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Baggio: Bag full of goals, empty on wins

sports Updated: Jun 02, 2010 00:47 IST
HT Correspondent

One of football's finest players for nearly a decade, Roberto Baggio starred for Italy in three World Cups but left each one empty-handed. He was generally regarded as Italy's best player.

Baggio scored one of the goals of the tournament in 1990. Picking up the ball on halfway in Italy's first round match against Czechoslovakia, he glided past a series of would-be tacklers before slotting the ball home.

Yet when Italy faced Argentina in the semifinals, Baggio was inexplicably left out, coach Azeglio Vicini preferring Gianluca Vialli instead.

It was a fatal error — Italy lost on penalties - and in many ways it was typical of the mistrust felt towards Baggio by some of the more defence-minded managers who worked with him during his career.

Baggio recovered from the disappointment of 1990 and soon began adding lustre to his reputation at Juventus, who he had joined shortly before the World Cup for a then world record 7.7 million pounds.

In the years at Turin leading up to the 1994 finals, Baggio enjoyed his most successful spell in club football. He won the league title, Italian Cup and UEFA Cup and was voted World and European footballer of the year in 1993.

At the USA finals in 1994, Baggio had his best World Cup. He was to carry Italy through to the final, scoring two goals in the 2-1 extra-time thriller with Nigeria, the winner against Spain in the quarterfinal and two more in the semis against Bulgaria.

Baggio's decisive contribution came in the penalty shoot-out, when his effort sailed high over the bar handing Brazil victory, and leaving Italy's hero distraught.

After the USA tournament, Baggio was in and out of favour with Italy and coach Arrigo Sacchi even dropped him for the 1996 European Ch’ship where, ironically, Italy humiliated themselves by failing to get through the group stage.