Andrea Pirlo was the difference between Italy and England Saturday night but that’s not unusual for the Italian genius. The midfield playmaker is known for his technical ability, pin point passes and outstanding vision on the pitch which has already allowed him to help his country to World Cup triumph in 2006 and is only benefiting Italy so far in this year’s competition. Let’s look back on Pirlo’s rise to legendary status and his role in Italy’s success in 2006.
Pirlo began his career for his local side Brescia in 1995 where he managed to make 47 appearances and score six goals for the first team before moving to Inter Milan. Pirlo didn’t impress too much at Inter as he only made 22 appearances and never managed to score for the side which resulted in him being sent out on loan twice.
In his first loan spell at Reggina in 1999 he scored 6 goals in 28 appearances and he then returned to Brescia on loan for a short spell where he only managed to play in ten games. In 2001, Pirlo made a move to Inter’s rivals AC Milan where he began to improve as a player and become one of the greatest playmakers in Europe. Pirlo quickly became a constant figure in the AC Milan side and during his time there he made 284 appearances and scored 32 goals.
During his 284 appearances for AC Milan he won two Champions League titles, two Serie A titles, two Super Cups and one Coppa Italia. Pirlo also experienced his lowest career moment while with AC Milan as his side were on the losing side of Liverpool’s miracle in Istanbul in 2005.
Unfortunately for Pirlo, he also missed a penalty in the shoot-out as his weak attempt was saved by Jerzy Dudek. Pirlo felt as though this was such a huge blow to his career that he even stated that he thought about retiring after this game as he said,
“I no longer felt like a player. Insomnia, rage, depression and a sense of nothingness. We’d invented a new disease with multiple symptoms: Istanbul Syndrome.”
It has to be said that it shows the true character of the man as he came from this massive low in his career to go on to win the World Cup with his country the following year and then to defeat Liverpool in the 2007 Champions League final. In 2011, Pirlo made a shock move to Juventus in 2011 where he has won three consecutive Serie A titles with his side.
Pirlo worked his way up the ranks for the Italian national side as he captained the under 21 side to a European Championship early in his career. Pirlo then went on to represent Italy in the 2004 Athens Olympics where his side managed to achieve a bronze medal. Pirlo made his first appearance for Italy after impressive form for AC Milan and his debut came in 2002.
The midfield magician’s international highlight came in the World Cup in 2006 where he played a major role for his country. In fact, his role in Italy’s success began before the competition as he scored two free-kicks in a game against Scotland which helped the Italians qualify for the World Cup in Germany.
Pirlo then carried this fantastic form into Group E of the competition where Italy had to face Ghana, USA and the Czech Republic. Italy and Pirlo began the competition on the right foot by beating Ghana 2-0 in their opening game where Pirlo scored the opening goal with a low shot from long range which he perfectly placed in the bottom right corner.
The midfield maestro impressed again in a shock 1-1 draw against the USA as he assisted a Gilardino goal with a 22nd minute free kick. The Italians should have won this game but were sloppy in defence which resulted in an Italian own goal and an equaliser for the USA. Italy finished top of Group E by beating the Czech Republic 2-0 through Materazzi and Inzaghi goals but Pirlo still impressed by dominating in the Italian midfield.
In the round of 16, Italy were drawn against Australia and it turned out to be quite a dull game where the Italians turned out to be complacent. A late Francesco Totti penalty put the Italians through to the quarter finals where they faced the Ukraine.
Italy and Pirlo destroyed the Ukraine with two Luca Toni goals and a Zambrotta goal that put the Italians into the semi-final. Pirlo made a name for himself in the semi-final against Germany as it was his vision and outstanding passing ability that turned out to be the difference between the two sides. The game ended 0-0 after 90 minutes but Germany began to look tired in extra-time and Pirlo used that to his advantage as he cut through the German defence to pick out Fabio Grosso who slotted home.
This moment seemed to kill off the Germans and then Del Piero confirmed Italy’s place in the final by scoring in the 121st minute.
Italy faced France in the final and fell behind after Zidane put his side ahead but Pirlo stepped up to resurrect the Italians by delivering a perfectly placed corner kick for Materazzi to head home. Pirlo was fantastic for the Italians and put on one of his best performances for his country but unfortunately for the playmaker, his performance was overshadowed by a Zidane headbutt on Materazzi.
This controversial moment didn’t phase Pirlo though and the game finished 1-1 after full time and extra-time. The classy midfielder then stepped up to score Italy’s first penalty in the shootout as they went on to win the shoot-out 5-3 after a David Trezeguet miss.
This was Italy’s fourth World Cup title and Pirlo was also named man of the match. Italy’s World Cup run made the football world appreciate the technical ability and the genius that is Andrea Pirlo who according to Marcello Lippi,
“Pirlo is a silent leader. He speaks with his feet.”
Pirlo was selected again for Italy in the World Cup in 2010 but it was nowhere near as impressive as their run in the 2006 competition. They were drawn in Group F with Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand where they crashed out of the competition by finishing bottom of the group with only two points.
Andrea Pirlo didn’t start in any of these group games and only featured as a substitute in their 3-2 loss to Slovakia due to an unfortunate left calf injury. The disappointment of the 2010 competition will inspire Pirlo to make an impact in this year’s competition and with three points already on the board while having to face an underperforming Uruguay side and underdogs Costa Rica, the Italians look set to get out of their group.
What other magic does ‘Pirlinho’ have in store for the competition?
More of this we hope:
Sarah Fitzpatrick, Pundit Arena.