 Qualifiers.  He played in the first 2 matches of the campaign, but he did not play again until the last meaningless match against Cyprus after Italy was eliminated and Sacchi was in charge. 
-- Two years later, Baggio led an uninspired Italy side managed by Arrigo Sacchi to the 1994 World Cup final, scoring five goals in the process.  I was at the Foxboro Stadium when Baggio's individual brilliance saved Italy from exit against both Nigeria and Spain in the round of 16 and quarterfinal respectively.  After the World Cup Finals, Baggio fell out of favor with Sacchi.  He only used Baggio twice, and did not to take him for the Euro 1996, where Italy was eliminated embarrassingly in the group stage.  He only made it to France 1998 because of an injury scare to Alessandro Del Piero.  In France, he was Italy's best player, but Del Piero was the first choice over him. In 2000, he was at odd with his club manager Marcello Lippi in Inter Milan.  His playing time was limited, but he was performing at a level where he could easily make the team for Euro 2000. However, Dino Zoff decided against selecting him despite appeals from pundits, fans, etc. Italy had yet another heartbreaking loss in the Final against France, where Del Piero missed several important chances.  We would never know if Baggio could finish them. 
-- Roberto Baggio never played in an European Championship Finals.  When Baggio retired, he only managed 56 caps. Both Del Piero and Baggio scored 27 goals each for Italy, but Baggio had 56 caps while Del Piero had 91. He had two more goals than Filippo Inzaghi who had 57 caps. Inzaghi's reputation as a goal poacher was well-documented if not well-respected.  This blog was my way of creating a make-believe redemption for Baggio.
-- Baggio also did not enjoy a good relation with his managers in his club career.  With Juventus, Marcello Lippi benched him for Del Piero.  He again benched and sent Baggio away when he managed Inter Milan years later. In between, Baggio was sent away by AC Milan. Parts of his Milan career was with Fabio Capello, who also benched Baggio. Meanwhile, Carlos Ancelotti threatened to resign if Parma signed Baggio. I just went over every notable Italian coaches and clubs in the last 20 years. 
-- Gianluca Vialli was the second focal point of my offence.  He was the second best Italian attacker in the 1990's after Baggio.  How could I ignore him? 
-- Vialli and Baggio were not known for their on field chemistry, but I would take a gamble on them as my starters.  They did not play with each other under Azeglio Vicini  during the 1990 World Cup Finals.  During the Euro 1992 Qualifiers, Vicini again never used them together.  The duo only appeared once in the meaningless match against Cyprus on the last day of the qualifiers under Sacchi.  Between 1990 and 1994,  Saachi only used Vialli 8 times and he played with Baggio only 4 of the occasions. He later dropped Vialli altogether and Vialli's international career ended by December, 1992 with 59 caps.
Vialli and Baggio seldom played together for Italy
-- Baggio and Vialli spent three seasons as clubmates from 1992 to 1995.  Vialli failed to produce in their first season while Baggio flourished and won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1993. However, Juventus won the 1992-1993 UEFA Cup with Baggio scoring 6 goals and Vialli 5 goals. Then, Vialli was injured in their second year while Baggio was injured in their third.  I chose to select both because the main point of this team was to showcase Italy's most talented attackers of the generation at the European Championship.
-- Roberto Baggio, Roberto Mancini and Gianfranco Zola were all "fantasista".  They could not coexist on the same field.  Since I already have Baggio, I have to decide between Mancini and Zola to be Baggio's back-up.  
-- Ideally, I should select Mancini because he was the other half of Sampdoria's "Goal Twins ("I Gemelli del Gol)" with Gianluca Vialli.  Actually, the pair seldom played together for the Azzurri.  Moreover, Mancini often failed to perform wearing his Italian jersey.  Enzo Bearzot bypassed him for the 1986 World Cup Finals, and he never played a game in the 1990 World Cup Finals.  As of the summer of 1992, he scored a single goal in 29 caps.  Instead, I took Gianfranco Zola.  
-- Zola made his international debut in late 1991 under Arrigo Sacchi. That season, Zola scored 12 goals in 34 appearances for Napoli.  Napoli earned 4th place in Serie A despite being the first season after Diego Maradona left the team. Furthermore, I wanted more fresh blood who were not from the 1990 team.
-- Pierluigi Casiraghi was my fourth forward.  He was a different type of a player from Baggio and Zola.  He was  a "Prima Punta". He was strong in the air.  I did not seriously consider Salvatore Schillaci.  Both Casiraghi and Schillaci were teammates at Juventus, where both actually shared very similar stats.  Casiraghi played 41 matches scoring 8 goals while Schillaci had 40 matches and 7 goals.  I took Casiraghi because he was an up and coming player while Schillaci was out of form since the 1990 World Cup Finals.  Schillaci only scored a single international goal outside of the 1990 World Cup Finals.
-- Francesco Baiano (Serie A top scorer) was too much of a Trequartista, in which I already have Zola and Baggio.  Giuseppe Signori only made his debut in the summer of 1992. He had a good tournament in the USA Cup (I was at the stadium), but he must wait his turn. I took Casiraghi because he was a center forward while I saw Signori best at as a secondary forward.  Christian Vieri was a teenage striker playing for Torino.  
Italy vs Germany, 1992

Starting lineup
The main part of this blog team was to play Roberto Baggio with Gianfranco Vialli upfront.  No one really talked much about their parnership in Juventus, but I would take a gamble on them.  Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi were undisputed starters, but I could start any of the other defenders.  I prefered the younger Gianluca Pagliuca, but I am happy to switch Walter Zenga over him.

Formation I
4-2-1-3
This is an unrealistic formation in the real world of 1992.  Spanish coach Juanma Lillo was known to be the one who revolutionized the formation while he was coaching Cultural Leonessa in the Spanish Segunda Division in 1991-92 season.  I did not expect the Azzurri would copy the tactics of a lower division team in Spain during the Euro 1992. This formation is only for the show.

Formation II
4-4-2
Although the team was not based upon Arrigo Sacchi's team, his tactics was well-respected by 1992.  So it was natural for the manager of Italy to be influenced by him. It was based on a high intensity pressing game and high defensive line with a flat back four and a well-organized offside trap.  Realistically, it is hard to copy his tactics on the international level because the international managers could only fine toned his defensive unit during the international breaks.  Arrigo Sacchi himself found it more difficult with Azzurri than AC Milan.

I used three AC Milan in the back four, but Bergomi was dropped by Sacchi.  The careers of De Napoli, Vialli and Giannini also ended with him.  So it is very unrealistic to see this lineup.  I did not want to start Demetrio Albertini who was a new player in 1992 over Giuseppe Giannini I also prefer De Napoli over Berti who played for Sacchi in the 1994 World Cup Finals.

Formation III
3-5-2
Both Argentina and West Germany won the World Cup in 1986 and 1990 respectively with their own version of the 3-5-2 formation.  Azeglio Vicini also played with three defenders at the 1990 World Cup Finals.  So it was more realistic to see this formation.

The talent level on this imaginary 1992 team was very even.  The starting lineups are not fixed. On defence, Franco Baresi is my undisputed starters. I have no preference of Ricardo Ferri, Giuseppe Bergomi, Ciro Ferrara, Pietro Vierchowod and Alessandro Costacurta I could easily use Maldini there as one of my back three  On the right wing, I started Roberto Donadoni because of his experiences.  I could easily replace him with either Gianluigi Lentini and Attilio Lombardo.  In the 1990 World Cup, Luigi De Agostini was one of the flank players.  He was more defensive than Donadoni.