On This Day: Lazio beat Inter, 1999
Sunday afternoons, Channel 4
Younger readers will be surprised to learn there was a time when Italian football wasn’t rubbish and English football didn’t rule the earth. Hang on, that intro’s about six months out of date and Napoli are going to hand Chelsea’s backsides to them tonight. Oh hubris, look what you’ve made us do, you fooled us into thinking that foreigners weren’t better than us. Bad hubris! Naughty hubris!
Yup, turns out foreigners are better than us now, were better than us then and will be better than us later. That’s why it was always imperative on a Sunday afternoon to turn on Channel 4 for Football Italia and marvel at the likes of Ronaldo, Del Piero and Zidane, to name a few.
Inter and Lazio had met in the Uefa Cup final in the previous season, the Nerazzuri winning 3-0, Ronaldo giving Alessandro Nesta the sort of chasing he wouldn’t experience again until he came up against Milan Baros in 2005. Back then, Inter, who lost in the last eight of the Champions League to Manchester United, were something of an extravagantly entertaining mess, packed with expensive world-class players but always falling short, usually behind neighbours AC Milan, who won the league on the final day, and dead-eyed cyborgs Juventus. Lazio, who went on to win the Cup Winners’ Cup at Villa Park in May, were managed by Svennis, and were living the dream, only without Seth Johnson and £200 goldfish tanks.
The two teams had already played out a classic at San Siro, the Romans winning a staggering match 5-3, but the return match at Stadio Olimpico was a more sedate affair, settled in the hosts’ favour by gel magnet Sergio Conceicao’s goal. But then, who could fail to be charmed by a match in which Robertos Mancini and Baggio lined up on opposing sides? Not to mention the presence of English favourite Diego Simeone.