Italy's players, clubs and coaches have been at the forefront of European football down the years.
The Italian Football Federation (Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio – FIGC) was founded on 16 March 1898 in Turin. Its first official event was a tournament featuring four northern teams and held over one day in 1898, with Genoa CFC victorious. The first national championship, however, came 15 years later and Pro Vercelli prevailed.
The Italian game developed domestically and internationally during the following decade. In 1929/30 the Italian championship ran, for the first time, to a proper league format with a single top flight, rather than having teams split into groups and play-offs deciding the winner. This positive step, along with the payment of players' expenses, heralded the professional era. The Coppa Italia, first contested in 1922, only resumed between 1935 and 1943, before being revived – definitively – in 1958. Juventus remain the most-titled side in these competitions, with 30 Serie A crowns and nine Coppa Italia wins.
Italy's national team made their debut on 15 May 1910 at the Arena di Milano, beating France 6-2. Although the First World War brought a halt to football activities, the post-war period, coinciding with Giorgio Vaccaro's successful FIGC presidency, witnessed Italy's best moment on the international stage. The Azzurri lifted the FIFA World Cup in 1934 and 1938 under coach Vittorio Pozzo. Players such as Giuseppe Meazza and Eraldo Monzeglio shone in 1934, and Amedeo Biavati, Alfredo Foni and Silvio Piola in 1938. They also struck gold at the 1936 Olympics.
However, it was not until Artemio Franchi became FIGC president in the second half of the 1960s that the Azzurri regained their winning touch. Italy triumphed in the 1968 UEFA European Championship with stars like Gianni Rivera, Sandro Mazzola, Gigi Riva, Dino Zoff and Giacinto Facchetti, and were also runners-up at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico. Franchi was then elected president of UEFA.
A third World Cup was landed in 1982 by the talents of Paolo Rossi, Zoff, Claudio Gentile, Antonio Cabrini, Bruno Conti, Gaetano Scirea and Marco Tardelli. Eight years later, as hosts, the Azzurri were derailed by Argentina in a semi-final shoot-out, though Azeglio Vicini's men took third place. Penalties were again Italy's nemesis in the final of USA '94, when Roberto Baggio and Franco Baresi's misses proved fatal against Brazil, and next in a quarter-final with the French hosts four years later.
A golden goal for France in the UEFA EURO 2000 final was another cruel ending. Yet after early exits from the 2002 World Cup and UEFA EURO 2004, the nation celebrated a fourth World Cup coronation courtesy of Marcello Lippi's charges in Germany in 2006. A richly skilled squad was underpinned by Gigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo, and Buffon and Pirlo were still influential six years later as Italy got to the UEFA EURO 2012 final under coach Cesare Prandelli.
At youth level, Italian sides won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2004; the U19s were European champions in 2003; the U16s (now U17s) prevailed in 1982 and 1987; and the UEFA International Youth Tournament of 1958 also features on the roll of honour. The country's clubs, meanwhile, have collected 44 trophies in UEFA competitions: AC Milan lead with 17, followed by Juventus (eleven), FC Internazionale Milano (eight), Parma FC (four), SS Lazio (two), and SSC Napoli and ACF Fiorentina (one).
Italy has often been at Europe's footballing vanguard, with its players, clubs and coaches – Pozzo, Fulvio Bernardini, Ferruccio Valcareggi, Enzo Bearzot, Vicini, Arrigo Sacchi, Cesare Maldini, Zoff, Giovanni Trapattoni, Roberto Donadoni, Lippi and Antonio Conte among others – having a profound impact on the game.