Francesco Toldo is an Italian retired footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He is regarded by pundits as one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation. In a professional career which spanned two full decades, he mainly represented Fiorentina and Internazionale (eight and nine seasons respectively), winning a total of 15 titles combined; in his last five years, however, he was solely a backup for the Nerazzurri. For the Italy national team, Toldo appeared in five international competitions, being a starter in UEFA Euro 2000, where he helped Italy reach the final.
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Italy vs Netherlands of Euro 2000 is definitely one of the most memorable football games of the last 30 years. The Netherlands were eliminated on penalties for the fourth time in five major tournaments as Italy advanced to a UEFA EURO 2000 final against France. Frank de Boer and Patrick Kluivert had already missed spot kicks in normal time as the Oranje failed to break down an Azzurri team reduced to ten men after the 34th-minute dismissal of Gianluca Zambrotta. Italy scored the first three penalties in the shoot-out through Luigi Di Biagio, Gianluca Pessotto and Francesco Totti, while De Boer and Jaap Stam both missed for the Netherlands. Kluivert scored and Paolo Maldini missed to restore Oranje hopes, but man of the match Francesco Toldo saved Paul Bosvelt’s kick to confirm Italy as 3-1 winners. Dino Zoff made two changes to the formula that provided quarter-final victory against Romania, with Di Biagio replacing the injured Antonio Conte and Totti making way for Alessandro Del Piero. Injury also forced counterpart Frank Rijkaard to make one switch, with Giovanni van Bronckhorst replacing Artur Numan at left-back. The Netherlands served notice of their attacking threat as early as the third minute when Dennis Bergkamp’s lob put Phillip Cocu through on goal, but he could only prod over. Bergkamp struck the post after letting fly from the right. It was looking good for the Oranje, even better when Zambrotta received a second yellow card and then, four minutes later, a final place seemed theirs for the taking when Alessandro Nesta held back Kluivert. Toldo dived to his left to divert De Boer’s penalty behind, however – a sign of things to come. Despite their numerical inferiority, Italy adopted a bolder approach as Stefano Fiore and Del Piero both had sighters at goal and the Netherlands were finding it hard to impose their rhythm. They could not fail to make use of the space afforded them, though, and another fine passing move concluded with Edgar Davids going down under Iuliano’s challenge. Kluivert hit the post from the resulting penalty and despite constant pressure, hopeful efforts from Van Bronckhorst, Marc Overmars and substitute Clarence Seedorf were all they could muster as the tie drifted into extra time. They were almost hit by a golden goal sucker punch, and it needed sharp reactions from Van Der Sar to deny Marco Delvecchio with his feet. By then Aron Winter had entered the fray for a Dutch record 84th cap – this would not be a momentous day for the Netherlands, though.
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Despite facing competition from high-profile goalkeepers such as Gianluca Pagliuca, Angelo Peruzzi, Christian Abbiati, Luca Marchegiani, Francesco Antonioli and in particular Gianluigi Buffon, Toldo was chosen to start in Euro 2000 as Buffon broke his hand in a friendly match against Norway just eight days before the tournament started. Italy eliminated the Netherlands in the semi-finals, despite going down to ten men and facing two penalty kicks. Italian goalkeeper Francesco Toldo, who had been drafted into the starting XI as Gianluigi Buffon missed the tournament through injury, made two saves in the penalty shootout (in addition to his penalty save in normal time) to carry the Italians to the final. He helped his country to finish runner-up at Euro 2000 behind the world champions France, keeping three clean sheets, and saving one penalty during the semi-final against hosts Netherlands and adding two more penalty saves in the successful shootout; he was named man of the match. Toldo was named to the Team of the Tournament for his performances, also earning the third place in the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper Award. Following his successful European Championship campaign, Toldo retained Italy’s starting goalkeeping spot throughout the first half of Italy’s 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, although Buffon was ultimately named Italy’s starting goalkeeper for the 2002 World Cup. Additionally, Toldo was an unused reserve in Italy’s 1998 World Cup, 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 squads, after which he announced his retirement from international football in 2004.
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After playing in several outfield positions during his youth career, Toldo was inspired to become a goalkeeper by his role model Dino Zoff. A consistent, agile and reactive goalkeeper – also competent with the ball at his feet –, he made a name for himself as a penalty-saving specialist throughout his career; however, in spite of his large and imposing physique, he did not excel at coming off the line to handle crosses.
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Toldo joined Fiorentina in 1993, and became the Viola club’s starter for eight seasons, winning the Coppa Italia twice, the Supercoppa Italiana, and playing in one edition of the UEFA Champions League. In 2000, Toldo was named the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year for his performances. One year before Fiorentina faced bankruptcy, Toldo and Rui Costa were sold to Parma for a combined 140 billion lire in June 2001 (55 billion lire for Toldo; about €28.4 million in fixed exchange rate). It made the club a net profit in 2000–01 financial year, instead of a net loss. However, both players refused to join. Toldo himself would be the replacement of departing goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, whom Toldo refused to live under the expectation of. Eventually, Toldo joined Internazionale instead of Parma for the same fee; Parma signed Sébastien Frey from Inter instead of Toldo; Buffon joined Juventus from Parma; and Edwin van der Sar went to Fulham from Juventus.