Sunday, February 28, 2010

28 February 1942 - Zoff Takes Off

On 28 February 1942, Juventus keeper and Italian national team captain Dino Zoff was born in the northeastern Italian town of Mariano del Friuli. In a poll conducted by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics, Zoff was voted the third best goalkeeper of the 20th Century, behind the Soviet Union's Lev Yashin and England's Gordon Banks.

After a rough start to his career in 1961 with his first club, Udinese, Zoff spent time with Mantova (1963-67) and Napoli (1967-72) before finally landing at Juventus, where he would establish himself as Italy's greatest goalkeeper. With Zoff in goal, the Bianconeri won six Scudettos between 1973 and 1982, as well as two Coppa Italia trophies (1979, 1983) and the UEFA Cup (1977). His greatest achievement, however, came with the Italian national team.

He received his first cap in 1968 while he was still with Napoli, but while the team won that year's European Championship, Zoff was not selected for the 1970 World Cup. After his move to Juve, he established himself as an Azzurri stalwart. After a disappointing first-round exit in 1974, Italy finished in fourth place for the 1978 World Cup, followed by another fourth-place finish in the 1980 European Championship.

Zoff captained Italy for the 1982 World Cup, guiding them to their third title with a 3-1 win over West Germany in the Final. Along the way, they had to pass through the second-round "group of death" with Argentina and Brazil, but the Azzurri won both of those matches to eliminate the South American powers.

He retired from playing in 1983, then joined Juventus as a coach. In 1988, he took the reins as manager, but was unsuccessful, getting sacked by his old club in 1990. After several brief spells at Lazio (1990-94, 1996-97, 2001), and one with the Azzurri (1998-2000), he made his last stop as manager of Fiorentina (2005), before retiring from the sport for good.

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