As we technically should be in an international window, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the best moments for Roma players on Azzurri duty through the years. Roma may not have the same bevy of stars that have featured for the Azzurri like the wealthy clubs of Italy’s industrial north, but that’s what makes it so special when a Roma-man is an integral part of the Italy set up.
Back in 2006, when Italy last hoisted a major trophy, three members of the Giallorossi were part of Marcello Lippi’s 23 man squad. There was hard working midfielder Simone Perrotta, the up and coming Daniele De Rossi, and the King of Rome, Francesco Totti. However, that trio was very nearly a duet missing its biggest star.
Leading up to that tournament, disaster struck the Roma captain. In a mid-February match against Empoli, Totti was fouled by Richard Vanigli, fracturing his left fibula and injuring ligaments in the ankle. With less than four months to the start of the tournament, it looked like Totti would miss the World Cup entirely.
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However, Marcello Lippi had no interest in depriving himself of one of the peninsula’s most influential players. The Italian CT gave Totti every opportunity to make it back in time. And through the combination of a metal plate and Totti rehabbing like hell, Er Pupone made it back in the nick of time.
Once Italy arrived in Germany for the tournament, Totti proved to be as integral as Lippi had hoped he would be. Thanks to the injury, Totti may not have been at full fitness, but that didn’t make him any less effective or important to the squad. On the aforementioned surgically repaired ankle, Totti appeared in all seven matches and even played all 120 minutes in the epic semifinal victory over host Germany.
However, the most memorable image of Totti from the tournament came in the only match he didn’t start. In the Round of 16 against Australia, the Azzurri played down a man for almost the whole second half. In a scoreless match, Lippi brought on Totti with his last roll of the dice in the 75th minute for Alessandro Del Piero.
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Lippi looked to the Roma man as a supersub. His side needed a late goal that would avoid playing 30 more minutes short-handed. And Totti did just that.
Never one to turn down a penalty, Totti stepped to the spot; cool, calm, and collected. As he waited to take the kick, the camera zoomed in on Totti’s ice blue eyes and there was no doubt that he would bury it. Totti stared down Aussie keeper Mark Schwarzer before drilling the penalty upper 90.
Although Totti only scored once in the tournament, it was far from his only contribution to the Azzurri triumph. During the seven matches, Totti contributed four assists, which was tied for the tournament lead. His combination of one goals and four assists meant Totti had the most direct involvement in Azzurri goals of any player in the tournament.
For his effort, Totti was not only rewarded with the opportunity to lift the World Cup trophy, but also a place in the team of the tournament. It was certainly a tournament to remember for Totti and the Azzurri. One that cemented his Azzurri legacy.
After a checkered past that saw his last two major international tournaments end in disgrace—a red card in South Korea at World Cup 2002 and run in with Christian Poulsen at Euro 2004—Totti was vindicated, just as their World Cup triumph saw Italian football vindicated after calciopoli scandal.
After reaching the pinnacle of international competition, Totti rode off into the sunset a champion, calling it an Azzurri career just shy of his 30th birthday.