Italy recovered from a missed penalty shot and scored three goals in the second half tonight at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to defeat West Germany, 3-1, for the World Cup soccer championship.
Italy's Paolo Rossi, who had five tournament goals going into tonight's final, further endeared himself to his countrymen by opening the scoring in the 57th minute.
That goal, from a man who only nine weeks ago completed a two-year suspension for his role in a 1980 game-fixing scandal, was critical in earning Italy its first Cup since 1938. The win also allowed Italy to join Brazil as the only three-time champion. Italy also won the Cup in 1934.
Marco Tardelli scored the eventual game-winner in the 59th minute and veteran Alessandro Altobelli ended any hope for a German comeback with a goal with nine minutes remaining. West Germany's Paul Breitner took advantage of a poor Italian clearing kick and made it 3-1 with seven minutes left, but it was too late to affect the outcome.
After the Italians finished with their initial celebrations on the field in front of the sellout crowd of 95,000, their captain, 40-year-old goalie Dino Zoff, led the team up to the guest-of-honor's box to receive the World Cup trophy from Spain's King Juan Carlos. Then Zoff and his teammates took the traditional victory lap around the stadium, the Cup held aloft for all to see.
"If you cannot tell it from my face," said Italian Coach Enzo Bearzot, "it's the greatest day of my life in football."
Neither Zoff nor his opposite number, Harald Schumacher, was particularly challenged in the first half, although Italy was awarded a penalty kick in the 24th minute when Hans-Peter Briegel brought down Bruno Conti three yards in front of Schumacher.
Antonio Cabrini took the kick but it was wide to Schumacher's left. It was the first missed penalty shot in a World Cup championship game.
The botched shot typified the ragged and somewhat rugged play throughout, with both teams committing a number of cheap fouls and five players being warned about rough play by Brazilian referee Arnaldo Coelho.
After the game, German defender Uli Stielike said Coelho "cheated us," but he refused to elaborate on the charge.
The missed penalty kick seemed to pick up the West Germans, who then launched several attacks, but with no effect.
"When you miss a penalty, it obviously causes problems, not just for the man who misses but for the team as a whole," Bearzot said. "But luckily the player responsible was supported by the other players, and this put the Italian team on the rails again."
Generally, the Germans were the more aggressive team in the first half, mostly coming down the right side, with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Wolfgang Dremmler trying short-pass combinations. On one occasion, Rummenigge outmaneuvered three opponents and sent a crossing pass over to the left, but Klaus Fischer was unable to reach it.
"I still cannot believe it," Fischer said later. "I was so close to becoming a world champion . . . this will be only a dream now."
Unlike their last two games, the West Germans had numerous offensive drives ended by lazy passes in midfield.
The Italians stuck with their strategy of waiting in their half for an opportunity to begin a counterattack. They generally were cautious with those, too.
All that changed in the second half. The Germans had a good attack stopped by a foul in the first minute, and then Manfred Kaltz' hard free kick was stopped by Zoff.
Italy's counterattacks, meanwhile, were becoming more and more effective and, 12 minutes into the half, Rossi, named the tournament's most valuable player, scored his sixth goal of the tournament, making him the event's leading scorer. Defender Claudio Gentile had centered the ball, and three Italians--Rossi, Conti and Gabriele Oriale--charged into the area. Stielike tried unsuccessfully to clear the ball and Rossi lunged forward to head it in.
"Any team has a problem when Italy is ahead, 1-0, and this was a goal shot very quickly and very well," said German Coach Jupp Derwall. "After that goal, it was more difficult to get through the very strong and tight Italian defense. This is the reason why we lost."
West Germany tried to come back, but consistently was turned back by the Italian defense, which successfully bottled up Rummenigge and Pierre Littbarski, who had been one of the Germans' most effective attackers.
In the 66th minute, Rummenigge had a chance to score as the ball squirted loose in the goal area, and even got behind Zoff for a second, but the Italian defense was able to clear. A moment later, Zoff came out to cut off a ball from the right wing and the Italians then launched a counterattack that led to Tardelli's score, which was set up by Conti and Rossi.
The fouls began to mount, with Oriali and Stielike getting yellow cards after a shoving match near midfield, and the West Germans desperately tried to get on the scoreboard. Derwall substituted for Rummenigge, who was playing on a sore leg, bringing on Hansi Muller in an attempt to enliven the attack. But the Italians continued to apply pressure with their counterattacks.
Moments after Schumacher was forced to rush out and smother a long pass at Oriali's feet, Italy struck for the third time. Again Conti, Italy's strongest player tonight, made the play as he dribbled down the right side. Nobody challenged him, and he was able to shove an easy pass to Altobelli, who had no trouble beating Schumacher.
The Germans, looking worn out after their overtime semifinal win over France Thursday and demoralized by the three Italian goals, appeared to be out on their feet. But Breitner scored two minutes after Altobelli's goal, and his team had a faint hope for at least a few minutes.
The Italian victory was secured even though Bearzot was unable to use his playmaker, Giancarlo Antognoni, who was injured in Italy's semifinal win over Poland. Francesco Graziani, a fine striker, was replaced after only eight minutes as he aggravated an injury, which gave Altobelli a chance to share in the final glory.
The Germans also were trying for their third Cup victory. Instead, they suffered their first loss to another European team in more than four years, ending an unbeaten streak of 33 games.