It may be 27 years since his historic hat-trick in Italy's 3-2 win over Brazil at the 1982 FIFA World Cup Spain™, but former marksman Paolo Rossi retains a burning passion for the Azzurri cause. He has been paying close attention to Italian fortunes at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and will be particularly animated when they face old foes Brazil later this evening – and not least because another goalscoring Rossi has been catching the eye. FIFA.com caught up with the ex-Juventus striker ahead of what is sure to be a captivating encounter.
Now 52, the top scorer at Spain 1982 with six strikes has retained much of his youthful charm. His love of the game remains perfectly intact as well and his levels of enthusiasm soared when reliving the recent displays of the current Azzurri line-up, for whom Giuseppe Rossi has been leading the line.
"The fact that he shares the same name as me naturally makes me happy," commented the Prato native, who registered 28 goals in his 40 international appearances. "But beyond that coincidence, he's a very interesting young player, full of quality, who could do a lot for us. He's almost fully matured now and he should be in perfect condition in 2010 for the World Cup." Rossi was also keen to sing the praises of his other near namesake in Marcello Lippi's squad, Daniele de Rossi, describing the Roma player as "an exceptional midfielder who everyone else wishes they had".
After sharing his thoughts on all things Rossi, which, after all, is the most common surname in Italy, Paolo admitted he cannot wait to see Italy take on the Seleção. "There's always been a great rivalry between the two teams," he explained. "It's an opposition between two different schools of thought that have both proved their worth. Brazil have always had great players who contribute to a very spectacular style. We play more pragmatic, realistic football, more about getting a result. Matches between these two sides with phenomenal records have always been spectacular."
The erstwhile fox in the box felt less comfortable making predictions. "Italy need to win to qualify," he said. "But the team are above all in the middle of a preparation phase ahead of the World Cup in South Africa, where they'll be defending their title. At the moment, Mr Lippi is looking first of all to build a team. Lots of players need to prove themselves." Rossi nonetheless hopes that his compatriots will get to experience a sensation he remembers only too well from 1982. "Losing never makes you happy and winning against Brazil always brings a unique feeling."
Perhaps a little superstitious, Rossi was also quick to point out that every FIFA World Cup-winning side to have secured the FIFA Confederations Cup three years later then went on to lose their global title. "Sometimes it's better to lose," he explained, with the hint of a smile. "Don't worry, though. Italy will do everything they can to win." Brazil, of all countries, ought to know better than to doubt him on that.