Italy’s winning teams of the 1982 and 2006 World Cups are arguably the two best teams in Italian football history. But when in 1982, the whole team offensive efficiency came down to one man, Paolo Rossi, Italy 2006 was more a result of a combined team effort.
Both teams played the tournament while being agitated by affairs. In 1982, the star player, Paolo Rossi, was coming out of a 2-year suspension after being judged for arranged matches. His suspension ended just 3 months before the World Cup and had played only 3 games for Juventus in the 1981-1982 season. In 2006, several Italian Serie A clubs were involved in arranged games, which lead to the demotion of Juventus to the Serie B.
Both teams had quality attacks and ended up scoring 12 goals in 7 games during the competition (1.71 goal per game). In defense, the 2006 team, led by Fabio Cannavaro was much more solid and conceded just 2 goals in 7 games (0.29 goal per game), whereas the 1982 team conceded 6 goals in 7 games (0.86 goal per game). The goal difference average per game of the 2006 team was of +1.42, while the goal difference of the 1982 team was of +0.85.
The team coached by Marcello Lippi in 2006 succeeded in completing a quality first round and knock-out stages, with 6 victories in total and only a draw in the final. The team of 1982 had a chaotic journey before winning the competition. They started the competition with 3 draws in the first round against Poland, Cameroon and Peru. They then qualified for the second round against Cameroon – who had the same number of points and goal difference – due to a bigger number of goals scored in their 3 draws (2 against 1).
The victory of 1982 is often associated with the performance of Paolo Rossi who scored 6 out of 12 (50%) of Italy’s goals. In 2006, Italy’s 12 goals were scored by 10 different players: Toni and Materazzi (2 goals each), Totti, Zambrotta, Inzaghi, Iaquinta, Gilardino, Pirlo, Grosso and Del Piero (1 goal each). The danger came from everywhere in the 2006 team, who didn’t count on its offensive players to score goals, with Materazzi, Zambrotta and Grosso being defenders.
The back 4 of Italy in 2006 (Materazzi, Grosso, Canavarro, Zambrotta), in addition to the goalkeeper Buffon, is arguably one of the best defensive lines in the history of football. They defended the Italian goal brilliantly every time Italy was leading and confirmed the strong reputation of Italians in terms of defending. Fabio Canavarro was even elected as the best player of the year in 2006, by winning the Ballon d’Or.
The team of 1982 defeated Germany in the final and that was their best achievement of the competition. But the team of 2006 bested Germany in a competition played on their home soil. That year, Germany was the big favorite to lift the trophy, but Italy managed to beat them at home.
In 1982, Italian coach Enzo Bearzot, was a brilliant coach who spent most of his career with the Italian Federation, finally taking charge of the first team. But Italy’s coach in 2006, Marcelo Lippi, is considered as one of the best coaches of the game, having led Italy to success during his rich club career. He won the serie A five times and the Champions League once with Juventus. During Italy’s victorious 2006 World Cup campaign, Lippi adopted several tactical systems that allowed his two star playmakers, Francesco Totti and Andrea Pirlo, to play alongside one other. He had chosen a 4–2–3–1 formation, in which Totti occupied the advanced creative role behind the center-forward, while Pirlo was playing the playmaking role. Lippi’s tactical flexibility throughout the tournament was further demonstrated by the fact that he often changed formations throughout the course of a single match, in addition to rotating players. Depending on the situations, he moved from a 4–4–1–1 or 4–4–2 formation when defending off the ball, which then became a more offensive 4–2–3–1 system when in possession, with the wide midfielders acting as attacking wingers.