Top 10 Worst Moments In Italian Football: 21st Century

The second leg in the San Siro. A wonderful rendition for an epic ending to World Cup qualifying. That is, what the Italian fans would have hoped for.

A perilous night in Sweden for the first leg, meant that the Azzurri, desperately needed a win to qualify for the World Cup.

The tension in the stadium plagued over the nation, over the players, over all football supporters. Every blade of grass punctured by thumping spikes and every touch challenged intensely. Above all, every shot, agonizingly fired towards target.

Italy held 76% of possession, attempted 27 shots towards goal, and ended up leaving the San Siro helpless. For the first time since 1958, Italy did not qualify for the World Cup.

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Daniele De Rossi boarded the Swedish bus following the game, to congratulate the team and send his apologies, for the Italian supporters booing the national anthem. The legendary goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon retires from his international career in tears. Along with Buffon, De Rossi and Andrea Barzagli confirmed they have hung up the international kit for good.

Heartbreak and disappointment is not as seldom in the 21st century as Italian football fans would like. Instead, since the year 2000, Italians have experienced many torturous moments that even the 2006 World Cup win cannot overshadow.

Here is a ranking of the top nine worst moments in Italian football, including International and Clubs.

10. Euro 2000 Loss to France 

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Italy had an excellent group stage. They topped Group B that included Turkey, Belgium and Sweden. Six goals forward in three games for the Azzurri, while Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro buttressed Francesco Toldo in goal.

A 2-0 win against Romania in the quarter-finals and a victory against the host nation Netherlands in penalties, earned a first-class ticket to the final.

The finals in Rotterdam against Zinedine Zidane’s France would be nothing short of a spectacle. Marco Delvecchio finished his chance in the 55th minute to give Italy the lead. Juventus forward Alessandro Del Piero missed two golden opportunities to seal the game.

France’s endless pressure paid off in the 93rd minute when Sylvain Wiltord tied the match. In extra time, Del Piero’s striking partner at Juventus, David Trezeguet buried the golden goal with a sweet left foot volley into the roof of the net, awarding France the trophy.

9. Euro 2004 Group Stage Exit 

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Italy’s Euro dramatics continued to slope downhill. Assembling a talented squad once again, gave hopes to the Azzurri in a balanced group.

In the first match against Denmark, Francesco Totti was sent off and suspended for three games for misconduct. The Roma man spat on Denmark’s Christian Poulsen.

Against Sweden, the Italians led 1-0, deep into the second half. A crazy back-heel volley from Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic was enough to prevent Italy from earning a crucial three points.

A 2-1 victory against Bulgaria in the final match was not enough. Italy fell to third place in the group tied with Sweden and Denmark on five points. The Azzurri were knocked out on goal difference.

8. Spain Defeats Italy 4-0 in the Euro 2012 Final

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For six years, Spain dominated Europe and the global stage. This squad assembled is arguably the best national side of all time throughout this period.

Italy found themselves on the back end of La Roja’s reign. A draw 1-1 against Spain in the group stage shed some light on their chances. The forecast for the tournament looked fairly sunny for the Azzurri. A draw against Croatia in match two and a win against Ireland in match three earned Italy the right to move on.

The route to the final was tough. Italy defeated England in penalties in the quarters, and Mario Balotelli’s two goal thriller defeated the Germans.

When the finals match whistle blew in Kiev, La Roja brought the rain to Italy. David Silva and Jordi Alba gave Spain a well-earned two nil lead. Third and final substitute Thiago Motta was forced to leave the match due to injury, leaving Italy with 10-men. Spain scored two more goals to add insult to injury.

Spain became the first nation to win back to back Euros, while holding the World Cup trophy.

Italy lost their second Euro final in a row.

The Azzurri’s only European Championship came in 1968. They drew the first match against Yugoslavia 1-1. Previously, there was no way to determine a winner past regulation. A replay was scheduled, and Italy won 2-0.

7. Group Stage Exit 2010 World Cup

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For the fourth time in World Cup history, the current champion is eliminated in the group stage.

The 2006 World Cup championship team were feared by other nations. When the champions won the tournament, players such as Francesco Totti, Simone Perrotta and Alessandro Del Piero did not return.

Marcello Lippi selected his side based on his comfort. He returned Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Mauro Camoranesi to the team.

The nation faced many injury problems. Andrea Pirlo was sidelined until the third match and Gianluigi Buffon suffered a back problem against Paraguay. 27-year old Cagliari keeper Federico Marchetti was at the helm of the six-yard box for the remainder of the tournament.

