Very talented as a teenager, Totti scored in Italy’s 4-1 defeat by Spain in the final of the UEFA European Under-18 Championship in July 1995. In the final of the Under-21 competition in 1996, Totti opened the scoring in a 1-1 draw against the Spanish before triumphing on penalties.
Totti made his senior Azzurri debut in the Euro 2000 qualifying victory against Switzerland on 10 October 1998. He played in the finals tournament and scored against Romania and Belgium and played in the final; losing to France. Although he was on the losing side, Totti was named Man of the Match in the final and described by many soccer legends, including Michael Platini (France), as the best player of the tournament.
Disappointment followed at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, with Totti failing to make a significant impact and then being sent off as Italy lost to the South Korea in the second round, when he controversially received a second yellow card for alleged penalty area diving by the referee Byron Moreno.
At Euro 2004, Totti garnered negative media attention when he spat at Christian Poulsen, a midfielder for Denmark. Totti was subsequently banned until the semi-finals, but did not play in the tournament again, as Italy failed to qualify for the next round. In defense of Totti, Poulsen has developed a reputation for a dirty player. The Danish defender was described as “a coward” by A.C. Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti during the 05-06 season, for his continuous provocation of KakÃƒÂ with the ball far away, Sporting Life.
Totti’s participation in the 2006 FIFA World Cup was put at risk by the broken ankle he suffered a few months before the tournament. He recovered in time to join the national team, although he was not yet in his best shape. During the match with Australia, he scored from the penalty spot in the closing seconds of regular time to give Italy a 1-0 victory. This propelled Italy into the quarter finals. After the goal, he celebrated by sucking his thumb, in honor of his young son. Italy then went on to face Ukraine, a match in which Totti provided a valuable assist to striker Luca Toni. Italy went on to win the match 3-0 and moved on to the semifinals to face Germany. Totti started the game against Germany as well, and stayed on for 120 minutes, helping Italy defeat the Germans 2-0 in a sensational ending to the game. The Italians went on to face the French team in the finals. The score remained 1-1 through extra-time, after which the Italians won by a penalty shootout. For his work at this World Cup, Totti was selected for the 23-man Mastercard All-Star Team.
Totti is currently considering whether or not to continue playing for the national team after he had made it clear that his intention was to retire after the World Cup. When holding the world cup, he said that he was 50-50, if to retire, or to stay in international play. However, as soon as Roberto Donadoni took over a Italy’s head coach, his first intention was to convince Totti to stay on the national team. Totti wanted to retire so he can spend more time with his family. Totti has made the decision to return to the national team next year, and only when he returns to his best form. However Italy’s poor start to the Euro 2008 qualifiers has prompted Donadoni to try and persuade Totti to return earlier than planned.