Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 13-Baggio’s Costly Miss. Brazil’s Fifth World Cup (1994)

BAGGIO

For me personally the 1994 World Cup is my favourite one of all time. It had incidents both good and bad on and off the pitch, new rules that benefited the game for once, many classic games (including all of the quarter finals), villains and heroes like Roberto Baggio, Thomas Brolin, Hristo Stoichkov and the one and only Hagi. Too bad the final wasn’t a goal filled finale but it was still a great match.

Baggio had carried his country all the way to the final on his own back. The Azzuri started off with a loss to Ireland but then beat Norway 1-0 and were held to a draw by Mexico in the final game but still snuck through. The first round had perhaps justified the criticism being leveled at the Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi by the press, they were an absolute rabble. It was up to ‘the divine ponytail’ to drag them out of the mire but it took him long enough. In the Round of 16 match against Nigeria the Super Eagles (a splendid team at this tournament) were up 1-0 before Baggio scored a brilliant goal with 2 minutes left to take the game in to extra time where he scored a penalty to win it. In the quarter finals against Spain a goal from the other Baggio (Dino) and Caminero for the Spaniards had it locked at 1-1. Baggio stepped up again and scored a late winner from a tight angle like only he could to put them through. In the semi finals Baggio scored a double in the first half against Bulgaria but for some reason Sacchi kept his stars out on the pitch with the game wrapped up in horrible baking heat with Baggio pulling a hamstring and seemingly out of the final.

Their opponents in the final would be a less than spectacular Brazil. Featuring a heap of stars they didn’t have that goal scoring Harlem Globetrotter like flair about them and seemed to be a team built around their gruff captain Dunga. Still, they were more impressive in the first round than Italy. They defeated Russia 2-0, a poor Cameroon 3-0 and then drew with 1-1 in the final match with Spanish based star strikers Romario and Bebeto starring up front. In the knockout stages they looked more and more suspect but kept on winning, would you bet against them? In the round of 16 they snuck past the hosts 1-0 in a very nasty little match (on Independence Day no less) and then got past the Dutch with a late goal from a free kick before again relying on a late goal to do away with Sweden in the semi finals.

They weren’t great and were hard to like but they were effective and this was the plan of Parreira. Brazil had played with flair since 1970 and won nothing so it was time to be physical and a bit dour. Again played in the blazing afternoon sun the final (a repeat of the 1970 final) was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena with President Clinton not even being bothered to show, the winner would be the first to win four World Cups. The match itself was a complete shambles, not a shambles in the 1990 final kind of way but no one got control of the midfield with only Brazilian keeper Taffarel saving at the feet of Massano being something entertaining.

It was the final 20 or so minutes that excitement began to build with the Italian keeper Pagliuca mishandling a shot from Silva that deflected on to the bar and out. In to extra time it went with a chance to each side. Another mistake by Pagliuca saw Bebeto in but his tired shot went wide the goal at his mercy, even the Brazilians were wilting in the belting California sun. Roberto Baggio had been passed fit for the match but was obviously not right with his injured hamstring strapped up with what seemed like 10 metres worth of tape. Baggio had one shot from way out that almost snuck in but Taffarel saved.

To penalties it went for the first time in a World Cup Final, the US wasn’t the best place to not have any goals. It was also the first time there had been a 0-0 draw in a final and only the third time that a team hadn’t scored in the final (the first being Argentina in the 1990 debacle). Italy would take the first penalty and it was the grizzly AC Milan hero Franco Baresi (who was also half fit) who was first up, he shot high, wide and over the bar. Silva was next up and he shot straight at Pagluica to save Baresi’s blushes and keep it at 0-0. Young star Albertini and then Romario both scored before Evani and the dead ball specialist Branco also converted to make it 2-2 and on to the fourth pair of takers. The veteran Massaro was up next and he had his shot saved by the penalty king Taffarel to give Brazil the advantage, an advantage that was rammed home by Dunga who converted the next penalty in what can only be described as the penalty shootout version of ‘A captain’s goal’.

It was now all up to the calm Buddhist and FIFA player of the year Roberto Baggio to keep Italy in it. He had to score and hoped that the next Brazilian player not convert their penalty to take it in to sudden death. Baggio at the time was one of the premier strikers in the world, he had taken Italy to the final thanks to taking games by the scruff of the neck and was a hero to many. Surely he could do it again for his country and drag them on? Baggio went up to shoot and put the ball over the bar by some half a mile that gave Brazil the win and cup #4. Taffarel didn’t even watch the ball go over, he knew and celebrated justly.

Baggio simply put his hands on his hips and looked at the ground with a big hope that it would swallow him up. On the outside he looked as calm as a hindu cow but his insides would have been on fire. The Brazilians celebrated with Pele in the stands celebrating like a gleeful child. Baggio was eventually comforted and the tears came. Dunga went up to the presentation dais and collected the World Cup (the first time they won the new version of the cup) from Al Gore and lifted in to air yelling ‘Esse é o número quarto!’ (That’s number four!) over and over again. This was a win for the country in desperate need of happiness as well. Not only was the country in the mire of poverty and mass unemployment but the great Ayrton Senna, so long one of the few Brazilians on the world stage to make them feel proud, was killed in the San Marino Grand Prix just 10 weeks before. Brazil were the champions and deserved to be in many ways but most people will remember Baggio’s penalty miss as the iconic moment from the final of a tournament that was one for the ages.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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