Legendary goalkeeper, Dino Zoff, has echoed the cries of many by saying the Fifa World Cup isn’t the same without Italy.
In stunning scenes that still reverberate around the globe, Sweden edged Italy in a two-legged playoff in November to clinch a berth ahead of the four-time winners.
In a recent interview with APF, Zoff, who became a global icon after Italy’s victory in 1982, tells how he is planning on watching this year’s World Cup, which according to him, doesn’t feel like the real deal without Italy.
Q: How did you feel when Italy lost to Sweden in the World Cup qualifiers?
A: “I was at home with my family. And it was hard, of course, Italy hadn’t missed out on a World Cup for 60 years. When you look at the teams that qualified, some do not have our trophies, our history. Having been in the national team for so long, it hurts. It’s not normal for Italy to have to watch a World Cup from the sidelines. It just doesn’t feel like a World Cup. People in Italy are very attached to football and they will still follow it. But it might be tough to watch a little-known side play while our team, which has carved its name into footballing history with four World Cup titles, stays at home.”
Q: What does the World Cup mean to you?
A: “For me there is nothing greater, it’s everything, pure joy. To reach the highest heights of your profession, at the age of 40 and as team captain, was just a rush of happiness. It was the highlight of my career because the World Cup is the highlight of football.”
Q: Italy is down at number 20 in the FIFA rankings, how do you feel about that?
A: “Out of the World Cup, down at 20 in the rankings… I don’t like talking about my era, but we were always among the best. It’s a bad sign for Italian football”
Q: But at club level your teams play well…
A: “Yes but with a lot of foreign players. We must rebuild our national team and we do have some young talent, even if there are not that many of them. A generation of players is winding down and we must start believing in our future potential. In 2006, Italy won the World Cup by the skin of its teeth. But it was a great generation of footballers. When I was coach, I also oversaw a great generation in 2000: we almost won the Euros. Now we must wait and work on our young players, as they are our future.”