In eight matches at final tournaments, Germany (or RFG) never defeated Italy and what’s more important, a half of them were won by ‘Squadra Azzura’, each time in the semifinals and even in the last match, once. Without a doubt a real nightmare for the Germans which they can’t overpass it until now, but also that has a couple of coincidences. The first and last encounter between them, are linked by a family name: Buffon. Two goalkeepers, both Italian captains at the time and, of course, relatives.
In the group phase of World Cup 1962, RFG and Italy faced each other in the opening game. Nothing to remember from that game more than the presence on the field of Lorenzo Buffon, who captained the Italians. In fact it was only 0-0, so… And this result happened also thanks to the goalkeeper who is an uncle of famous Gianluigi. Not a close uncle, but still the cousin of his grandfather. Born on 19th of December 1929, at Majano, in eastern Italy, Lorenzo is now 82 years old and has behind a quite impressive career, even though he didn’t appear more than 15 times at the national team, at which he debuted in 1958 and played with many gaps until 1962. How he became than captain? Well, quite simple, if we analyze at what club level he played 376 league games between 1949 and 1963, at AC Milan, Genoa and Inter Milan. And naturally, won a couple of Serie A titles, five to be more precise: in 1951, 1955, 1957 and 1959 with Milan and a last one in 1963 with the other big team from town.
Maybe his not a legendary player but because he is the relative of more famous Gianluigi, probably one of the best goalkeepers in the history, let’s share a list with all his international matches played for Italy:
09.11.1958 (Paris) France 2-2
13.12.1958 (Genoa) Czechoslovakia 1-1
28.02.1959 (Rome) Spain 1-1
06.05.1959 (London) England 2-2
01.11.1959 (Prague) Czechoslovakia 1-2
29.11.1959 (Firenze) Hungary 1-1
06.01.1960 (Naples) Switzerland 3-0
13.03.1960 (Barcelona) Spain 1-3
10.12.1960 (Napoli) Austria 1-2
24.05.1961 (Rome) England 2-3
15.10.1961 (Tel Aviv) Israel 4-2 (WCQ)
04.11.1961 (Turin) Israel 6-0 (WCQ)
05.05.1962 (Firenze) France 2-1
31.05.1962 (Santiago) RFG 0-0 (WC)
07.06.1962 (Santiago) Switzerland 3-0 (WC)
That’s enough regarding Lorenzo and now we must talk more about Gianluigi Buffon, the man who helped Italy, once again, this time to qualify for the Euro final. His first meeting against Germany happened in the semifinals of the World Cup from 2006. Then, Italy beat their opponents with 2-0 in the last three minutes of extra time. Buffon was brilliant as well as he was in the final when he helped in winning the first trophy since 1982. Again, this year, Germany faced Italy in the semis, at Euro. The ‘Azzuri’ won 2-1 and made it to another final. Gianluigi played again brilliantly, like he did against Spain in the groups, or in front of England in the quarter finals.
Buffon saw the day light on 28th of January 1978 in Carrara, where it is explored the famous marble, and considering the sports traditions from his family he started playing football since 1991, at youth level of Parma. In 1995 he made it to the senior squad and in 1997 he already appeared for the first time in the national squad in a very important match, the play-off for the World Cup, in front of Rusia. He had only 19 years of age. He caught the team for World Cup 1998, but couldn’t break through as Pagliuca was the first alternative. In 2000 he was already the first choice of the national team, in front of Toldo, but couldn’t participate at EURO because a bad injury as his hand. He regained his place between the posts in the fourth round of the qualifications for the World Cup from 2002, in a match against Romania and since then he remained first option.
Meanwhile, the certification that he is one of the biggest from the history came in 2001. After 225 matches played in six years at AC Parma, with which he obtained a ‘tremble’ in 1999 (UEFA Cup, Italian Cup and Italian Super Cup), Juventus offered and pay for ‘Gigi’ the record fee, for a goalkeeper, of 32.6 million pounds. His uncle played at Milan and Inter, but he became to dedicate the rest of his career to the club from Turin. Eleven seasons until now, many others to come, and nearly 400 matches left behind as well as five trophies put in the honor spot. Buffon also lost a UEFA Champions’ League final in 2003, at shoot-out in front of AC Milan, which caused him a depression: ‘Many people think that footballers have a perfect life, but we also suffer a lot with some occasions. And the incapacity of winning the League is one of those moments’.
Gianluigi remained loyal to Juventus even in Serie B, after the team was relegated in 2006, do to Calciopoli scandal and played 40 games in the second tier, helping the ‘Old Lady’ to return immediately in the Italian top football. More than two decades of football, only two clubs. Important thing if we remember that ‘Gigi’ turned down a couple of serious offers including ones from Manchester United and FC Barcelona. His individual value was also recognized official in many cases, by IFFHS naming him best goalkeeper in the World in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. Also, the player was named the most valuable goalkeeper from Italy in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008. Eight occasions, which says it all!
A double story about to famous relatives which in fact felt more in the ‘half’ dedicated to tomorrow’s protagonist in the EURO final. Oh, I forgot. Besides the performances from 2006 and that from this days I didn’t mentioned many other things about his performances at the national team. But what can be more important than that? Maybe just the 120 matches, including the one against Spain, from the final…, against Casillas, the other captain, and the man with whom he’s fighting for the title of most valuable goalkeeper from their generation. Unfortunately, the encounter from 1st of July 2012 throw Buffon into tears as Italy lost 0-4. The first competitive defeat against Spain since 1920!
Photo sources: zimbio.com, sportsclubblog.blogspot.com, peeppeek.com, solocalcio.com, magliarossonera.it, emozionecalcio.it, archiviofoto.unita.it, 123people.com