Italy 0-1 Wales 4 June 1988
Friendly, Mario Rigamenti Stadium, Brescia, Italy
Scorer: Rush (Wales)

UFWC champs Italy played this warm-up friendly just six days before their opening match in the 1988 European Championships. The Italians had taken the unofficial title from official world champions Argentina 12 months previously. They then went on an eight-game unbeaten run, defeating Yugoslavia, Sweden, Portugal, and the USSR along the way. Skipper Guiseppe Bergomi was a veteran of the 1982 World Cup winning side, and he was surrounded by a new generation of stars including Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Roberto Mancini, and Gianluca Vialli.

Wales had fewer star names, with Second Division Hull City’s Tony Norman deputising for keeper Neville Southall, and midfielder Kevin Davies drafted in from Fourth Division Swansea City. But up front Wales had true international class in Mark Hughes and Ian Rush. Hughes was plying his trade in Germany with Bayern Munich, while skipper Rush was having a less happy time in Italy with Juventus. Rush failed to settle in Italy, and was considered to be something of a flop. But on this night Italy would see the real Ian Rush.

Wales, playing in yellow, were scarcely in the game for the first 37 minutes, with Italy looking superior in every department. Then the Welsh won a throw-in near to Italy’s right-hand corner flag. Everton’s Pat Van den Hauwe launched a long throw into the box, Hughes peeled away to draw out the defence, and Rush received the ball at the near post, spun around, and rifled it into the far corner. The 30,000-strong crowd was stunned into silence. Italy attempted to bounce back, with Vialli, Mancini, and Altobelli all going close. But, with the indignant whistling of their supporters ringing in their ears, they could not find an equaliser. Despite having proved his worth to the Italians in dramatic style, Rush re-joined Liverpool later in the summer.

About Paul Brown

Paul is a freelance journalist and author. He created the UFWC in 2003, and subsequently wrote the Unofficial Football World Champions book. He can be found on Twitter @paulbrownUK.