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The Italian who came back from the brink

Banned for his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal, Paolo Rossi spectacularly ended two years out of the game by inspiring Italy to victory in the 1982 World Cup.

sports Updated: Jun 01, 2010 00:06 IST
HT Correspondent

Banned for his alleged involvement in a match-fixing scandal, Paolo Rossi spectacularly ended two years out of the game by inspiring Italy to victory in the 1982 World Cup.

A lithe, skilful striker, Rossi had been marked down as one of Italian football's brightest young talents after a series of impressive displays for the Azzurri at the 1978 tournament.

Rossi was nevertheless recalled to the squad as soon as his suspension ended on April 29, 1982, less than five weeks before the start of the World Cup.

"I knew that if Rossi wasn't in Spain I wouldn't have had an opportunist inside the penalty box," said Italy coach Enzo Bearzot, explaining his decision years later. However during the first phase in Spain, it looked as if Bearzot's gamble on Rossi's fitness was going to backfire dismally.

With time running out, Rossi finally found form in the opener of the second round group phase, involved in the first goal as Argentina were beaten.

Suddenly, against Brazil, Rossi found his touch. A well-taken hattrick sent favourites Brazil to a 3-2 defeat and Italy were in the semi-finals.

Rossi later described his first goal against Brazil, a perfectly timed header to connect with a cross from the left by Antonio Cabrini, as one of the most important of his career.

From that point on Rossi was unstoppable. Both goals in the 2-0 semifinal victory over Poland and the opening goal in the 3-1 win over West Germany in the final saw Rossi finish as top scorer and player of the tournament.

In the mid-1980s Rossi enjoyed great success with Juventus, winning the league, cup, Cup Winners Cup and European Cup.