Italy's World Cup Triumphs - Ranked

James Cormack
Jun 20, 2020, 6:55 PM GMT+1
Cannavaro and Italy celebrate victory in 2006
Cannavaro and Italy celebrate victory in 2006 / Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

We've all heard of the infamous holders' curse, right?

We saw it with France in 2002, Spain in 2014 and Germany in 2018. Italy, however, said 'f*ck it, we'll stretch this curse over three bloody tournaments'. How 'bout that?

Since Marco Materazzi opened his gob and Fabio Cannavaro held the golden goodness aloft, the Azzurri have amassed a grand total of one victory in World Cup matches, and even that comes with an asterisk. How Raheem Sterling beat Gianluigi Buffon from 48 yards out and celebrated in the most nonchalant way possible remains a mystery.

After disastrous trips to South Africa and Brazil, the Italians saw Russia on the agenda in 2018 and said: "Na, don't really fancy that, to be honest." So they let Sweden - who'd eventually lose to Harry Maguire's slabhead in the quarter-finals - beat them in a play-off .

Italy's recent disasters at the World Cup have led to many forgetting how bloody good they are at football. They've won the sport's greatest prize four times, and here's the definitive ranking of how they're remembered.

4. France 1938

Sure, Italy's 1938 victory technically places last on our ranking, but it was nonetheless a mightily impressive campaign as they became the first of just two sides in history to defend their World Cup crown.

Amid protests and wild unpopularity for representing Benito Mussolini's fascist regime on a global scale, Vittoria Pozzo's 'blackshirts' secured back-to-back triumphs following an entertaining 4-2 victory over Hungary in the final, with Lazio icon Silvio Piola scoring his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament.

“In those 20 minutes of spectacular play they forgot their political and ethnic prejudices,” said Italy full back Pietro Rava, referring to the spellbinding 20-minute spell which saw the Italians score twice to take a 3-1 lead over the Hungarians and supposedly win over the hostile crowd.

Nevertheless, en route to glory, the Azzurri would overcome Norway, hosts France and Brazil, all while riling up anti-fascist crowds with their Roman salutes pre-match.

Overall, it's fair to say the fascism means this title is less fondly remembered than the others, and rightly so.

3. Germany 2006

Fabio Grosso scored the winning penalty in the 2006 shootout against France
Fabio Grosso scored the winning penalty in the 2006 shootout against France / Clive Mason/Getty Images

Italy's '06 triumph will always be overshadowed by Zinedine Zidane's oh so clean headbutt on a gobby Materazzi in extra-time, with Fabio Grosso going on to score the winning penalty in the shootout against France.

While Marcelo Lippi's side certainly weren't the most talented in the tournament, and several key stars - namely Francesco Totti - underperformed in Germany that summer, the Azzurri knew how to win football games - plus Andrea Pirlo was a little bit special in the middle of the park.

Lippi and his lopsided 4-4-2 was mightily effective in the later rounds after struggling past a poor Australia side in the round of 16. Luca Toni wreaked havoc in the Azzurri's 3-0 victory over Ukraine in the quarters, before Cannavaro produced a masterclass in centre-back play against the hosts in the semis on their way to the final.

Italy's 2-0 semi-final victory over Germany was their sixth clean sheet in the tournament.

2. Spain 1982

Paolo Rossi won the Golden Boot at the 1982 tournament with six goals
Paolo Rossi won the Golden Boot at the 1982 tournament with six goals / Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Spain '82 was all about one man: Juventus' Paolo Rossi.

After the Italians scraped through the first group stage with three draws from three, the second group stage - in which they were drawn against Argentina and Brazil - saw Enzo Bearzot's side burst into life.

The majestic Gaetano Scirea was largely credited for shutting out a youthful Diego Maradona as the Azzurri overcame La Albiceleste 2-1 before Rossi netted an unforgettable hat-trick to defeat Brazil and their 'magic square' in potentially the greatest World Cup game of all time.

A routine defeat of Poland ensued in the semis, before Rossi netted the first in a second-half blitz against Germany in the final. Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli both scored to make it 3-0 before Paul Breitner bagged a late consolation for Die Mannschaft.

It was a fantastic Italy side, as Bearzot attempted to drift away from typical Italian catenaccio.

1. Italy 1934

Being just one of four countries to win the whole thing as hosts, Italy's maiden triumph way back in 1934 just has to be number one.

With just 16 teams competing, the Azzurri breezed past the USA in Rome to progress through to the quarter-finals, before slender victories over Spain (via a replay) and Austria's Wunderteam (1-0) secured safe progression into the final.

Czechoslovakia were waiting at the Stadio Nazionale PNF in Rome and eventually took a late lead through Antonin Puc after a typically tense final.

This time around it wasn't the imperious Giuseppe Meazza who'd bail out Vittorio Pozzo's side, with Raimundo Orsi claiming a late leveller before centre forward Angelo Schiavio won it for the hosts in extra-time - the first of seven World Cup finals to endure an extended period.

The only stain on Italy's 1934 triumph - barring wild allegations of corruption - was England's absence from the tournament. The Three Lions remained a thorn in calcio’s side with Italy unable to secure a victory in three highly-charged matches in the 1930s.