Paolo Rossi: Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero dies aged 64

Paolo Rossi

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Paolo Rossi scored six goals for Italy in their victorious 1982 World Cup campaign in Spain which earned him the Ballon d’Or later that year; UEFA confirm a minute’s silence to be held ahead of games on Thursday for the former Juventus and AC Milan striker

By Reuters

Thursday 10 December 2020

Paolo Rossi, the star of Italy’s victorious 1982 World Cup campaign, has died at the age of 64.

His passing was announced on Wednesday evening by Italy’s state TV channel RAI Sport, where Rossi had been working as a pundit.

“Such terribly sad news: Paolo Rossi has left us,” RAI Sport presenter Enrico Varriale tweeted.

“Unforgettable Pablito, who made all of us fall in love in that summer of 1982 and who was a precious and competent work colleague in RAI over recent years.”

Image: Rossi scored six goals at the 1982 World Cup as Italy won their third title

Rossi’s wife, Federica Cappelletti, posted a photo of herself and her husband on Instagram along with the words “per sempre” – “forever”.

She later posted a picture of him alongside their three children on Facebook and captioned: “There will never be anyone like you, unique, special, after you sheer nothingness.”

Rossi won two Serie A titles, a European Cup and a Coppa Italia during his playing career but will be most fondly remembered for his six goals at the 1982 World Cup in Spain – where his exploits earned him the endearing nickname “Pablito”.

After failing to score in the opening four games of the tournament, Rossi netted a hat-trick in Italy’s iconic 3-2 win over Brazil in the second group stage, a match considered one of the greatest in World Cup history.

Italy topped a group containing the Brazilians as well as Diego Armando Maradona’s Argentina and progressed to the semi-finals, where Rossi scored two more goals in a 2-0 win over Poland.

The former Juventus and AC Milan striker opened the scoring in the final too as Italy beat West Germany 3-1 to claim their third World Cup – and their first since 1938.

He was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1982, becoming only the third Italian to win the award at the time.

Born in Prato, Tuscany, Rossi played his entire club career in Italy. He was banned for three years in 1980 as part of the “Totonero” match-fixing scandal but always denied any wrongdoing.

The ban was later reduced to two years, allowing him to return to the Italy squad ahead of the victorious 1982 World Cup campaign, where he was called up by head coach Enzo Bearzot ahead of Serie A top scorer Roberto Pruzzo.

He also scored three goals at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, and with a total of nine goals, he remains Italy’s joint-highest scorer at the World Cup with Roberto Baggio and Christian Vieri.

UEFA say a moment of silence will be held ahead of all Europa League matches on Thursday to remember Rossi.

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