Italy World Cup-winning coach Bearzot dies at 83

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MILAN (AP) - Enzo Bearzot, who in 1982 coached Italy to its first World Cup triumph in 44 years, died Tuesday. He was 83.

He died in Milan and had been ill for several years.

Bearzot, a beloved coach in Italy, first guided the national team in 1975 and led the squad at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups.

At the 1982 World Cup in Spain, Italy beat West Germany 3-1 in the final after defeating Argentina and Brazil in the second round and Poland in the semifinals. It was Italy’s third World Cup title following success in 1934 and 1938. Italy won a fourth in 2006.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister and AC Milan owner, said in a statement that Bearzot was an “unforgettable coach” who was able to unite his team for the 1982 crown.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said Bearzot set the standard for all of his successors.

“Italian football has lost someone responsible for one of the greatest and most emotional moments in its history,” Prandelli told the Italian soccer federation’s website. “Above all though we have lost a football maestro, who by the way he used his philosophies to shape his team, is someone that all Italian coaches will look to emulate.”

Paolo Rossi returned from a two-year ban for his part in a match-fixing scandal to finish the 1982 tournament as the leading goal scorer with six.

Enzo Bearzot was one of Italy’s greatest ever Italians,” Rossi told the Italian news agency ANSA. “He was like a father to me and without him I would never have achieved what I did.”

Bearzot was born in Aiello in Italy’s northeast and played in midfield for Inter Milan, Catania and Torino. He made one international appearance for Italy. He coached Italy‘ under-23 team from 1969 until 1975 and assisted coach Ferrucio Valcareggi at the 1970 and 1974 World Cups.

Under Bearzot, Italy finished fourth at the 1978 World Cup and 1980 European Championship.

After failing to qualify for the 1984 Europeans, Bearzot was criticized for placing too much faith in the stars of the 1982 victory for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. The defending champions fell to France in the round of 16.

Bearzot resigned following the defeat having coached Italy for 104 matches, including 51 wins and 28 draws. He returned to the Italian federation in 2002 as president of its technical sector, a post he held until 2005.

He is survived by his wife, Luisa, son Glauco and daughter Cinzia.

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