Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Giancarlo Rinaldi On August - 26 - 2011

When Zico And Platini Slugged It Out In Udine

It just might be Serie A’s answer to a cold night at the Britannia Stadium. An icy December day at the Stadio Friuli is the kind of test that a pundit might think would be a step too far for a star foreign player, particularly a boy from Brazil. But, back in the 1980s, there was one golden player ready to prove them wrong.

This was a time when the frontiers had not long reopened to Stranieri and Italy was plucking the very best of the crop. It is hard not to feel a certain nostalgia, and jealousy, for an era when the footballing world revolved around the peninsula. Nothing signalled this more than Zico’s arrival in Udine.

The little Bianconeri have never been the biggest club in the country. Heck, they have rarely been the most significant side in its north east corner. But they were still able to lure one of the finest footballers of his generation to come and ply his trade for a brief, magical moment in their history.

Out in the provinces, it is always a special occasion when Juventus come to town. There are plenty of other major sides in the country but nobody quite gets the combative juices flowing like a visit from the big Bianconeri. If you are going to take just one scalp a season, you’d like to be trimming La Vecchia Signora’s fringe.

When those Turin giants come with Michel Platini in their ranks, the desire to take them down a peg or two is even greater. In the early 1980s, Le Roi reigned supreme across European football. What better feeling than to show your skills were a match for one of the finest in the business?

Their clash on 11 December 1983 was a chance to renew a World Cup duel seen in Spain a year earlier. Paolo Rossi lined up for Juve with Zico in the ranks for Udinese. It had been Pablito who got the better of the Brazilian in one of the greatest games international football had ever seen. But would the same situation be repeated in their club colours?

The South American star looked puffed up to twice his normal size before kick-off – but that was simply down to the number of layers of clothing he had on. “I have had a cold,” he sniffed to touchline reporters. “So I have got to be careful. But once the game starts I’ll take all this stuff off.”

First blood, however, went to Rossi. With typical penalty box precision he popped up to tap in a cross from the right wing from close range. He wheeled away from goal in a celebration reminiscent of his glory days back at the Mondiale in Spain.

But this was not an Udinese side to take defeat lying down. Inspired by the odd touch from Zico, they equalised in a most un-Brazilian manner. Defender Dino Galparoli rose to meet a corner kick and his looping header stunned Luciano Bodini, making a rare appearance in the Juve goal, when it dropped over his head and into the net to level the scores.

Worse was to come for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men as a packed Friuli roared its approval for the effort being shown by their favourites. Two ex-Juventini then combined to put the home side ahead. Club legend Franco Causio swung a lovely cross in from the right and it was met by Pietro Virdis to nod the ball home. “I’ve been threatening to score for a couple of weeks,” said the expert striker at half time. “Let’s hope it is the first of many.”

The visitors had other ideas and their coach decided to shuffle his pack in the second half. Bringing midfielder Beniamino Vignola on for Nicola Caricola proved to be the move that turned the game. He started to take control of Juve’s rhythm and gradually gave them the upper hand.

It was from the little Italian’s boots that the equaliser was ultimately born. He linked up beautifully with Platini to send a defence-splitting pass into the Frenchman’s path. It was not the kind of opportunity he was likely to pass up and he scooped the ball over the goalkeeper into the net to make it 2-2.

That was how the game would finish but not before Zico had done his best to secure victory for his side. First a close range header was easily saved and then a trademark free-kick stretched Bodini to the full. He may not have found the goal in this particular game but the Brazilian tried everything in his power to influence the outcome in his team’s favour.

It said much about the quality of Udinese’s play that fellow Brazilian Edinho looked disappointed with the final result when he trudged off the pitch. “When we are playing in Udine, we can’t settle for a draw,” he said. “But in the first half we were a bit afraid of Juve, maybe a draw is a fair result for both sides.”

Platini, for his part, seemed frustrated at how inconsistent his team had been. “When we are ahead we have problems, but when we go behind we play brilliantly,” he said. “After we equalised we sat back and we were in trouble. But a point is always something.”

It would be enough to build another Scudetto for Juve anyway as they marched on to the title, seeing off Roma by just a couple of points. It was a tougher season for Udinese but they still finished respectably midtable with Zico chipping in an outstanding 19 goals – only to be denied the top scorer’s crown by a single goal by Platini. And, on a freezing day in north eastern Italy, they had both proved that star players can always shine – no matter what the weather and location for a match might be.

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