Widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian defenders of his generation, during his playing career he was nicknamed lo Zar (the Tsar) because of his ability, and descent, as he was the son of a Ukrainian Red Army soldier. A tenacious and physical player, Vierchowod was considerd one of the toughest Serie A defenders of the 80s and the 90s, due to his immense strength, aggression, tight marking, and hard tackling. His speed, anticipation, and ability to read the game enabled him to break down opposing plays, win back possession, and intercept loose balls; these attributes also allowed him to excel in the zonal marking system.
Talking to Argentine magazine El Gráfico, Argentine footballer Diego Maradona dubbed Vierchowod his toughest opponent, stating that "[Vierchowod] was an animal, he had muscles to the eyelashes. It was easy to pass by him, but then when I raised my head, he was in front of me again. I would have to pass him two or three more times and then I would pass the ball because I couldn't stand him anymore".
Gary Lineker also revealed in an interview with FourFourTwo that Vierchowod was "the hardest defender he ever faced" adding "he was absolutely brutal and lightning quick. He gave me one or two digs."
Verchowod was capped 45 times with the Italy national team between 1981 and 1993, scoring two goals. He made his international debut on 6 January 1981, at the age of 21, during a 1-1 friendly draw against the Netherlands in Montevideo, in the 1981 "Mundialito" tournament. He was one of the players in the Italian squad, although he did not play, that won the 1982 FIFA World Cup, under manager Enzo Bearzot. Verchowod was a member of the Italian squad that took part at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, and he also made three appearances at the 1990 FIFA World Cup, as Italy finished in third place on home soil, under manager Azeglio Vicini, after reaching the semi-finals. He is also the oldest goalscorer in the history of the Italy national team: he scored in a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualification match against Malta on 24 March 1993, which ended in a 6–1 win for the Azzurri, under manager Arrigo Sacchi. Vierchowod also competed for Italy at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, where Italy managed a fourth place finish, after reaching the semi-finals of the tournament, although he has never played for Italy in an UEFA European Championship.