Snap shot: Italy survive to reach World Cup final
Thursday, March 26, 2015
As Bulgaria prepare to host Italy, we turn back the clock to their meeting at USA '94 and find out which player now presents a football talent show on Albanian television.
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Italy looked to be cruising towards the 1994 FIFA World Cup final after a first 35 minutes Arrigo Sacchi, their coach, rated as the best football of the tournament.
Two goals from Roberto Baggio, playing as divinely as his ponytail, left Bulgaria with a mountain to climb – but having come from behind to beat Germany in the last eight, Dimitar Penev's men had done it before. Hristo Stoichkov pulled one back and, with the Azzurri wilting and Baggio injured, an equaliser was on the cards. Italy's relief at full time in New York was palpable indeed.
1. Pierluigi Casiraghi (No18)
A striker strong in the air and with a knack for acrobatic goals, Casiraghi broke through at home-town club AC Monza aged 16. Juventus swooped in 1989 and he was part of the side that won two UEFA Cups, but by the time of USA '94 Casiraghi was at SS Lazio. Following an injury-curtailed spell with Chelsea FC, he switched to coaching, leading Italy in two UEFA European Under-21 Championships and reaching the semis in 2009. His reign ended a year later and the trail has since gone cold, though he had a stint assisting Gianfranco Zola at Cagliari Calcio earlier this term.
2. Gianluca Pagliuca
During a career spanning 20 years, Pagliuca made 592 Serie A outings – a record since surpassed only by Paolo Maldini and Javier Zanetti. He landed the Scudetto, three Coppa Italias and the 1990 European Cup Winners' Cup with UC Sampdoria before joining FC Internazionale Milano in 1994 (after becoming the first keeper to save a penalty in a World Cup final shoot-out). He spent five seasons with Inter, lifting the 1998 UEFA Cup, then seven more with home-town team Bologna FC. He retired in 2007 aged 40 and is now a television and radio commentator.
3. Tsanko Tsvetanov (BUL No4)
Tsvetanov began playing at 17, a steep learning curve that proved the foundation for his famed steeliness at left-back. He picked up the last of his 40 international caps aged 26 as Hristo Bonev's arrival as coach left him surplus to requirements. Tsvetanov's club career featured interludes in Germany and Scotland, though he also collected back-to-back domestic titles with PFC Levski Sofia. He has worked for the last 11 years as assistant to Stanimir Stoilov, including with the Bulgarian national team and currently at Kazakhstani champions FC Astana.
4. Yordan Letchkov (BUL No9)
Known as the 'Magician', Letchkov's feet were as sharp as his tongue. The midfielder had just completed a second campaign at Hamburger SV when he caught the eye in the United States – his last-eight winner against Germany being one of the tournament's defining moments. Instrumental as Bulgaria qualified for EURO '96 and the 1998 World Cup, he was prevented from playing in the latter event after a dispute that prompted a three-year hiatus from the game. Letchkov quit for good in 2003, becoming mayor of Sliven the same year. He has been first vice-president of the Bulgarian Football Union (BFS) since 2005.
5. Paolo Maldini
One of the greatest defenders in the game's history, Maldini compiled five European Cups and seven Serie A titles during a 25-year career with AC Milan. Capped 126 times by Italy, the left-back was named in five teams of the tournament for the World Cup and EURO, before retiring along with his No3 shirt in 2009. He has stayed out of football subsequently, but those who fear the end of a dynasty that commenced with former Milan skipper Cesare Maldini (Paolo's father) need not fear: he has two sons presently playing in the Rossoneri youth system.
6. Lorenzo Minotti (ITA cap)
Having started with home-town AC Cesena, Minotti signed for Parma FC in Serie B and captained them to honours in the Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup. His volley against R. Antwerp FC at Wembley in the Cup Winners' Cup final was chosen among the 60 best UEFA goals. He left Parma in 1996 and hung up his boots in 2001 after periods with Cagliari, Torino FC and Treviso FC. He served as sporting director for Parma and AC Cesena, and now works as a TV commentator.
7. Nicola Berti (No14)
Berti launched his career with Parma and ACF Fiorentina but it is with Inter he is best associated. Going to the San Siro in 1988, he helped the Nerazzurri clinch the Scudetto in his first campaign and over the next decade the tenacious midfielder also captured the UEFA Cup in 1991 and 1994, scoring in both finals. He plied his trade in England (Tottenham Hotspur FC), Spain (Deportivo Alavés) and Australia (Northern Spirit) before retiring in 2001. He currently presents a football talent show on Albanian TV.
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