With two draws against Paraguay and New Zealand, Italy faced a must win situation against Slovakia. Robert Vittek became a household name in 2010 scoring two goals in 73 minutes.

Italy got back into the game thanks to Udinese starlet Antonio Di Natale. The Azzurri were controversially disallowed a goal shortly after due to a play that appeared to be offside.

In the 89th minute, Italy’s dormant defense gave Slovakia the game winner. Substitute Kamil Kopunek broke Italian hearts. A late consolation goal from Fabio Quagliarella was not enough. Italy went home.

6. World Cup 2014 Group Stage Exit

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A new coach. A new vision. A new hope for the Italians. That was immediately shunned after the events in this World Cup’s group stage.

Buffon well recovered from his back injury. Mario Balotelli up front and a healthy Andrea Pirlo commanding the midfield. Cesare Prandelli’s men led the Group B in qualifying with six wins and four ties.

In their first match, Italy graced the pitch with intensity, urgency and great attacking play. A hot match in the amazon, Italy defeated England 2-1.

A great start to the tournament came to a halt, by a shocking defeat against Costa Rica. The Italians once again, concerned every fan with their continuous group stage dramatics.

Against Uruguay, things got worse for Italy.

Claudio Marchisio was awarded a red card for a studs up challenge, against Egidio Arevalo Rios. It can be argued the tackle was innocent. Marchisio was close to the defender and crashed into him accidently. From the referee’s viewpoint, he saw it as a rash tackle and sent off the midfielder.

In the 79th minute, Luis Suarez bit the shoulder of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. The Uruguyan forward went down after the incident holding his mouth beside Chiellini. The Juventus central defender went to the official to appeal the incident, showing bite marks on his shoulder.

The referee and the linesman, did not give a yellow or red card.

Two minutes later, an inviting cross from a corner, saw Atletico De Madrid centre back Diego Godin, leap above every Italian to plunge home a thumping header. The storyline looked no different than the last World Cup. Italy were sent home once again.

5. Juventus Embarrassed Against Real Madrid Champions League Final 2017

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The Turin giants were pinning championship banners on their wall like family photos around the house.

Instrumental to their success was the back line. Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli only allowed three goals up until the final.

Gianluigi Buffon was searching for the trophy that has continued to elude him all of his career.

Juventus were tied at halftime 1-1 thanks to a spectacular overhead kick from Mario Mandzukic that sent every Juventus fan into pandemonium.

Little did anyone know; the second half would turn a dream into a nightmare. Allegedly, there was an incident in the locker room involving Leonardo Bonucci and Paulo Dybala. Every player refutes this claim from the media.

Yet what happened in the second half, may cause you to believe this incident to be true. Juventus crumbled against Real Madrid, conceding three goals.

Juventus became the first club in Europe to lose seven Champions League finals. They have lost five in a row.

Substitute Juan Cuadrado was sent off for two yellow cards; the second one, a huge embellishment from Sergio Ramos. The Spanish defender, flopped right over persuading the referee that Cuadrado had fouled him once the ball had exited the field of play.

Following the match, the team faced much criticism. How can that happen to one of the best defences in Champions League history.

Leonardo Bonucci was sold to rival’s AC Milan in the summer for 40 million euro. I guess we’ll really never know what happened at halftime.

4.  South Korea Loss 2002 World Cup

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Never forget the name Byron Moreno. The Ecuadorian referee, became famous on Tuesday, June 8th 2002, in Daejeon, South Korea.

Moreno refereed one of the worst matches ever seen. Elbows were thrown, blood was shed and studs came up. He continued to allow the advantage for Italy following some brutal tackles. One of them, forced Gianluca Zambrotta off the pitch.

At 1-1, two questionable calls were made by the officiating crew. Damiano Tommasi was in on goal and finished his chance. The call was offside, yet when the replay was shown, Tommasi is onside.

The second call was against, if you haven’t guessed it already, Francesco Totti. He was tackled inside the 18-yard box and immediately went down. Once he got to his feet, he immediately appealed to the referee. Just when he was expecting the yellow card to flash before his eyes for South Korea, he then noticed, that Moreno presented the card to Totti for simulation. That was his second of the match. Totti was sent off.

The golden goal rule sealed Italy’s fate once again. Jung Hwan Ahn sent South Korea into a frenzy with his header in extra time.

