David Tenenbaum Date:2nd June 2012 at 9:15am
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While Cesare Prandelli and his Azzurri squad prepare for the upcoming European Championships, Prandelli can at least take solace in the fact that he is bringing seven Juventus players with him.

This is because Juventus and the Azzurri have historically been linked together, with “golden eras” for club and country intertwining.

Perhaps the legend of ItalJuve started on a June night in Rome, back in 1934. The Azzurri were facing the Czechoslovakian National Team in the finals of that year’s World Cup.

Italian coach Vittorio Pozzo started five Juventus players (Luigi Bertolini, Luis Monti, Giovanni Ferrari, Raimundo Morsi, and goalkeeper Gianpero Combi) in that match, and Italy went on to win, coming back from a 1-0 deficit with an 81st minute goal by Morsi and an extra time winner from Bologna striker Angelo Schiavio.

That group of Juventus players, along with a few others who didn’t start in that match but featured for the national team during that era, would then earn the moniker “Nazio-Juve.” Many of these players would feature for Juventus during their run of five consecutive Scudetti from 1930 to 1935.

Years later, during Il Ciclo Leggendario in the ’70s and early ’80s, many Juventus players contributed to the Azzuri sides that reached the semi-finals in the European Championships of 1980 and the 1978  World Cup.

This side would then win the 1982 World Cup, on the heels of the Totonero match fixing scandal which saw AC Milan and Lazio relegated. One of the key figures in that scandal was Paolo Rossi, banned from Calcio for three years (later reduced to two) for his involvement in Totonero while with Perugia.

It was Rossi, months before a move to Juventus, who won the Golden Boot at that ’82 World Cup, with six goals. His goal scoring sparked a run of great form for a team that limped through the group stages before storming through the elimination rounds.

Of course, the famous goal from the 1982 World Cup did not belong to Paolo Rossi, but to Juventus midfield Marco Tardelli whose game clinching second goal in the final against West Germany was followed by a legendary celebratory scream.

Tardelli was joined by several other Juve players who were stars of the squad, including the legendary goalkeeper Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile (who gained wide acclaim for his successful man marking against Diego Maradona), Antonio Cabrini, and the late, great Gaetano Scirea.

That group, much like their 1930s forerunners, earned a nickname. This time, instead of “Nazio-Juve” they were called “Blocco Juventus.”

Twenty-four years later, Italy would once again win the World Cup with five players contracted to Juve suiting up for the Azzuri. Gianlucca Zambrotta, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Del Piero, Mauro Camoranesi, and Gianluigi Buffon constituted the Juventus delegation to the national side.

Again the Juventus players played a key role, with Cannavaro and Zambrotta making up two of the seven Italian selected to the all World Cup squad. Buffon would also receive that honor, but more importantly, he won the Yashin award for best goal keeper after manning Italy through a victory in penalty kicks in the final.

Then there is the coach for that 2006 side. Marcello Lippi did not start his coaching career at Juventus, but it’s where he found his greatest success. In fact, Lippi resigned from Juventus to take the Azzurri head coaching spot.

Let us not forget that three out of the four World Cup victories by the Azzurri have been preceded by Juventus winning the Scudetto.

The 1933-’34,’ 81-’82, and ’05-’06 Scudetto victories were followed by success for the Azzurri in the World Cups. With the 1938 victory, happening after a season Juventus did not win the Scudetto, featured the “Blocco-Juve” group.

Indeed, even when Italy are not winning, Juventus are heavy suppliers of playing talent. Juve have provided 133 players to the national side over the years, 23 of those players have served as Italy’s captain at one point or another (including current captain Buffon). Finally, 51 different Juventus players have scored a total of 251 goals for Italy. Del Piero, with 27 goals scored, has the most international goals for an Italian Juve player.

This year, Prandelli has called up Gianluigi Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini, Leo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli, Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio, and Emanuele Giaccherini. Buffon, Chiellini, Bonucci, and Barzagli constitute most of the members of Serie A’s best defense, while Pirlo was arguably the best player in Serie A this season.

All seven are reigning champions of Italy, and if history is any guide, this Juve “blocco” plus the recent Juventus triumph should foreshadow another triumph for the Azzurri.

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