We often hear the term ‘miracle’ used to describe things that it really ought not to. Things that are plainly not a miracle and not even that rare or difficult in some cases. That, however, cannot be said about the 1984-85 Hellas Verona team. This unit of players have forever cemented themselves in folklore in the Northern Italian city thanks to their heroics more than 30 years ago. The team led by Osvaldo Bagnoli won the Scudetto, losing only twice during the entire 30-game campaign.
— Hellas Verona FC (@HellasVeronaFC) September 6, 2019
To this day, the club has not got close to repeat that feat and, given the way the Italian game has changed, they are unlikely to do so.
The Verona victory came pretty much out of the blue. The season before the team had finished a respectable eighth but they hadn’t threatened to accomplish anything as dramatic as what was about to unfold.
Osvaldo Bagnoli’s side contained some excellent players but in a Serie A that contained the like of Diego Maradona, Michel Platini and Zico to name but a few. Despite the attacking talent in the league, Italian clubs still tended to play a defensive style but Bagnoli broke that mould. Renowned Italian sports journalist Matteo Fontana explained how the Verona manager set his team up to be more attacking:
“Bagnoli built a solid group, always with a propensity towards attack. In Italy in those years, there was still the strong legacy of “catenaccio”. Verona was one of those teams who broke the “lock”. And from that tactical idea, which he developed over the years, the miracle of the Scudetto was born. But the victory also came from the moral fibre within the dressing room: Bagnoli was a father to his boys.”
He certainly got the best from a team whose undoubted hero was Preben Elkjær, a Danish striker who was known for his power and energy but also ably supported by midfielder Hans-Peter Briegel and winger Pietro Fanna.
— Hellas Verona FC (@HellasVeronaFC) January 20, 2018
Only two defeats
In modern times, Hellas have been bouncing between Serie A and B. They start the 2019/20 campaign newly promoted back to the top flight and if you were to bet on Italian Serie A matches this season, you’d find their odds far less favorable than back in 1984/85. Currently, they are 500/1 for the title but only 8/15 to get relegated which says all you need to know about the chances of the current team.
Back in 1985, they would only lose two games all season on their way to the Scudetto with decisive wins over Juventus, Udinese and Roma. In the game against Juve, Elkjær would score an iconic goal after losing his boot in the build-up. He ran through and with his bootless foot, smashed the ball home. The season is also known as the only one during which referees were picked at random in a draw rather than by a special committee as they reverted back to the old method even though there had just been the ‘calcioscommesse’ scandal.
With Verona back in the top flight, there is always room to dream for the Gialloblu faithful, after all, Leicester City proved that real miracles do still happen in the 21st century.