- Our image captures Rossi within a second of scoring in the Final
- ‘In the area he was extraordinary,’ said Bearzot of Rossi
- The pipe that seemingly never left Bearzot’s lips is on display in Zurich
After 57 minutes, the deadlock was broken – and it just had to be Paolo Rossi who opened the scoring. West German hearts sank as the agile forward raced to the front of goal to head home Claudio Gentile’s bouncing cross from close range, firing Italy into the lead in the 1982 Final.
It seemed impossible to defend against. Goalkeeper Toni Schumacher could only watch as the ball bounced over him, while Rossi’s momentum was too great to prevent him from crossing the goal-line also. The header sparked scenes of jubilation from the Italian contingent as tricolours were hoisted aloft in celebration across the Santiago Bernabeu, with an equally ecstatic Enzo Bearzot on the sideline, as Italy would go on to defeat West Germany 3-1 and claim their first world title since 1938.
For Rossi, it capped off a remarkable FIFA World Cup™ that saw him become more lethal in front of goal as the tournament progressed. After an extremely slow start where he failed to score in the opening four matches, the then Juventus man burst into life by netting a hat-trick against a Brazil side armed to the teeth with the likes of Zico, Socrates, Junior and Falcao, before breaking Polish hearts in the semi-final with a brace in Barcelona.
Not only did he take home the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, Rossi was awarded the Golden Ball as Gli Azzurri claimed their third World Cup Trophy. It was regarded as a masterstroke from the pipe-smoking Bearzot to keep Rossi in the side when it would have been easy to drop a goal-shy striker after four games without hitting the net.
"The fact it took Rossi some time to explode into life during the tournament was partly due to our physical preparations, which prioritised fitness at the expense of speed,” the late Bearzot, then coach of the Italian national team, said. “At the start, he was sluggish, but he kept getting better. In the area, he was extraordinary: very lively, always ready to pounce on the slightest mistake and never ceasing to put defenders under pressure. Ultimately, that translated into glory for himself and the team."
It was the faith shown by manager Bearzot in Rossi that helped the 25-year-old steal the show at Spain 1982, and the frontman was quick to show his gratitude. “The fact that Bearzot trusted me was fundamental,” recalled the 1982 Ballon d’Or winner. “Bearzot believed in me and was sure I would come through at the right time.”
When Italy needed a goalscorer most, Rossi did not disappoint.
Did you know?
The iconic pipe that Enzo Bearzot smoked during the 1982 FIFA World Cup is on display at the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich.