June 17, 1970. At Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, Italy and Germany faced off in the semi-finals of the soccer World Cup.
It was a clash of titans. Italy, European champions, against Germany, World Cup runners up. Both teams had great players. Germany's lineup included talented sweeper Franz Beckenbauer and relentless striker Gerd Müller. Italy's team had powerful forward Luigi Riva and playmaker Gianni Rivera, Golden Ball 1969. Both teams needed a win to play in the World Cup final.
Italy began the game aggressively. Eight minutes in, the ball rebounded off the post. Forward Roberto Boninsegna found the ball on his left, giving it a masterful kick that goalkeeper Sepp Maier was powerless to stop.1 - 0. Italy was in the lead. Germany, skillfully directed by Beckenbauer, was forced to attack. Italian goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi and his defenders managed to resist the German onslaught. In the second half, Beckenbauer hurt his shoulder and toned down his play. It looked like victory for Italy. Just after the 90° minute mark, however, defender Karl-Heinz Schnellinger fought back. In a last, desperate attack, the German player rammed the ball past goalie Albertosi. 1 - 1, the match went into overtime.
94 minutes into the game, the Italian defense dithered over the ball which remained free for a few crucial seconds in front of the goal post. Müller took advantage of this fatal distraction by swooping in to score. 2 - 1 for the Germans: now the Italians were behind. Four minutes later, Rivera took a free kick. This time, Germans made a mistake. Italian defender Tarcisio Burgnich exploited it. 2 - 2. In just a few minutes, the score changed again. Riva got around Schnellinger and netted another goal.
3 - 2. The German team did not give up hope of victory after playing for 110 minutes. Müller soon settled the score with another goal. 3 - 3. Rivera's faulty defense was responsible for the point. Goalkeeper Albertosi told his teammate off but Rivera made up for his mistake a few seconds later. Italy got back on top of the game. Boninsegna outran an opponent and volleyed the ball to Rivera in the penalty area. Rivera's intuition told him Maier would dive left so he aimed right and scored. 4 - 3. Now the game was finally over.
Italy won. Germany, even though defeated, held their heads high. Sports fans around world still fondly remember this epic match between Italy and Germany. At Mexico's Azteca stadium, a plaque was hung to commemorate soccer's Game of the Century.