The summer of 1982 was a fine time to be a Juventus fan, as a 20th Serie A title had taken them into the European Cup again.
The 1982-83 vintage of Juventus, then, was a heady one as they embarked on a European Cup campaign lauded as one of the favourites for the trophy.
They made easy work of Danish side Hvidovre in the first round before a tougher test against Standard Liege in the second; a couple of Paolo Rossi goals in the home leg were enough to ensure a quarter-final meeting with reigning champions Aston Villa.
Rossi headed the Bianconeri into the lead at Villa Park after just 38 seconds, and though Gordan Cowans equalised early in the second half, a fabulous piece of interplay between Michel Platini and Zbigniew Boniek put the Pole through to secure a 2-1 win.
Platini was the difference in the return fixture, though it was a horrible error from Nigel Spink that put Juventus on the way to a 3-1 win to see them through.
After a 2-0 win in the semi-final against Boniek’s former side Widzew Lodz, the 2-2 in Poland brought a final in Athens with Hamburg, winners of the previous season’s UEFA Cup.
The Italian side looked the more likely winners — their side featured many with the experience of winning the World Cup against Germany the previous summer and their signings had further added to those players.
Many of the Bianconeri side that lined up that night went on to become legends: Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Sergio Brio, Gaetano Scirea, Massimo Bonini, Marco Tardelli, Platini, Boniek, Rossi and Roberto Bettega.
As was expected, they started the game well, with Bettega stooping to fire a header that Uli Stein scrambled to force wide.
Just a few minutes into the contest, however, Felix Magath found himself with the ball at his feet around 30 yards from goal.
After advancing a little and selling an exquisite dummy to win some space, he fired a rocket of a shot from the corner of the area that flew past the watching Zoff and into the top-right corner of the net.
Against the team of all talents, Hamburg led.
The Germans pressed for a second, nearly extending their lead when right-back Manfred Kaltz drilled a shot at goal, which Boniek did well to turn away as it looked set to crash against the woodwork.
Juventus couldn’t get going, finding Hamburg difficult to break down. As a result, their efforts at goal were often scrappy or, on the rare occasions they did fashion anything of note, found a Stein in fine form. He notably punched away a fizzing Cabrini volley towards the end of the first period that would have changed the complexion of the game.
As it was, the second half followed a similar pattern. Juventus toiled in their attempts to break down Ernst Happel’s side, with neither Platini nor Boniek able to exert the same level of influence as Magath. When they were able to create chances, Stein was more than equal to them.
It was symptomatic of that struggle that Paolo Rossi, who had scored six times on the Bianconeri’s road to Athens, was removed with less than an hour gone. His replacement Domenico Marocchino scarcely fared any better, and by then Platini was reduced to remonstrating with the referee for a penalty after colliding with Stein; it felt as though the dice was cast.
Even in the dying embers of the match, Hamburg were able to pick their way through Juventus’ back-line and probably should have added a second goal to seal the game. As it was, one was enough, and the big-spending Bianconeri were left to wonder what might have been as their wait for a European Cup went on.
La Stampa condemned the returning side, detailing deficiencies in Juventus’ attack, which lacked both pace and strength as they struggled to cope with their role of favourites.
Perhaps worst of all, despite losing twice to Juventus, Roma rather ran away with the 1982-83 Scudetto. Second place meant that Platini and co. would have a full season to lick their wounds in the UEFA Cup instead of resuming battle in the more prestigious trophy.
By the summer of 1983, the optimism of 1982 had dissipated. Soundly beaten, Juventus failed when it had mattered, and would have to rebuild.