Italy’s 1982 World Cup triumph had at times seemed like a one man Rossi show. They had started the tournament poorly with three draws and only just squeezed through to the second group stage. But then the team sprang into life. Coach Enzo Bearzot banned any contact with the press and the outside world and it paid dividends, bringing the group closer together.
In the second round they beat defending champions Argentina 2-1, but needed to beat Brazil to qualify for the semi-finals. “We weren’t afraid of Argentina or Brazil,” Rossi stated, “although I think that the Brazilian team of 1982 was one of the best in the history of football.” That match against Brazil has gone down as perhaps one of the greatest in the history of the World Cup.
Rossi opened the scoring. “To me the first goal was the most important one, the one that let me open up. I had not scored in that World Cup before, and to me the first one was the one that broke the ice. I felt liberated.” Brazil equalised. Rossi put Italy back in front again. Brazil equalised again, only for Rossi to score the winner and complete his hat trick. “After the match with Brazil we felt really strong. We believed that we would beat any team we faced, because that was a magic period… extraordinary.” And he was right.
With his performance, Rossi even impressed the referee of the game, Abraham Klein from Israel. Klein stated: “On the field I met a humble player, who never argued with the referees. His abilities were manifested in the marvellous 90 minutes on the grass field. In my judgement Paolo was one of the greatest football players ever.” Klein himself took away a very special souvenir from the match: The original matchball. This ball is now on display at the FIFA Museum after Klein donated it to the FIFA Museum in 2017 together with several other objects from his personal collection.