A bewitching 3-3 draw, full of football of the highest quality, lit up the Tournoi de France but also, ironically, ensured England have won the tournament even before they play Brazil in Paris tomorrow.
The sheer pleasure the match induced should have been no surprise, as this is an evocative a fixture as there is in the game. L'Equipe, the French sports newspaper, featured the greatest World Cup matches at the weekend, as chosen by 50 great names from Baggio to Zico via Eusebio and Rummenigge. Second and third were the Brazil-Italy games of 1970 and 1982. Surprisingly the 1994 final, the goalless draw in Los Angeles, came in at 13th equal.
There were 12 survivors from that game, six Brazilians and four Italians - plus Alessandro Costacurta who, as is his way, was suspended for the big game. Italy had only one more survivor from the England defeat, with injust Ciro Ferrara's absence being caused by injury.
Italy, though reshaped, had clearly been stung by the Nantes experience and they took the game to Brazil with enthusiasm. Taffarel was busy as early as the second minute, fisting away Alessandro Del Piero's corner under pressure from Attilio Lombardo. A minute later Leonardo responded by drifting by Christian Panucci before shooting over.
The tempo of the match had been set and, after seven minutes, the drama began. Demetrio Albertini robbed Ronaldo as he received the ball on the halfway line and strode forward. He released Christian Vieri on the right and Del Piero got ahead of Cafu to head in his cross.
Then came two contrasting deflections. Ronaldo, running on to Mauro Silva's pass, skipped past Fabio Cannavaro but saw his shot diverted on to the post by Costacurta. A minute later Aldair diverted Albertini's 24th minute free-kick into his own net much the same as Tommy Hutchison scored his own goal in the 1982 FA Cup final.
This was getting serious, as was seen by the way Italy contantly checked and blocked their free-flowing opponents. Dino Baggio was booked for all but tearing Ronaldo's shot off his back, but no-one was punished when the gifted youngster was cynically brought down by a pair of defenders on the edge of the area.
Then Italy briefly relaxed and allowed Brazil back into the game. Only one player went out to a short corner routine and watched ineffectually as the ball was passed round him for Roberto Carlos to shoot. This time Lombardo deflected into his own goal. Brazil now pressed as Italy had earlier and only outstanding defending from Costacurta kept them out.
The interval offered no respite for the Milan defender as Denilson, given a chance to assume the No 10 shirt, began to show why he is keeping Juninho and Djalminha out of the side. He brought an outstanding save from Taffarel from 20 yards then drifted past four players only to shoot wide.
Brazil, however, left themselves exposed on the break and, after several close escapes, Italy won a penalty on the hour when the newly introduced Filippo Ingahzi turned Aldair and was brought down. Del Piero scored from the penalty. Brazil's problems increased with Mauro Silva being booked for fouling Del Piero, which rules him out of tomorrow's England game.
Few teams would have a chance two-down to Italy with 30 minutes left, but Brazil were undaunted. Pagliuca was forced into a fine save from Flavio before Ronaldo pulled away from Cannavaro to take a pass from Roberto Carlos, skipped by Costacurta and shot inside the near post.
Denilson shot wide, Roberto Carlos hit the bar and Dunga had a shot tipped over before, with five minutes left, Romario ran on to Ronaldo's slipped pass, dribbled past two defenders and Pagliuca, and equalised.
BRAZIL (2-4-2-2): Taffarel (Atletico Mineiro); Celio Silva (Corinthians), Aldair (Roma); Cafu (Palmeirias), Mauro Silva (Deportivo La Coruna), Dunga (Jubilo Iwata), Roberto Carlos (Real Madrid); Denilson (Sao Paulo), Leonardo (Paris St-Germain); Romario (Flamengo), Ronaldo (Barcelona). Substitute: Flavio (Deportivo La Coruna) for Mauro Silva, 63.
ITALY (3-5-2): Pagliuca (Internazionale); Panucci (Real Madrid), Costacurta (Milan), Cannavaro (Parma); Lombardo (Juventus), Di Matteo (Chelsea), Albertini (Milan), D Baggio (Parma), Maldini (Juventus); Vieri (Juventus), Del Piero (Juventus). Substitutes: Fuser (Lazio) for Baggio h-t; Inghazi (Juventus) for Vieri, 59; Di Livio (Juventus) for Maldini, 88.
Referee: M Muhmenthaler (Switzerland).Reuse content