Zenga was capped 58 times for the Italy national football team at senior level between 1987 and 1992. In these, he conceded only 21 goals (0.36 per game) and kept 41 clean sheets (70.69%), both averages being a record for the Italian national team. He previously featured in the Italian squad at the 1984 Olympics, where the team managed a fourth-place finish, and also featured as one of the Italy under-21 side’s overage players 1986 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, as the team’s starting goalkeeper. He was also included in Enzo Bearzot’s 22-man Italy squad for the 1986 World Cup. Initially selected as the team’s third goalkeeper behind Fiorentina’s Giovanni Galli and Roma’s Franco Tancredi, his name was taken in consideration by Bearzot before the match against the Michel Platini-led France due to the poor performances of Galli (who, in the end, also played against France). Zenga became the Italian national side’s starting goalkeeper under manager Azeglio Vicini, ahead of his perceived career rival, Stefano Tacconi. During the 1988 UEFA European Championships, Zenga played all four of Italy’s matches (a 1–1 draw against West Germany, a 1–0 victory over Spain, and a 2–0 win over Denmark in the group stage matches, and a 0–2 loss against the Soviet Union in the semi-final). Here again Zenga was at the centre of controversy: in the first match against West Germany he conceded a free kick inside the penalty area due to having made too many steps while carrying the ball in his hands (an infringement rarely penalised). Andreas Brehme, who would become Zenga’s teammate at Inter only a few months later, scored from the resulting free kick to tie the game for West Germany. Italy reached the semi-finals of the competition. Zenga remained first choice goalkeeper when Italy hosted the World Cup in 1990, and helped the team to a third-place finish, during which he set a record of five consecutive clean sheets, and a total of 518 minutes without conceding a goal, a record still standing. The record was fortunate, in Italy’s second game Czechoslovakia scored a goal which would have put them 1-0 up only to have it wrongly disallowed for offside. His unbeaten streak was ended by Claudio Caniggia’s header in the semi-finals against defending champions Argentina, after Zenga had made an error when coming out to collect a cross; following a 1–1 draw after extra-time, Argentina advanced to the final 4–3 on penalties, while Zenga failed to stop a single spot kick in the shoot-out. In the third-place match against England, Zenga conceded his second goal of the tournament when he was beaten by a David Platt header, although Italy managed to capture the bronze medal with a 2–1 victory. After Italy had failed to qualify for the 1992 European Championship, Arrigo Sacchi was appointed as Italy’s new manager, and he eventually excluded Zenga from his side, in favour of goalkeepers who were more suited to his zonal marking defensive system, such as Gianluca Pagliuca, and Luca Marchegiani.