NEWS
Monday July 17 2017
On This Day: Italy lose World Cup final

On this day in 1994, Roberto Baggio missed the decisive penalty as Italy lost the World Cup final to Brazil.

Il Divino Codino - the Divine Ponytail - had basically carried the Azzurri to the final, scoring twice to beat Nigeria in the Last 16.

Baggio then grabbed an 88th-minute winner against Spain in the next round, a match marred by Mauro Tassotti’s brutal elbow on Luis Enrique.

The Juventus forward was once again inspiration in the semi-final, scoring twice to beat Bulgaria, but the victory came at a cost.

Baggio had to be substituted with 20 minutes to play, suffering from a minor hamstring injury.

While the injury wasn’t serious, Baggio had just two days to recover for the final in Pasadena, and there was a real fear he wouldn’t be fit.

“I was desperate to play. I would have played even if they'd cut off my leg,” the striker told the Guardian in 2002. “My appearance in that game still causes controversy but I felt OK, otherwise I wouldn't have played.”

While Baggio insists he was fit to play, he was a shadow of the player seen throughout the tournament and the match ground to a 0-0 draw.

After extra-time couldn’t separate the sides the final went to a penalty shoot-out, with Franco Baresi and Marcio Santos both missing with their sides’ first effort.

Romario, Branco and Dunga scored for the Selecao, but Daniele Massaro missed Italy’s fourth kick.

That meant Baggio had to score to keep the Azzurri’s hopes alive, and as a penalty specialist there was no-one better to take the kick.

Unfortunately, the 27-year-old skied his penalty over the crossbar, handing the World Cup to Brazil - though they’d have won anyway if they’d scored their fifth effort.

“It affected me for years. It the worst moment of my career,” Baggio admitted in that Guardian interview. “I still dream about it. If I could erase a moment from my career, it would be that one.

“Looking back I have to say that losing a World Cup final on penalties is something that I'll never agree with.

“If you lose on the pitch, that's fine, it's right. Even if you deserved something different. But with penalties, no, that's not right.”