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Spain-Italy: La Roja's aura gone, says "very optimistic" great Zoff

SPAIN-ITALY

Spain-Italy: La Roja's aura gone, says "very optimistic" great Zoff

Spain-Italy: La Roja's aura gone, says "very optimistic" great Zoff

Anadolu Agency

DIARIO AS

Ahead of Italy's first game at the Santiago Bernabéu since winning the 1982 World Cup there, then-Azzurri captain Dino Zoff talked to Diario AS.

Ahead of Italy's visit to the Santiago Bernabéu for Saturday's crucial Russia 2018 qualifier against Spain, Diario AS spoke to legendary former Azzurri player and coach Dino Zoff, who is best remembered for captaining the Italians to 1982 World Cup victory at the stadium.

Italy play at the Bernabéu for the first time since beating West Germany there to win the World Cup...

It's a stadium that has brought us good luck; I hope it stays that way on Saturday. Obviously there can be no comparison between a World Cup final and this game, but there's a lot at stake.

What's the first thing that comes into your head when you think about the ground?

The joy we experienced that night. It's a memory that's always alive in my head. But time moves on...

Have you returned to the stadium since then?

Just once: with Lazio in 2001, as a coach [in the 2000/01 Champions League second group stage]. We lost 3-2 to Real Madrid. But nothing can be compared with that night [in 1982].

When did it sink in that the win had cemented your status as a footballing great?

At the time, nothing sinks in. It was like reaching out and touching heaven. Being able to captain your national side at 40, and winning the World Cup; it doesn't get much better than that. Afterwards, being remembered as a legend was never so much of a big deal to me. As I said before, remembering the past is nice, but time has moved on. You have to look forwards.

What do you remember about the moment you were handed the trophy?

I was so overcome that I wanted to kiss Queen Sofía [of Spain], but I realised in time that it wouldn't have been appropriate. Just as well [laughs].

Italy captain Zoff holds up the World Cup after his team's 3-1 win over West Germany in the 1982 final.

How did the Spanish fans treat you and the rest of the squad?

Really well throughout the tournament. Although, to be honest, Italy are always warmly welcomed, with the exception of the odd part of the world.

It's said that the locals supported the Azzurri in the final...

We're fellow Latins, we're similar... There's a bond between us. So that was to be expected.

Another enduring image of the final is of then-Italian president Sandro Pertini celebrating the win.

It was really special to meet him after the final, during the journey back to Italy and the celebrations. He was an extradordinary person, he really opened his arms to the players. He was like just another fan.

Whose idea was it to organise the card game between you, Pertini, winger Franco Causio and coach Enzo Bearzot on the plane back?

I don't remember whose idea it was, but in those days these things came about instinctively. If it had happened these days, it would have been organised by the team's head of communications [laughs].

A July 1982 file photo shows the former head coach of the Italian soccer team, Enzo Bearzot (R), while he plays cards on the airplane with Italian President Sandro Pertini (II from R) and Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff (L) after the victory of the Azzurri's World Cup victory.

Your playing partner was Pertini. Is it true that he was responsible for losing the game?

Well, at the time he wouldn't admit it; but a few years later, he acknowledged that his mistake had cost us the game [laughs].

Do you like the current Italy side under Gian Piero Ventura?

I like the fact that so many young players have come through - a new generation. Ventura has good resources at his disposal, and they can do well against Spain.

Which Italian youngster has impressed you the most?

I can't not mention [AC Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi] Donnarumma.

Are you happy that he's stayed at Milan?

Yes, but I would have avoided all that drama. He's young; the best thing for him was to stay there.

And how does Gianluigi Buffon look to you?

He's one of this national team's strengths and he's done the right thing by carrying on.

How afraid are you of Spain?

They have very fine players, as they always do; but they're no longer the same side as they were during their golden era. They've lost that aura of invincibility that they had before.

Would you like to hazard a prediction of the scoreline?

No, I never do; but I'm very optimistic. That I can say.

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