The Italian national soccer team has won a number of trophies since the 1930s. They have had some great soccer players such as Baggio, Zoff, Rossi, Maldini Del Piero and Buffon. Although Italian teams do not always play the most exciting soccer, their best teams are very effective and well organized.
Unlike a number of European teams who did not play in the early cups, the Italians entered both the '34 and '38 World Cups. In fact, these were among their best cups during a golden era for the Italian national soccer team. In '34, Italy won their first World Cup on home soil after a 2 - 1 against Czechoslovakia. In 1938, the Italians made history as the first team to defend the Jules Rimmet trophy.
In the postwar era the Italians could not match their form of the '30s. First round exits in the '54, '62 and '66 World Cups highlighted the decline of the Italian national soccer team. In 1958, they could not qualify for the tournament. No longer were Italians the best team in the world.
However, in 1968 Italy hosted the European Championships. It was then that the Italian national team revival began, although they only made it to the final thanks to a toss of the coin! Their game against the USSR ended 0 - 0, and at the time there was no penalties. In the final they defeated Yugoslavia to win their first European Championship.
The Italian team had a good World Cup in 1970. Their 4 - 3 semifinal win against the Germans ensured their place in the final. However, in the final they came up against a great Brazilian team that ran out 4 - 1 winners. Nonetheless, Italy's form in this cup was still notably better than in previous cups during the postwar era.
Italy could not repeat such form in the European Championships during the '70s. Twice Italy failed to qualify for the '72 and '76 European Championships. In the '70's World Cups Italy played better, and they made it the semi-finals in 1978.
In 1982, Italy won its first World Cup since '38. This was largely thanks to Rossi whose goals were essential to their eventual victory. Perhaps the defining game of this cup came against the favorites Brazil in the second round. A hat-trick from Rossi ensured a 3 - 2 against the Brazilians, and then in the semi-finals they defeated Poland. In the final, Italy defeated West Germany 3 - 1 to lift the trophy. Rossi scored a total of six goals in this cup and was the top goal-scoring player.
Italy could not win any further trophies during the '80s. In the European Championship Italy failed to qualify in '84, but reached the semi-finals in '88. In the '86 World Cup Italy went out in the second round.
Italy hosted Italia '90. However, the Italians could not lift the trophy as they lost to Argentina in the semi-finals. Overall, they finished third after their victory against England in the playoffs.
In 1994, Italy's form was not always convincing. They finished third in their group, which was still enough to ensure a place in the knock-out stages. Narrow victories against Spain, Nigeria and Bulgaria ensured a place in the '94 final. The final itself was a dull game in which there were no goals. A missed Baggio penalty ensured that Brazil triumphed in the penalty shoot-out.
At Euro '96 Italy went out early. Defeat to the Czech Republic was costly and ensured that they slipped to third in the group. Unlike the '94 World Cup, there were no places for third place teams in the knock-out stages.
However, Euro 2000 was a different story. Italy was just minutes away from lifting the trophy as they lead France 1 - 0 in the final. However, a late equalizer and golden goal clinched victory for France.
Italy had little to celebrate in either the 2002 World Cup or Euro 2004. However, in the 2006 FIFA World Cup Italy went all the way. The defeated Australia, Ukraine and Germany en route to the final. In the final itself the Italians came up against a rejuvenated French team inspired by Zidane. The game ended 1 – 1, but this time Italy would win the final on penalties. It was a fourth World Cup win for Italy which is more than any other team except Brazil.
More recently the Italians flopped in South Africa. Uninspired displays against New Zealand, and then a 3 - 2 defeat to Slovakia ensured their early exit.
This most recent World Cup highlighted that a fresh generation of Italian players are required to rejuvenate the side the next Euro Championship and World Cup. For now at least the national team has been rebuilding after the 2010 World Cup, but the Italians will still feature prominently in the World Cups and European Championships.