Football Icon 9 : Dino Zoff
Dino Zoff was born February 28, 1942 in an Italian village called Mariano del Friuli. Dino was the son of a Farmer in Northern Italy’s agricultural hotbed. Having a keen interest in football since childhood Dino wanted to play for a professional club and had trials hwoever, clubs like Italian giants like Juventus and Internazionale felt that Zoff was too small for them to take a chance on despite only being aged 14 at the time. Five years on and Zoff’s displays for his village team, Marianese, began to interest the scouts at nearby Udinese. In the 5 years that had passed since young Dino Zoff’s trials with Juve and Inter he had grown an incredible 33 inches which gave him the chance to fulfill his dream of being a professional goalkeeper as his height was no longer an issue. The scouts had been suitably impressed and soon Zoff was left his job as a motor mechanic to sign professional forms.
Dino Zoff started his Professional career with Serie A side Udinese. Dino made his Serie A debut On 24 September 1961 and did not, however, have the greatest debut, in fact a debut which saw him concede five goals against Fiorentina on 24 September 1961. In his first season Dino played only four matches for Udinese. The following season Udinese found themselves in Serie B following relegation. Zoff played 34 matches for them in his second season before joining Serie A side Mantova. Despite suffering relegation with Manatova Dino played his part in helping them to achieve promotion back to Serie A. Zoff eventually played 131 league matches for Mantova.
In 1968, Zoff was transferred to Napoli and subsequently established himself as a top quality Goalkeeper. Zoff performed well at Napoli and made 131 appearances for the Naples outfit. He also broke into the Italian National side in the same year as signing for Napoli. Dino’s debut for Italy came against Bulgaria in the quarter final of the 1968 European Championships. Italy went onto win the tournament, which meant Zoff took home a winners’ medal after only his fourth international appearance ! At club level Zoff performed well for Napoli and it was these performances which attracted interest from a number of Serie A sides including Juventus. In 1972, Dino Zoff joined Juventus and this is where his career really progressed. In eleven years with Juventus, Zoff made 330 consecutive appearances for the Turin Giants and won the Serie A championship six times, the Coppa Italia twice and the UEFA Cup once . The one disappointing aspect of his Juventus career was not winning the European Cup. Juventus lost in the European Cup Final on two occasions to Ajax and Hamburg respectively.
Whilst at Juventus Zoff’s reputation not only in Italy but also around the world was much enhanced as he had developed into an outstanding goalkeeper and was even named the 3rd greatest goalkeeper of the 20th century behind Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks. Dino had a glittering club career particularly at club level but it was really at International level that people will remember Zoff.
As already stated, Dino Zoff made his Italian debut in the 1968 European Championships and returned home with a winners medal. It was not all plain sailing for Dino though at International level and he was left out of the Italian starting eleven for the 1970 FIFA World Cup Finals. However, by 1972 Dino Zoff had re-established himself as the Italian Number 1 and then went on to set a record of the longest playing time without conceding goals in international tournaments (1142 minutes) set between 1972 and 1974. That clean sheet record was ended by Haiti’s Manno Sanon’s goal during the 1974 World Cup Finals.
Dino played in the 1978 World Cup Finals for Italy although he admitted to not being at his best during the tournament. 4 years later was a different story for the now 40 year old captain of Italy.
Spain was the setting for the 1982 World Cup Finals and Italy were drawn in Group 1 with Poland, Peru and Cameroon and were the strong favourites to win the group. They drew all three group games, with Zoff in particularly good form , to finish runners up behind Poland. People began to dismiss Italy as potential candidates to achieve the ultimate football glory in Spain.
The Second Phase of the World Cup saw Italy in a group with Argentina and Brazil in what was on paper the toughest group. In the first game of the second phase Italy edged past Argentina 2-1, but then Brazil beat Argentina 3-1 which meant Italy needed to beat Brazil to qualify for the Semi Finals. Italy v Brazil in my opinion was the best game of the World Cup Finals in Spain 1982 . A thoroughly entertaining game saw Italy run out 3-2 winners with Paulo Rossi scoring a hat-trick and Zoff saving brilliantly from Zico late on to ensure that the Italians progressed to the Semi Finals.
The Semi Final paired Italy with their first round group opponents Poland. In their group match they had drawn 0-0 but on this occasion a Paulo Rossi brace and a clean sheet for Zoff ensured the Italians took their place in the final with a 2 nil win.
Italy faced West Germany in the 1982 World Cup Final which was played in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. West Germany were the pre match favourites for the trophy but Zoff and Italy had other ideas and the Italians triumphed in a 3-1 win. Italian captain Dino Zoff lifted the World Cup aged 40 making him the oldest ever winner of the World Cup. He followed in the footsteps of compatriot Giampiero Combi (1934) as only the second goalkeeper to captain a World Cup-winning side, this has now become 3 goalkeeping captains after Iker Casillas captained Spain to glory in the 2010 World Cup. Dino Zoff was also voted as the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament. It was a fitting end to a tremendous playing career for Zoff which saw him notch up 570 Serie A appearances (which was a record he held for 20 years) as well as 112 Italian caps, appearing in 4 World Cup Squads.
After hanging up his gloves , Zoff went into coaching and joined Juventus, where he was head coach from 1988 to 1990. In 1990 Zoff was sacked despite winning the UEFA Cup. He then joined Lazio, where he became president in 1994. In 1998 Zoff was appointed coach of the Italian national team and coached Italy to a second-place finish in Euro 2000. Italy lost in the final to France after becoming victims of an extra-time ‘Goalden Goal’ defeat. Zoff left his post a few days after the European Championships defeat to France.
Zoff has also coached Lazio and Fiorentina without but has not really replicated the success he had as player. His performances for Juventus and Italy were tremendous and was truly one of the greats in World Football and comfortably earns his place in our Football Icons Section.