Sampdoria vs Juventus Throwback: The Fall of the World Champions

Football glory is a transient and evanescent thing. One day you are a World Champion, and just a few months later you lose to a neopromossa in the opening game of Serie A. That’s what happened to Italian hero Paolo Rossi and some of his Juventus teammates on their 1982/83 season debut day.

Italy had emerged as the unlikely winner at World Cup 1982, pulling together one of the greatest upsets in the history of football and by far the most thrilling tournament win the Azzurri ever achieved. (Yes, young folks: although Italy’s more recent wins at World Cup 2006 and Euro 2020 were quite something, nothing compares to the excitement and the epic that winning the Mundial in Spain brought in the Belpaese)

Juventus’ players were the backbone of coach Enzo Bearzot’s national selection. When they got back together in their white-and-black jerseys to face Sampdoria at the Marassi Stadium, they were expected to make one bite of the returning Blucerchiati as Sampdoria were just back in the top-flight after a four-year agony in the second division. But things didn’t quite go as expected.  

Juventus featured five starters who had just triumphed in Spain. Four of them were the pillars of a seemingly impenetrable defense, led by the legendary Dino Zoff who, at 41, was commencing his last season. There were also Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, and poor Gaetano Scirea who would perish in a car crash a few years later.

The fifth man was the absolute hero of the World Cup, golden boot Paolo Rossi who had scored six times in the last four games of the Mundial.

But since the Bianconeri were never happy enough, president Giampiero Boniperti and the powerful Agnelli Family who backed him up had splashed some cash in the summer to add more fancy names to an already mighty roster.

Cherry-picking from two national sides who had made it to the Top 4 at the recent World Cup, Boniperti brought to Turin the Polish offensive midfielder Zbigniew Boniek, whose experience in Italy would not end being a truly memorable one if truth be told.

But, moreover, he managed to land in Turin no less that Michel Platini, who was the real deal of European football at that time. Immensely gifted, charismatic, arrogant just to the right extent, Le Roi would delight the Juventus fans with his exploits on and off the pitch for five seasons, collecting three Ballon d’Ors in the process.

What could Sampdoria oppose to such an abundance of class and talent?

Well, to begin with there was this 17-year-old kid that the Blucerchiati had just acquired from the Bologna youth academy. His name was Roberto Mancini. Italy’s present-day coach was destined to achieve great things with Sampdoria, but it would take a few years for that.

The most recognizable name among the Doria lines had just moved to the port city of Genoa from Juventus themselves. That was Liam Brady, an Irish striker who had spent the previous two seasons as a Bianconero. He had featured pretty well, scoring the penalty that certified Juventus’ win of their second consecutive Scudetto. But Platini’s arrival was basically precluding him any further chance to be a starter in coach Giovanni Trapattoni’s lineup. Could he thus miss the opportunity to take an immediate revenge against the club that unceremoniously dumped him just a few months earlier?

And yet, it was neither Mancini nor Brady to shine the most on the opening day of the 1982/83 Serie A season – although the Irishman was among the best of his side. The ideal man-of-the-match award went to a quasi-unknown two-footed full back named Mauro Ferroni. A future Scudetto-winner at Verona, Ferroni amassed a meritorious Serie A career, featuring 154 times in the top-flight and scoring only…once.

We guess you know what’s coming.

With 67 minutes on the clock of a rather unremarkable game, Ferroni stole the ball to Giuseppe Furino along the midfield line and launched himself in a spectacular solo progression. He resisted Rossi and Platini’s (!) charges and, from just outside of the box, fired a clinical right-foot shot that bounced past the hapless Zoff. 

Oddly enough, Juventus didn’t seem capable to put together any real reaction and so the match lazily run towards the end as Sampdoria could celebrate the upset of the day. The Bianconeri had entered the season as number one favorite for the title, but it soon became clear that this was not going to be their year.

The Scudetto was eventually won by Roma as Juventus appeared inconsistent and very vulnerable in away games.

As for Sampdoria, they ended a remarkable seventh in the table. On a closing note, their early season exploit against the Old Lady made a few brave calcio fans’ day as the Doria’s unexpected victory returned quite some money to those few people who had dared predict it at the Totocalcio – the once-very-popular Italian football betting pool. 



September 12, 1982 – Serie A 1982-83 Round 1

SCORER: 67′ Ferroni

SAMPDORIA: Bistazzoni, Ferroni, Vullo, Casagrande, Guerrini, Bonetti, Scanziani, Bellotto, Francis, Brady (86′ Maggiora), Mancini (76′ Pellegrini) (Conti, Renica, Chiorri) Coach: Ulivieri
JUVENTUS: Zoff, Gentile, Cabrini, Furino, Brio, Scirea, Boniek (63′ Marocchino), Bonini, Rossi, Platini, Bettega (Bodini, Osti, Prandelli, Galderisi) Coach: Trapattoni

REFEREE: Mr. Mattei from Macerata