In May 1992 the naked European final at Wembley was the last in extra time when Sampdoria substitute Giovanni Invernizzi was - perhaps a little harshly - penalised for a foul against Barcelona's Eusebio Sacristan. Enraged by the referee, Samp refused to , stood close, kicked the ball away and gesticulated, but the penalty remained. Hristo Stoitchkov rolled it over to Jose Mari Baquero,...
In May 1992 the naked European final at Wembley was the last in extra time when Sampdoria substitute Giovanni Invernizzi was - perhaps a little harshly - penalised for a foul against Barcelona's Eusebio Sacristan. Angered by the referee, Samp refused to , stood up next to, kicked the ball away and gesticulated, but the penalty remained.
Hristo Stoitchkov rolled it to Jose Marie Baquero, he stopped the ball and Ronald Koeman hit it into the bottom corner of the net.
Barcelona won their first European Cup, Sampdoria lost.
There are no 14 of them, the team captain who otherwise lifted the trophy himself, if luck had turned to his side, was Roberto Mancini.
For what was left of his career, he still enjoyed further triumphs, and as a manager he did the same, with league titles and minor cups on his CV. But there is something extraordinary and incomparable about winning the biggest cups on the day of the most anticipated finals. Something unnecessary . For anyone trying to revive the old spirit of yesteryear, winning the FA Cup final - or the Italian Cup, or the Turkish Cup - is not quite as appealing as the biggest European finals.
And, despite all his other successes, only his second Cup Winners' Cup of the year, achieved at Villa Park with Lazio, was close to filling the gap that had been overlooked ' The Wembley final must have been left to Mancini. Even that, of course, was a secondary UEFA competition.
Throw in a mere 29 years, and Mancini has come full circle to lead the team, quite literally, to a major victory in the European final ... . at Wembley. Moreover, his confidant in the Italian system, part of the staff as head of delegation, is none other than Gianluca Vialli - Mancini's partner after that defeat to Barcelona. Attilio Lombardo was also in that Sampdoria team and is part of Mancini's staff.
Italy were in turmoil when Mancini took over 2018. It was widely reported and commented on how they had just failed to qualify for the World Cup, losing the play-offs to Sweden, but it was more than just not making the final. From November 2017 to November 2018, they won just two out of 12 matches in all competitions. The squad was less than the sum of its parts, the identity and style of the team far from clear. Since then, Mancini's journey through the Nations League, the qualifying campaign and now success at Euro 2021 has been one of exceptional. teambuilding, planning and progression.
Football loves full-circle stories, right? So here's another one: the last match that Italy played before Mancini took the lead, there was a 1-1 draw against England at Wembley.
The last match Italy played with Mancini at the helm was ... well, maybe it's too early to revisit it all, but many components seem the same - except for the most important one.
Of the Italian starters drawn in March, five made the squad for the Euro 2020 final. If that sounds like an overhaul, it's worth noting that it was a) a friendly and b) only four England squads started both games. Jack Butland, James Tarkowski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were among the XI at the time.
Nevertheless, there is no doubt that changes came quickly and were made frequently. Mancini tested former national team players such as Mario Balotelli, opened up opportunities for new faces and potential pillars such as Alessio Romagnoli, worked with systems and, above all, changed his midfield to find the perfect mix of quality and confidence in the middle of the park. Defenders have come and gone.
Several big, hard wins over small fish in qualifying, Italy played the Netherlands in a restart after Covid
Gianluigi Donnarumma in goal, a quad of defenders Danilo D'Ambrosio, Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Spinazzola. In midfield, Giorginho is at the base alongside Manuel Locatelli and Nicolo Barella. In attack, Ciro Immobile was surrounded by Lorenzo Insigne and Nicolo Zaniolo. The latter striker, a star with Roma capable of changing the game, would probably have been in the line-up - probably the XI - if it wasn't for back-to-back cruciate ligament injuries in his knee. The only other change between that XI and the one that so gripped the continent on the opening night of the tournament with Turkey's swift rise came at right-back.
Others have contributed hugely, of course, Marco Verratti is non-negotiable when he's in good form, but Mancini has tried and sometimes misjudged and removed all the useless elements: selfishness, inconsistency, inability to play as a team.
The result is a 75 - match winless streak and the Henri Delaunay trophy.
Some have suggested that Mancini's willingness to include players from less fancy clubs is an important factor in their success. Assuming the big five - Juve, Inter, Milan, Roma and Napoli - are the obvious clubs to go to, belonging 26 has come from outside. If we take into account the big non-Italian teams, it is a group of .
That in itself is inconclusive: the same criteria shows eight in the Euro squad and six at Euro 2012 ; while the successful World Cup group had nine in 2010, but 10 in 2010 when they failed to make it out of the group stage. Ultimately, for Mancini and the Azzurri, it is the combination of character and quality, rather than each club's numbers, that distinguishes them. Familiarity helps, but so does competition for places and a group moving in the same direction, which is the greatest achievement an international head coach can hope for.
It's more than anything else. what Mancini has set up around the team: a club level buy-in, a club level of tactical awareness, organization and even a hierarchy of players to turn to.
It took nearly three decades, but Mancini's masterpiece of work in the dugout helped soothe the ghosts not only of Italy's worst hour in modern football history, but also of his own Wembley moment of heartache.