Roberto Baggio is considered one of the greatest Italian players of all time, however, the iconic number 10 is often remembered for his crucial penalty miss against Brazil in the 1994 FIFA World Cup final against Brazil.
What makes this penalty even more heartbreaking is the promise that Roberto made to his father, Florindo Baggio. Back in 1970, when Roberto Baggio was three years old, he saw his father heartbroken and crying after Brazil beat Italy in the 1970 World Cup final with a 4-1 scoreline.
31 years ago today, Roberto Baggio scored THAT goal as Italy beat Czechoslovakia 2-0 at Italia ’90 🙌🇮🇹pic.twitter.com/pFupAXg0ip
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Seeing his father in misery, Roberto made a childhood promise to his father that he would beat Brazil in a World Cup final. Fast-forward 24 years, Roberto Baggio entered the 1994 World Cup as the current Ballon d’Or holder with hopes of his father and whole nation on his shoulders.
Baggio was the star performer for Italy in that tournament with five goals and led the team to the final for a showdown with Brazil and a chance to fulfill his promise. The match went on to penalties after a 0-0 scoreline. Baggio stepped up to take a decisive penalty but sent it three meters over the crossbar to hand Brazil the World Cup.
The fallout of the penalty miss
The Divine Ponytail stood at the penalty spot in horror, which in hindsight was a pivotal moment in his career. Post-1994 World Cup, Baggio infamously fell out with legendary Italian coach, Arrigo Sacchi, which led to his lengthy absence from the national side for almost four years.
Vintage World Cup Moments: Roberto Baggio’s penalty miss against Brazil the 1994 FIFA World Final pic.twitter.com/9y9CaDQ2Y2
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At the club level, his goal scoring also took a dip as he scored only 20 league goals in three seasons as compared to 56 league goals in three seasons before the World Cup. He regained his form in 1997/98 when he scored 22 league goals for Bologna which led to his inclusion in the 1998 World Cup for Italy under the management of Cesare Maldini.
Baggio later revealed in his biography that it was the toughest moment of his career, which affected him for years. He still dreams about that miss and wishes that if he could erase one moment from his career, it would be that moment.
Roberto Baggio numbers with Italy
The 1994 penalty miss isn’t enough to diminish the legacy of the Divine Ponytail for the Italians. Roberto Baggio played 56 matches for the national side, scoring 27 goals and 14 assists in a 16-year period.
Baggio scored nine goals and two assists in World Cups for Italy leading them to 2nd place finish in 1994 and 3rd place finish in 1990. He was also instrumental in World Cup qualifications, scoring six goals and five assists in 10 matches.
It is to be noted that the performances peaked during the 1994 World Cup, as after 1994 he only made 12 appearances for the national side, scoring three goals. But on the other side, this makes his performances between the period 1988 to 1994 even more impressive, when he scored 24 goals in just 44 appearances.
Roberto Baggio was inducted into the Italian Hall of Fame in 2011 for his contribution to the national side and his performances for Italian clubs such as AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus, and Bologna. The Divine Ponytail will go down as one of the best Italian players of all time.