La Squadra Azzurra, the Italian national team of the late 90s and early 2000s was a legendary squad. Led by Paolo Maldini, they were a team of warriors who always found a way to win.
Great Italian team never getting over the line
Despite coming close, they never won the World Cup nor the European Championship during that time period. In Italy, it was said to be the Golden Squadra Azzurra, destined to win the World Cup in 1994, 1998, 2002 and the European Championship in 2000.
However, destiny would have other plans as the gladiators lost in the quarterfinals of the 1998 World Cup to France. The iconic penalty shootout where Roberto Baggio’s last penalty would begin a four-year concerto of the blues for the “blues”.
In 2000 at the European Championship, it would be once again the France of Zidane and Henry that would get the best of the Italians.
The Final Rally in the bitter 2002 World Cup, all hope turned into angst against the hosts South Korea, with much controversy over the referee’s decisions. That World Cup would eventually be lifted by the talented and festive Brazil team of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.
Although unable to win a trophy, they were still a mythical team. A group of players that never gave up and always fought until the end, never backing down from a challenge. They were a team of warriors, winners at heart, and a team of legends that will never be forgotten.
For few of these gladiators, glory came in 2006 World Cup, beating a very hard-headed and perhaps more deserving France in the final.
Italy’s best players in their golden Squadra Azzurra era
Widely considered to be one of the greatest defenders of all time, Paolo Maldini played for AC Milan for his entire career, and he won the Champions League five times. He was a member of the Italian national team for 20 years, and he won the World Cup in 2006.
Franco Baresi is another legendary defender who played for AC Milan. Italian national team player for 15 years, and he won the World Cup in 1982 and 1994.
One of the greatest Italian players of all time, Roberto Baggio was a prolific goal scorer, and he won the Ballon d’Or in 1993. Italian national team player for 17 years, and he won the World Cup in 1994.
Alessandro Del Piero was also another fantastic Italian player. He was a prolific goal scorer, and winning the Serie A title with Juventus in 2002 and 2003. Italian national team player for 19 years, he won the World Cup in 2006.
The only player on this list still playing professional football, Gianluigi Buffon is one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. He played for Juventus for most of his entire career, and he won the Serie A title 10 times. Italian national team player for 20 years, and he won the World Cup in 2006.
These are just a few of the many great players that were part of the Italian football team of the late 90s and early 2000s. Truly a golden generation that will always be remembered for their passion and determination.