Zambrotta, Materazzi, Grosso- we don’t need no Luca Toni!
Four goals, an assist, and a foul that led to the matchwinning PK, and the match winner PK in the shootout against France. Per chance, is this the Italian midfield or attack that we are talking about? Is it Italy’s new Paolo Rossi or Roberto Baggio? Nah, it is the Italian defence, the ones that gave the world the catenaccio. This team did not need a Paolo Rossi, Baggio, or Schillachi to remind us that the Italians have an attack.
The Italian defence scored four goals, each one as important as the other. They also set up Totti’s PK against Oz. Presented Luca Toni with his second goal. And buried the nail in France’s coffin in the finals. Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon were brilliant and the backbone of the defence. But when you talk about scoring goals, defenders don’t really leap to your mind. Not these Italian defenders. Fabio Grosso, Marco Materazzi, and Gianluca Zambrotta decided that they had enough of seeing Buffon’s face and wanted to take a real close look at the nose hairs of the opposing goalie.
Fabio Grosso: The defender whose foul in the Oz penalty box led to Totti’s game winning PK. The Italians and the Socceroos looked like they were going to extra- time. Italy had exhausted all its substitutes and were playing a man down against the Aussies. Who knows what would have happened against a fitter Oz team? Grosso also scored the first goal against Germany in Paulo Rossi fashion after a Pirlo pass, just when the Italy- Germany match was seemingly to go to a penalty shootout. The Germans had won all four games on PK shootout and the Italians had lost all three. The odds were bad for the Azzurris till Grosso intervened. Grosso also scored the final PK goal in the penalty shootout that decided the World Cup for Italy against France.
Marco Materazzi: The defender who scored the first goal against the Czech Republic that got Italy through to the second round. Materazzi was also responsible for the foul against Florent Malouda that gave Zizou his PK against Italy in the final. But Materazzi made amends for it by scoring the equalizer through a great header of a Pirlo corner. And in one of the most infamous episodes of this WC, he was levelled by Zizou’s headbutt after a series of nasty verbal exchanges, leading to Zizou’s expulsion and France’s defeat.
Gianluca Zambrotta: The defender who scored the first goal against the Ukraine that would have proved enough to get them to the semi-finals against Germany. He was not done yet and slid a neat little pass that saw Luca Toni putting the ball into the goal, scoring 3-0 for Italy over the Ukraine.
Impressive. You wonder why Italy even bothers with an attack, when it has it’s defence to thank for helping them pull through all the defining matches by scoring goals and winning them the World Cup.
It may not be too premature to compare them to legends like Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Marco Tardelii, and Gaetano Scirea, who define Italian catenaccio but somehow these three have taken the doughty Italian defence to another level where they might be envied by the likes of Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio. We will remember Fabio Grosso, Marco Materazzi, and Gianluca Zambrotta for good reasons and bad reasons for a long time to come.