- Football folklore has been played out inside the San Siro
- Historic stadium now in its final years
- We reflect on four of its most historic games
While Teatro alla Scala stands as an operatic cathedral for many aficionados across the world, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza – often known as the San Siro – symbolises the same for football.
And while The Best FIFA Football Awards will be held in the masterpiece of a theatre on Monday 23 September, the beating heart of Milan’s football will remain 6km down the road.
So, there were heavy hearts when it was recently announced that we are witnessing the twilight years of the iconic arena, which both AC Milan and Inter Milan call home. Having been first opened in 1926, by the time the Winter Olympics open in Milan a century later, there is expected to be a new focal point for the beautiful game in one of the world’s greatest footballing cities.
And with that, we thought we’d focus in on four games where this stadium for the ages saw history written on its turf.
Italy dispatch the Wunderteam
Italy 1-0 Austria
3 June 1934, FIFA World Cup
When Italy had met Austria in February of 1934, they were 3-0 down by half-time and ended with a bruising 4-2 defeat to a side still carrying ‘the Wunderteam’ moniker they’d earned two years earlier. While without the influential Johann Horvarth, Austria still arrived in their semi-final against the Azzurri hosts as favourites, such was their elegance and prowess on the ball.
But Vittorio Pozzo’s men, roared on by 35,000 in the San Siro, were not to be cowed. A dogged display in the rain, alongside a scrappy Enrique Guaita goal, took them through to only the second ever World Cup Final. A week later they were world champions.
Inter conquer Europe on home turf
Inter Milan 1-0 Benfica
27 May 1965, European Cup
While rivals AC Milan may stand behind only Real Madrid in the list of the European Cup and UEFA Champions League’s most successful teams, La Grande Inter edged ahead of their rivals in terms of continental silverware for the one and only time in 1965. They remain one of just two sides to lift the trophy inside their own stadium, too - alongside Los Blancos - thanks to their defeat of Benfica.
The Portuguese side was still full of '60s swagger when they arrived, but Inter were the reigning champions. Having scored nine of Benfica’s 17 goals on the way to the final, Eusebio was expertly marked out of the game by Gianfranco Bedin, while the likes of Giacinto Facchetti marshalled the Inter defence.
Like 31 years earlier, it came down to a solitary goal – this time scored by Jair da Costa – following a slick build-up, though it was 89,000 who got to marvel as Sandro Mazzola and Co lifted the trophy again.
Lions roar in stunning World Cup opener
Argentina 0-1 Cameroon
8 June 1990, FIFA World Cup
Still regarded as one of the biggest upsets in almost nine decades of World Cup history, this match kicked off Italy 1990 in stunning fashion – triggering dancing in the streets of West Africa. This was because Cameroon, a team built almost entirely of French lower league players and local talent, bloodied the nose of reigning champions Argentina, captained by Diego Maradona.
Francois Omam-Biyik rose to nod home beyond Nery Pumpido, thanks to what became an infamous piece of goalkeeping, though by full-time Cameroon had been reduced to nine man, following an equally infamous tackle by Benjamin Massing on Claudio Caniggia. The Indomitable Lions lived up to their name and held on, however, with Maradona reflecting: “I cannot argue, and I cannot make excuses. If Cameroon won, it was because they were the best side.”
A Derby della Madonnina for a European final ticket
Inter Milan 1-1 AC Milan
13 May 2003, UEFA Champions League
Having battled in a nail-biting, goalless encounter a week earlier, AC Milan and Inter returned for the decisive dual to reach the 2003 Champions League final – arguably their highest profile meeting ever. Javier Zanetti, Fabio Cannavaro and Hernan Crespo stood in the blue corner; Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo and Andriy Shevchenko in the red.
And it was the Ukrainian who would score one of their most pivotal derby goals in history. Slipped through by Clarence Seedorf, I Rossoneri’s clinical No7 held his nerve to earn the vital ‘away’ goal. Obafemi Martins would level late on but the damage had been done, with Milan soon seeing off another Italian side in Juventus to seal their sixth European title.