The national sport of Italy is football. Whether it is club football or the national game, sides are followed with passion up and down the country. The country has a strong reputation on the football field and scandal always seems to be happening in either the club scene or on the international pitch. The National team is widely known as “Gli Azzuri” which means royal blue and refers to the team’s shirts. They are one of the most successful teams at the World Cup having won it on four occasions, been losing finalist two times and have also finished third. They have also won the European championship once in 1968.
The side has an annoying habit of turning up at World Cup tournaments and playing really badly in the group stages while still managing to qualify for the knock out rounds. They then hit their top form and go on and perform really well. In 1982 the group got through the first round drawing all three of their matches, yet went on to beat Argentina and Brazil in the knock out stages, before defeating Germany in the final 3-1. This was the game when the Italian goalkeeper Deano Zoff became the first 40 year old to win a World Cup.
A similar pattern happened in 2006 with the Italians never really showing their top form in the early rounds with a draw against the United States and a close 1-0 victory against Australia. In the later games they needed extra time to defeat the Germans and penalties to overcome France in the final. They may not be the most attractive football team in the world but they are one of the best tournament teams, as they are so well organized and hard to beat. The majority of the players who get selected for the national team play in Italy’s own league the Serie A. It is regarded as one of the best football leagues in the world and has produced the highest numbers of European Cup finalists. Italian clubs have reached the final 27 times winning it on 12 occasions.
Every major city is represented by at least one major side in Serie A. The history of the country results in each team being followed passionately as they are representing a region. It also results in huge local derbies when a city has two clubs in the top flight. This is certainly the case in Milan when Inter Milan play AC Milan. The rivalry is made even more intense as they share the same stadium the San Siro, which can hold up to 80,000 spectators. The two clubs have won the league on 18 occasions with AC Milan winning the European cup 7 times and Inter being successful on 3 occasions.
The only side to have won the league on more occasions than the Milan rivals have been Juventus. Based in Turin Juve, as they are more popularly known, have won the league 33 times. Despite only winning the Champions League twice they have still won the Super Cup 7 times and the inter-continental cup on 2 occasions. They also have local rivals with the cities other team, Torino. They themselves have won the Serie A on 7 occasions although they haven’t lifted the title since 1976. Their heyday occurred in the 1940s when they won the title during five consecutive seasons from 1942 to 1949. Tragedy then struck as the whole team died in the 1949 “Basilica of Superga” air disaster in Turin.
Another close rivalry occurs in the capital city Rome where each season Roma and Lazio compete for the “bragging rights”, and also in Genoa where Sampdoria and Genoa are the biggest sides. The deep south of the country hopes lie in the hands of Napoli. The team based in Naples famously had their halcyon days when they signed Argentina’s Diego Maradona and won both the title and the cup in 1987. The country is currently in mourning as the national side has not qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. This is how seriously Italians regard their football.