How Italy prepared for the 1990 FIFA World Cup bid

The 1990 FIFA World Cup™ was a watershed moment for Italian football. Having missed out on the final tournament in 1982 and 1986, Italy finally made it to the big stage by beating our bitter rivals France in a dramatic vote for the third time asking. It was no small achievement for a side that had failed to qualify on three separate occasions since failing to get past the qualifying round as hosts of UEFA Euro 1980. However, there were still plenty of challenges ahead for an Italian game that was still recovering from the after-effects of hooliganism, corruption, and match-fixing scandals that had rocked Serie A in 1984 and 1985. The road to the World Cup would be long and arduous with many twists and turns along the way. Here are some interesting facts about how Italy prepared for what became known as ‘La Calamita’ (The Calamity) due to its negative impact on Italian football.

The voting procedure

The voting procedure at FIFA congresses is always a bit of a mystery. In reality, the voting is usually determined by a combination of factors: the support of friends and/or allies, the amount of money promised to develop football, the importance of the voting country in the world of football, and how the delegates rank the bids. It is a highly complex voting system that is not easy to predict. The number of votes (and the way they are distributed) has never been made public. However, it seems that the voting procedure was changed slightly when it came to awarding the 1990 FIFA World Cup. This was the first occasion on which FIFA was voting on the awarding of two world cups at the same time. At the previous voting events, the world cup hosts for 1974, 1978, and 1982 had been decided. By 1990, it was more important for FIFA to decide on a host for both 1990 and 1994. So, at the voting congress in July 1988, each country was allowed to vote for either a 1990 or 1994 host or both. In other words, each country was given two votes instead of one.

The English are coming!

After the failure to make it to Spain in 1982 and 1986, Italy’s fortunes changed when the FIGC formed a Technical Commission in 1988 to prepare for the 1990 World Cup in Italy. The commission was chaired by journalist Gianni Brera and included several notable figures such as 1982 World Cup-winning manager Azeglio Vicini, former president of the FIGC Franco Scoglio, vice-president of the FIGC Franco Carraro, former Juventus and Inter Milan manager Giovanni Trapattoni, Inter Milan Director General Luciano Moggi and AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani. The commission’s most important decision was to appoint Englishman Bobby Robson as the new manager of the Italy team. The appointment of the former England manager was surprising to some observers who expected the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) to appoint a manager from within Italy. The appointment was also criticized by sections of the Italian media who accused Robson of being obsessed with playing the long ball.

The Meridian of Italy: a school for coaches

A significant advance in the development of Italian coaches and players was the creation of the Football Coaches’ School (now a branch of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC)). Italy was one of the first countries to set up such a center and it was initially located in Coverciano, a small town 50km (31 miles) Southwest of Florence. The School became a compulsory coaching education and training center for all coaches of FIGC affiliated clubs. This was a major step forward in the development of Italian football, and a decision that was strongly supported by the FIGC Technical Commission which wanted to create a “Meccanica del Calcio” (Footballing Machine) by focusing on the coaches.

All roads lead to Rome… and Milan

The FIGC decided to build a new National Football Centre (CNS) in Coverciano near Florence and hired FIFA Technical Advisor Michel Rhodet to draw up plans for the new construction. Rhodet designed a state-of-the-art facility that was a modern-day incarnation of the great Olympic centers of the past. Coverciano was built on the site of a former military academy situated on the banks of Lake Orcia and was inaugurated in 1990 with a visit from FIFA President João Havelange. Rhodet also designed the three football pitches at Coverciano so that they could be used for any type of football and any age group.


Italy’s preparations for the 1990 FIFA World Cup were far from ideal. The decision to draw up different squads for the North and South of Italy was both controversial and heavily criticized. The training sessions at Coverciano were also closed to the media and the general public. This meant that Italians had little knowledge of what was happening behind closed doors and could only sit back and wait for the results to come in. The Italians were up against a tough group but they turned it around by beating Argentina and Uruguay in their final two matches to finish second. They had reached their objective and were now ready for the main event, the FIFA World Cup 1990.