In that tournament, Italy were not the only ones that felt cheated. Spain fell victim to South Korea in the quarter finals. Two fair goals were disallowed, but even with a different referee for the match, the conspiracy theory claimed by the Italians may have been real. They believed South Korea were cheating, just so the host nation can remain in the competition.

As for Moreno, he was suspended two times in Ecuador. Then in 2010 at JFK airport in New York, Moreno was carrying ten bags of heroin. He served 2 ½ years.

Italy and Spain went on to respectively win both of the next two World Cups.

3.  AC Milan vs Liverpool Champions League 2005

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Italy’s most successful club in Europe, with a team that consisted of Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta, Andrea Pirlo, Cafu, Kaka, Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo. They faced a Liverpool side with Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher, Vladimir Smicer, Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso as their stars.

On paper, AC Milan seemed to tower over Liverpool. Going for their 7th Champions League trophy, it didn’t take them long to get started.

50 seconds in, Paolo Maldini volleyed in a set piece delivered from Andrea Pirlo. Hernan Crespo scored two goals. Milan went into the dressing room in Istanbul that night, confident the trophy was theirs. Gennaro Gattuso graced his hand on the trophy as he was walking in.

Then mission impossible happened. Milan fans, were never stunned like this before. The world has never seen anything like this before.

In six minutes, goals from Steven Gerrard, Vladimir Smicer and Xabi Alonso eliminated Milan’s precious lead. Key saves throughout the match from Jerzy Dudek, including a point blank save in the second period of added time against Shevchenko, gave Liverpool hope. In penalties, the Reds capitalized on most penalties, and Dudek once again saved Shevchenko’s shot from12 yards out. Every Liverpool fan worldwide, witnessed an historic victory.

This was one of the best Champions League finals of all time. Unfortunately, an Italian team held the short end of the stick.

  1. Calciopoli Scandal 2006

One of the most defining moments in the history of Italian football, the Calciopoli scandal really hit home.

Clubs were accused of match fixing throughout the year, allocating specific referees for their games.

Juventus were relegated to Serie B and the league, elected to remove two of their championship Scudetto’s away.

Other clubs such as Fiorentina and Lazio were initially relegated to Serie B, however the decision was overturned on appeal. They still faced penalties throughout the Serie A season.

AC Milan faced scrutiny as well for match fixing. Their moves were reportedly political, and they faced heavy financial losses.

The underlying issue with the scandal is it hit Italian football hard. While the most historic club in the country Juventus, had to play in Serie B, key players in the club such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gianluca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Viera, Lilian Thuram and Adrian Mutu left due to this scandal.

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Since then, the Italian league has not been the same and has failed to reach the same height as it did in 2002/2003 season.

In the recovery process AC Milan won the Champions League in 2007, and Inter Milan in 2010.

Juventus have returned to the top when Antonio Conte took charge in 2011. They have won six straight Scudetto’s and four Coppa Italia’s. They have made two Champions League final appearances.

The league has continued to struggle and the big three that used to dominate Italian football do not have the same impact on the global stage.

The Serie A lost its credibility, and other leagues in the world such as La Liga and the Premier League benefited.

1.Italy Eliminated from World Cup Contention for 2018

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Since 1958, Italy have qualified for every World Cup. The door closed for Italy right on their home turf. The Swedish national team held on to silence the San Siro in a 1-0 aggregate victory.

At the beginning of the tournament, Italy began strong. In their first six qualifying matches, the Azzurri won five and tied one against Spain 1-1. In the return fixture at the Estadio Santiago Bernebeu, Italy were timid in their approach to La Roja at home. Ventura’s men fell to an Isco masterclass, losing 3-0.

Since that match, there was something wrong with Italy. They won two out of the next three matches, winning each game only by a score of 1-0, and tied Macedonia at home 1-1.

When Sweden came around, the men in yellow and blue took the lead in the first leg at home thanks to a goal by Jakob Johansson in the 61st minute.

Italy couldn’t capitalize away from home. In the San Siro, they fired on all cylinders, controlled most of the match and benched their most electric player that could have changed the game.

Ventura’s play style is classic Italian football. Sit back, counter the opposition and take your chances. During the ride, Ventura didn’t seem to be the right fit for Italy. Not playing Insigne was the worst decision, he was not confident to go ahead and try and win the group, and was already thinking about the group stage during the playoff with Sweden.

Who knows what is in store for the Azzurri, but firing Gian Piero Ventura, and the resignation of FIGC President Carlo Tavecchio, is a great start, to reignite the four-time World Cup winning nation ahead of Euro 2020.


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