Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid, 11.07.1982
Breitner 83. /
Cabrini pen 24., Rossi 57., Tardelli 69., Altobelli 81.
After the gruelling and energy-sapping semi-final win over France, Germany would line up for the final with many players struggling for full fitness against an Italian side that quite literally out of nowhere had gathered an almost terrifying momentum, sweeping them from near elimination in the first phase all the way to the showcase in Madrid.
The Nationalmannschaft had reached their fourth World Cup final, but enthusiasm back home in Germany would be at a distinctly low ebb. The team had been plagued by controversy from even before the tournament, and it is fair to say that many Germans had slowly started to fall out of love with their national team. The arrogance followed by the defeat against Algeria would set things off, the artificially-engineered stalemate against Austria would pile on the misery, and what was otherwise a glorious semi-final victory would be tarnished by the Battiston incident.
Then there was the attitude of the team and the coach, which would leave the German media and many supporters with a sour and bitter taste in their mouths.
Despite their spectacular march to the final Italy for their part would not be much better. Mired in their own brand of controversy and driven almost single-handedly to the final by a player who had previously been banned for his part in an infamous match-fixing scandal that had rocked the Italian game, there would be few positive things to say about either side. Brazil had been the massive favourites to win the tournament, and their shock second phase elimination by the Italians – coupled with the early exit of hosts Spain – would ensure that the tournament would always end on a slightly duff note, irrespective of the result.
The Italians had been as dire in the first phase as the Germans, scraping through ahead of minnows Cameroon on goal difference. For all the talk in the media about Germany’s highly distasteful – but wholly legitimate – on-field agreement with Austria, little attention would be paid to the Italians, who after the tournament would be accused of all sorts of skullduggery, including providing backhanders to their opponents ensure their progress. I would always view Cameroon goalkeeper Thomas N’Kono’s curious-looking slip in Italy’s final first phase match with a slightly jaundiced eye, not that I as a Germany fan would have much to crow about myself.
That said, irrespective of how they would make it through, nobody would give Enzo Bearzot’s side a hope in their second phase mini-group alongside holders Argentina and the talented Brazilians.
It was here that striker Paolo Rossi finally found his mojo however, and in what was effectively a quarter-final against the Brazilians the Juventus striker would turn the entire competition on its head with a match-winning hat-trick. A 2-0 semi-final victory over Poland – with both goals being scored by the re-energised Rossi – would see the Azzurri, like Germany, reach a fourth final – equalling the record set by Brazil in 1970.
Despite being clear second favourites behind the rampant Italians, Jupp Derwall would not adopt an all-out defensive approach when naming his starting eleven for the final. The familiar back line and the Dremmler-Breitner defensive midfield axis would remain in place, but the German coach would choose to field a flexible attacking trio of Pierre Littbarski, semi-final hero Klaus Fischer and skipper Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who would still be struggling for full match fitness.
On what was a warm and slightly humid evening in Madrid, Brazilian referee Arnaldo Cézar Coelho would get things underway, with both teams in their traditional outfits – Germany in their Schwarz und Weiß, and their Italian opponents in their famous azure blue shirts and white shorts.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in action in the World Cup final against Italy
For many German fans, the final had been the ultimate and somewhat predictable damp squib. The spirit of 1954 had all but vanished, the professionalism and application of 1974 had been strangely absent, and the freedom of 1966 was but a distant memory. Clearly tired from their late-night exertions against the French in the semi-final, the team would be devoid of ideas and showed little in the way of ambition against a fresher and more hungry Italian side that was as skilful and motivated as it was cynical.
Derwall’s side had been lucky to go into the half-time break with the scores still level, but once they had fallen behind there was never going to be a way back into the contest. The first Italian goal would open the floodgates, and the only bright note would be Breitner’s consolation effort that would see him claim a place in history as the third man to score a goal in two World Cup final games after Brazilians Pelé and Vavá.
Germany FR: Schumacher – Kaltz, Stielike, Kh. Förster, B. Förster – Dremmler (62. Hrubesch), Breitner, Kh. Rummenigge (c) (70. Ha. Müller), Briegel – Littbarski, K. Fischer
Italy: Zoff – Collovati, Scirea, Gentile, Bergomi – Oriali, Tardelli, Cabrini – Conti, Rossi, Graziani (7. Altobelli, 89. Causio)
Referee: Arnaldo Cézar Coelho (Brazil)
Assistants: Abraham Klein (Israel), Vojtěch Christov (Czechoslovakia)
Yellow Cards: Dremmler, Stielike, Littbarski / Conti, Oriali
Red Cards: – / –