Cesare Prandelli’s Italy team go into tonight’s World Cup qualifying clash against Denmark having already secured their passage to the 2014 Brazil showpiece with two games to spare, but the Azzurri will need to fare better than they did against this evening’s opposition in 1981 if they are to get a result away in Copenhagen.
Italy’s only encounter against the Danes in World Cup competition to date - a qualifier in June of that year - ended in a 3-1 defeat, but that result was the their sole loss ahead a competition that they would subsequently go on to become champions of: the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
The Denmark team Enzo Bearzot’s side came up against that day is now legendary amongst the nation’s fans, with Preben Elkjaer Larsen, a decisive player in Hellas Verona’s historic 1985 Scudetto triumph, and 1977 Ballon d’Or winner Allan Simonsen amongst those who took to the field.
But it was also a squad that had strength in depth, and in fact it wasn’t even those two names on the scoresheet that day in 1981: Kim Roentved, Frank Arnesen and Lars Bastrup netted to a solitary reply from Francesco Graziani.
Italy manager Bearzot picked six Juventus men to face the Danes, with Dino Zoff in goal, Claudio Gentile and Antonio Cabrini as the wing-backs, Gaetano Scirea and Marco Tardelli in midfield and Roberto Bettega up front.
And with the exception of “Bobby-gol” Bottega, who was unfortunately sidelined by an injury picked up against Anderlecht in the Champions’ Cup, all those Bianconeri would go on to play a key part in the glorious 3-1 victory against West Germany that saw them lift the World Cup in Spain.