Roberto Baggio reveals how the 1994 World Cup Final penalty still haunts him, but he learned to forgive Arrigo Sacchi.
The Divine Ponytail ballooned the last spot-kick over the bar, handing the trophy to Brazil, having been one of the most impressive players of the tournament.
“Imagine this incredible scene. My dream comes true. I am at the World Cup, each game Italy progresses further. Since the second round, I can’t stop scoring,” he told the Corriere dello Sport.
“Every time I celebrate a goal, I think of what is happening in the homes of all those Italians watching. Then we go to penalties in the Final and I miss.
“I felt myself dying inside. Then too, I thought of the reaction my countrymen would be having. It was difficult and to this day I still haven’t accepted it happened.
“I was the one who sent the Happy Ending to my dream into the stands, the dream that at that moment all Italians shared. It still haunts me.”
That World Cup had started on a sour note for Baggio, as in the group stage he was substituted against Norway when the goalkeeper was sent off.
“Well, would you have been happy? Anyone who loves football wants to play, not watch. You have to be worried if someone leaves the field happy.
“However, I want to say that I thought it over many times and in the end I concluded Sacchi did what was right, tactically speaking. Instinctively, it seemed an incredible decision to me, but we are also gifted with the power of reason and not purely instinct.”
Sacchi was one of many Coaches Baggio had problems with during his career.
“I won’t deny that they had problems with me. The truth is that I always had a marvellous rapport with the fans and this irritated them. At the time, releasing one story could ruin the image of a player. Now it’s more transparent, you have the chance to defend yourself.
“I was someone who didn’t like to speak up. It wasn’t arrogance, but humility. I wasn’t trying to be the centre of attention. In any case, others put me there regardless…
“I always had a very strong rapport with my fellow players. I thought that in football the ones who really matter are the players.
“Of course, a Coach can bring out the best qualities of a player, but at the end of the day what counts is those who make the saves and shoot for goal. Football is about football players.”