Poland, Jun16: Marco Tardelli has given Italy fans plenty of joy in the past. Now, he is concentrating on inflicting a bit of pain on his native country.
Tardelli's euphoric celebration after scoring Italy's second goal in a 3-1 win over Germany in the 1982 World Cup final is among the most iconic images in football.
Thirty years on, as assistant to Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni, Tardelli is plotting how to knock Italy out of the European Championship.
“I would be sad if Italy go back home, but I'm a professional,” Tardelli said. “The priority now is to win the match. It's important for us to win some points in this group.”
The Irish have already been eliminated from Euro 2012 after an opening 3-1 loss to Croatia was followed by a 4-0 drubbing by Spain.
Italy will join them if it doesn't win on Monday. And the Azzurri haven't won any of their three meetings with Ireland since Trapattoni and Tardelli joined the Irish coaching staff in 2008.
The teams drew home and away in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, and Ireland claimed a 2-0 friendly win in June last year.
With the pressure now off, Tardelli thinks Ireland could upset the 2006 World Cup winners again.
“The players believe in us and we believe in the players,” he said. “Italy is very strong and it will be tough, but we will try.”
Tardelli has occasionally taken part in Ireland's training sessions to make up the numbers, and his vision and touch are still in evidence despite the famous sunken cheeks having filled in a little since his playing days.
“I think my time was different. It's very hard to play with these players because they are very strong physically,” Tardelli told The Associated Press. “For me, it's very hard—I have the brain, but I haven't the legs.”
A box-to-box midfielder, Tardelli played under Trapattoni for a decade at Juventus, winning five Italian league titles and the 1985 European Cup.
His move into coaching was less successful, taking in undistinguished spells with Italian clubs Como, Cesena, Inter Milan and Bari, as well as stints with the Italy under-21 team and Egypt.
When Trapattoni was named Ireland boss in 2008, Tardelli was signed up as his assistant. The two have revived Irish football, only missing qualification for the 2010 World Cup after Thierry Henry's infamous handball for France in a playoff.
Some of that disappointment was eased by reaching the Euros for the first time in 24 years—and only the second time in Ireland's history.
Tardelli said the upturn in fortunes is down to changing the mentality of players who are used to the rough and tumble of playing in the British leagues.
“In England (where most of the squad plays), there are more chances, more goals, but we wanted the team to be more tactical, more disciplined and more like the approach in Italy,” Tardelli explained.
Cultural differences also needed to be respected. Tardelli said Irish players like to socialize more. He also said that when an Italian player's wife is having a baby, he will probably stay with the squad, while an Irish player would want to be at the birth.
Despite the disappointing campaign at Euro 2012, both Tardelli and Trapattoni are contracted to stay with Ireland through to the 2014 World Cup.
But whatever success Tardelli helps to mastermind with Ireland, it's hard to imagine him topping the “Tardelli Scream” from 1982 -- even if the man himself is finding that the memory has faded.
“To be honest, I can't remember it at all any more,” he said. “It's only the video replays that keep it fresh in my mind these days.”