July 7, 2006

Italy and France set for seventh all-European final

By Mike Collett

BERLIN (Reuters) - When Italy meet France at the
Olympiastadion on Sunday it will be only the seventh time in 18
World Cups since the competition started in 1930 that the final
has been contested by two European teams.

The last time it happened was in 1982 when Italy beat West
Germany in Madrid to become world champions for the third time.

Their previous two victories were also against European
teams, beating Czechoslovakia in 1934 and Hungary in 1938.

Their two defeats in five finals have both been against
Brazil, losing 4-1 in the classic 1970 showdown in Mexico City
and 3-2 on penalties after a goalless draw in 1994.

They now have the chance to make it four final wins out of
four against European opposition when they meet France, who are
playing in their second World Cup title decider in eight years.

The first all-European final was played in Rome in 1934
when Italy won the World Cup for the first time with a 2-1
come-from-behind win over Czechoslovakia.

Italy retained their title four years later when Vittorio
Pozzo became the first, and so far only, man to coach two World
Cup winning teams when they beat Hungary 4-2 in Paris.

The next all-European affair was in 1954 when West Germany
beat Hungary in Berne.

The other two European finals came in 1966 when England
beat West Germany and 1974 when West Germany defeated the
Netherlands in Munich.


As far as Italy are concerned there are similarities with
1982 when they beat West Germany in the last all-European

Their preparations for the finals in Spain were completed
against the backdrop of a match-fixing scandal.

Paolo Rossi, who finished as top scorer in 1982 with six
goals including one in the final, completed his ban for his
involvement in the scandal shortly before the World Cup began.

Italy is embroiled in a far bigger match-fixing scandal now
although that should not distract the national team from the
task ahead on Sunday.

Goals from Rossi, Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli
gave Italy a 3-1 win over West Germany in Madrid with Paul
Breitner scoring the last goal seven minutes from time.

A closely-fought, low-scoring game is in prospect at the
Olympiastadion -- unlike France's 3-0 win over Brazil in 1998
when Zinedine Zidane scored twice and Emmanuel Petit got the

Italy's last appearance in the final in 1994 ended in a 0-0
draw with Brazil and the match was decided on penalties.

It would be an anticlimactic end to the World Cup if
Sunday's match was to end in the same way.