On the occasion of Fabio Grosso’s birthday on November 28, FIFA.com looks back on the defender’s heyday, which earned Italy their fourth star by winning the FIFA World Cup , Germany 2006 in Berlin.
“Why me ?” Fabio Grosso remembers his reaction vividly when asked to shoot the famous penalty shot immortalized in this photo. The left-back knew he was not on the list of five designated shooters ahead of the 2006 FIFA World Cup ™ final, as Marcello Lippi opted for Pirlo, Materazzi, De Rossi, Del Piero and Totti. Even after the exit of Totti, replaced at the hour mark, other players seemed better suited to take on this heavy responsibility: Luca Toni, Vincenzo Iaquinta or even captain Fabio Cannavaro, to name just these three.
Grosso will later admit that he was “surprised” to be asked to shoot, he who had shot his last penalty five years earlier, while still playing in Serie C2, the fourth Italian tier. The fact is that before 2006, the defender had a very modest career. He had first defended the colors of Chieti in the lower divisions, before gradually imposing himself at the highest level under the jersey of Perugia and then Palermo.
Lippi’s response nonetheless rocketed: “Because you’re the man of the last minute,” exclaimed the coach, referring to the left-back goal scored late in the game against Germany in semi-final and the penalty he got in added time against Australia.
It could have been over before the fifth shot on goal, but fate decided otherwise. Grosso would once again be the providential man for Italy. The fourth Azzurri who had preceded him had not trembled, while the attempt by David Trezeguet, whose missed penalty had cost the 2003 UEFA Champions League to Juventus of… Lippi, hit the bar. “When Trezeguet got ready to shoot, I said to myself that he owed me one”, later quipped the transalpine coach.
However, Totti’s substitute had yet to score and, given the Italians’ disastrous penalty shootout record at the time, the case was far from being heard. Under the eyes of the whole world and carrying the weight of the hopes and dreams of an entire country on his shoulders, Grosso has advanced to the fateful point. How did a player so unaccustomed to this exercise manage to shoot a perfect penalty, with enough height and power, taking Fabien Barthez on the wrong foot?
“I tried to keep my cool,” the Roman recalled. “In these moments, the experience absolutely doesn’t count. The technique obviously comes into play, but it is above all a matter of mind, especially during the few seconds before the strike.”
And to add: “I will never forget that I conquered a curse, the one that weighed on Italy during the shootouts and extra time: the final of the 1994 World Cup, the quarter-final in 1998, Euro 2000. It trotted in our head before the final in 2006, but this time we were able to remain calm. Lippi gave us confidence, he transcended us. “
Did you know ?
The glasses that Lippi wore during this final (the ones he has withdrawn after Grosso’s penalty) are among the many unique and fascinating objects that make up Germany 2006 exhibition on display at the FIFA World Football Museum.