Talking about his illustrious career as a footballer in his autobiography ‘I Think Therefore I Play’, Andrea Pirlo has shed some light on perhaps the most important moment in his career-taking that penalty in the 2006 World Cup finals.
The World Cup finale, which was perhaps most remembered as the game where Zidane head-butted France out of the tournament, was the most important moment in Andrea Pirlo’s career where he was asked to take the first penalty against Fabien Barthez in Berlin.
Being first on the spot, kicking off that torture in the biggest, most incredible game that a player can play or imagine.
That’s not necessarily good news. It means they think you’re the best, but it also means that if you miss, you’re the first on the list of d********.
Revisiting the game in his autobiography, Andrea Pirlo offers an exclusive insight into the psyche of a footballer called to lead his nation in a moment of reckoning. Pirlo revealed that despite his outward appearance and his reputation of being a calm player, he had to look towards heaven before taking the penalty, joking that God can never be French.
I lifted my eyes to the heavens and asked for help because if God exists, there’s no way he’s French.
The penalty, Andrea Pirlo believes, opened his eyes to his identity as an Italian. He believes that while walking up to take the penalty in Berlin, he realized how grateful he was to be born an Italian.
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 who is a bit of a s***, 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.
You won’t believe me, but it was right in that very moment I understood what a great thing it is to be Italian. It’s a truly priceless privilege.
The Italian also shed light on his penalty against Joe Hart at Euro 2012, the outrageous Panenka that left the English keeper utterly confused on the grass. Pirlo believes that the penalty was not an attempt to showboat but was a calculated decision based on Hart’s antics on the goal-line.
To be clear, I didn’t do a Francesco Totti against England at Euro 2012. Back at Euro 2000, against Holland, just before he went up to take his penalty Totti told captain Paolo Maldini that he was going to chip the keeper.
I made my decision at the last second when I saw Joe Hart doing all sorts on his line. As I began my run-up, I still hadn’t decided what to do. Then he moved and my mind was made up.
It was impromptu — the only way I could see of pushing my scoring chances close to 100 per cent. There was no showboating — that’s not my style.
The Italian made it clear that it was an impromptu decision to chip the ball down the middle and was not something he had practiced, as suggested by many reporters.
Many so-called experts perceived all manner of meanings in that episode. A secret desire for revenge; something I’d practised between games. Well, for one thing, we hardly trained towards the end of that tournament — the constant travelling between Poland and Ukraine ate into our time and energy.
Anyway, can you really plan something so far in advance? If you can, you’re either Totti, a clairvoyant or stupid.