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Omar Sivori. At the right, John Charles
Chilean World Cup in 1962: Sivori, a rebel with a divine right foot
SERIE A STARS IN THE WORLD CUP Chile's World Cup is still remembered in Italy for "the battle of Santiago", when the Azzurri were beaten up by the host team. Sivori was the most talented player of that side
by Federico Formica
The 1962 World Cup was maybe the worst ever in terms of quality and for the shameless way the host team – Chile - was helped by the referees. As always occorred, the choice of the host country sparked endless debates. Argentina expected to be chosen, but, once more, it received a slap from FIFA which preferred Chile. Two years before the World Cup the Andean state was shocked by the worst earthquake ever recorded. The country managed to recover miraculously (although two locations were manifestly inadequate) and to host the seventh Jules Rimet Cup. Sweden and France – who placed second and third respectively at Sweden '58 – were absent. Italy had a mediocre squad that year and didn't go far. But Chile '62, for Italians, means Italy-Chile, The Battle of Santiago.

The game was part of the group stage and was the most violent ever in a World Cup. Chilean player Leonel Sanchez laid the Italians Maschio and David out, without a yellow card being produced. The English referee, Ken Aston, favoured the home team in an unacceptable way. Aston also showed the red card to David and Ferrini for having reacted to Chilean provocation. Chile won 2-0. Italy was eliminated in the group stage with three points: one was obtained against West Germany, two (ultimately useless) points against Switzerland. Brazil won that World Cup thanks to a lack of credible opponents above all. The final with Czechoslovakia was a piece of cake for the South-American side, who played without their star Pelé, injured in the second game of the World Cup. Brazil won their second cup in a row, a feat that only Italy (in 1934 and 1938) was able to accomplish.


Omar Sivori, 1935-2005, 19 caps and 9 goals for Argentina, 9 caps and 8 goals for Italy. Sivori, alias el Cabezón (big head) was one the most talented footballers to have ever played in Serie A. He was Argentinian, then was naturalised Italian. Sivori had a glorious career with his clubs but was unlucky with the Azzurri, as the only World Cup he played was the ruinous Chile '62. At least he achieved satisfaction with the Albiceleste as he won the 1957 Copa América. El Cabezón's Italian career lasted 12 years, from 1957 to 1969. He wore Juventus' jersey for eight seasons and Napoli's for four. He was a fantastically gifted forward with irresistible dribbling, imaculate technique and a very developed instinct for goal: he scored 147 times in Serie A (135 for Juventus, 12 for Napoli) and was the top scorer in the 1959-60 season although he never was a pure striker.


The authentic striker in Sivori's Juventus was the Welsh John Charles, with Gianpiero Boniperti completing a wonderful attacking trio. That strong side won three Italian titles in 1957-58, 1959-60 and 1960-61. Sivori was immediately recognisable on the pitch and not only for his talent, his socks were always rolled down “...to show to my opponents that I wasn't afraid of them”, he said. At Napoli, he formed a fantastic duo with José Altafini, although his better days were already gone. Sivori also had some undeniable shortcomings. He didn't like to train and he loved to mock his opponents with dribblings and nutmegs, attracting fouls from his enraged opponents. Sivori was a bizarre guy, after having mocked the rival defender, Sivori didn't stand for any provocation and he could react violently. He managed to be banned for 33 games in Serie A alone. Thanks to his dual citizenship, Sivori could be voted for the European Ballon d'Or and he won it in 1961. Umberto Agnelli, who at that time was Juventus president, described that extraordinary mix of class and short temper in the best way: “Sivori è un vizio” (Sivori is a bad habit).

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