Paolo Rossi at the 1982 World Cup.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Unlike many traditional centre forwards, Paolo Rossi lacked a physical presence and had a very slight build, but he was quick off the mark, agile and had razor-sharp reactions. And as with all great poachers, Rossi had an eye for goal and a natural ability to read the game and to anticipate where best to position himself for goal scoring opportunities.
Unlike many goal poachers, Rossi actually started out as a winger, at Vicenza in the mid 1970s. It was down to a team-mate's injury that he got moved into a central position but it soon turned into something of a master-stroke - Rossi suddenly finding himself topping the scoring charts for Serie B in 1977, before doing exactly the same in Serie A the following year, 1977-78, and winning the Capocannoniere award. This domestic form saw Rossi named in the Italian squad for the Argentina '78 World Cup, an opportunity which he grabbed fully, scoring three goals and being named as the tournament's second best player, behind Mario Kempes. Four years later at Espana '82 he would go one better than this, not only being named the player of the tournament but also claiming the Golden Boot as the tournament's top scorer with six goals, three of them in that epic encounter with Brazil.
In between these two World Cup tournaments, Rossi had to actually sit out the Europa '80 European Championships, on home soil, as he'd been banned for two years as part of the Totonero match-fixing scandal. Yet despite this controversy, it's his goalscoring exploits leading the Azzurri to World Cup glory in 1982 for which he's best remembered.
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