Farewell to a legend – Look back at Pirlo’s top five moments from his 116 Italy caps

 

Andrea Pirlo has officially confirmed his retirement from football, so we take a look back at his best moments from his 116 Italy caps.

The midfielder sits fourth on the all-time list for most caps, behind only Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro and Paolo Maldini, though Daniele De Rossi will surpass him on his next appearance.

The regista won the World Cup in 2006, and has been a decisive player for the Azzurri throughout his career.

Despite having played a starring role as Italy won the Under-21 European Championship in 2000, as well as the Olympic bronze medal in 2004, Pirlo initially struggled to break into the Italy side.

Eventually CT Giovanni Trapattoni bowed to public pressure to give the youngster a more prominent role in the team, and it paid dividends in a World Cup qualifier with Scotland at San Siro.

The Scots had just appointed Walter Smith as their new manager, and the former Rangers boss came to Milan intent on securing a 0-0 draw.

Against visitors who showed no inclination to break forward, the Azzurri were struggling to break through, until Alberto Gilardino was fouled on the edge of the box.

With Scotland goalkeeper Rab Douglas about to be substituted through injury, Pirlo curled one of his trademark free-kicks over the wall and into the back of the net.

Not satisfied with beating one goalkeeper, the midfielder added a second on 85 minutes to truly announce himself as an international player.

Pirlo scored Italy’s first goal of the victorious 2006 World Cup campaign, and did so in spectacular fashion.

The Milan midfielder picked the ball up on the edge of the box, with just five minutes to go until half-time.

Pirlo took a quick look up, before wrapping his right foot around the ball and firing it into the far corner.

Vincenzo Iaquinta added a late second, but it was Pirlo’s goal which really set the Azzurri on their way.

One of the most famous moments in recent Azzurri history is the 118th minute goal by Fabio Grosso which finally broke the deadlock in the World Cup semi-final against Germany.

As he so often was, Pirlo was the architect of the goal.

Alessandro Del Piero’s corner was only partially cleared, and fell to Pirlo just inside the D. After taking a few touches, the regista feinted to pass the ball back out wide, before cutting it through the German defence in the opposite direction.

The ball fell to Grosso, and the rest is history.

Pirlo was also instrumental in the final, providing the corner from which Marco Materazzi opened the scoring and scoring the first penalty in the shoot-out; something he recalled memorably in his autobiography, ‘I Think, Therefore I Play’.

“I lifted my eyes to the heavens and asked for help because if God exists, there’s no way he’s French,” Pirlo recounted.

“I took a long, intense breath. That breath was mine, but it could have been the manual worker who struggles to make it to the end of the month, the rich businessman, the teacher, the student, the Italian expats who never left our side during the tournament, the well-to-do Milanese signora, the hooker on the street corner. In that moment, I was all of them.”

At Euro 2012, England achieved the notable distinction of being thrashed 0-0.

Cesare Prandelli’s Italy dominated for 120 minutes, with Pirlo running the show from midfield, making more passes himself than the entire English midfield combined.

The Azzurri couldn’t make the breakthrough though, and the match went to penalties.

Riccardo Montolivo missed the second spot kick, giving the Three Lions an early advantage.

As ever though, Pirlo was the coolest man on the pitch as he stepped up to face Joe Hart.

The England goalkeeper stuck his tongue out and danced on his line, but Pirlo simply dinked the ball down the middle, as Hart went sprawling to his right.

Some might suggest the ‘keeper never really recovered.

What could be better for a footballer than playing in the Maracana? How about winning your 100th cap while doing so?

Not good enough? Throw in scoring with a glorious free-kick and you’ve got Pirlo’s game against Mexico in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

With 27 minutes played, Pirlo pulled rank on Mario Balotelli and thumped a free-kick right into the top corner, past the despairing dive of Guillermo Ochoa.

It was his 13th and, it turned out, final goal for his country, and Pirlo certainly signed off in some style.

Log in or Register to save this content for later.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *