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There was never any coming back from shootout heartbreak for the Divine Ponytail – who still can't shake the feeling today. Something you remember watching and unless from Brazil, felt all the pain in the world for a player recognized as the best in Italy at that time. 


It was in the semis that Baggio showed why he was one of the best players around that time. Playing against Bulgaria's Hristo Stoichkov, who also played a key role in his team reaching the semis, Baggio found the back of the net twice to beat their opponents 2-1 and reach the final. The first goal had Baggio's class written all over it as he reacted to a throw-in quickly, leaving behind a Bulgarian defender with his turn and then dribbling past another for a sublime curling finish. His second was a classic forward's goal as he beat the Bulgaria's offside trap for a clinical hit.


The final took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, where Italy faced the phenomenal Brazil team, consisting of stalwarts like Romario, Bebeto and captain Dunga. The match ended goalless after the extra time, the only FIFA World Cup final ever to not have a goal scored, but both teams enjoyed quite a few chances.

Most people forgot that Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro had missed their chances when the reliable Baggio came to the spot with Italy down 3-2 in the penalties. He had to score to keep Italy in the match. He had practiced and dreamed all of his life to be there,  but Roberto sent the ball over the bar to erupt wild celebrations among Brazilian players and fans. He stood at his spot, head down in utter disbelief, and left the field in tears. 


Who remembers that as Baggion pointed out in his autobiography, that with Italy pair Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro having both missed their penalties, Brazil would still have won the World Cup if their last spot-kick was scored – even if Baggio had converted his.

Those who watched the game could feel Robby's despair and pain wherever they may be (minus Brasil of course). 

In September 1994, Italian daily La Repubblica penned: “Around Roberto Baggio there is the tinkle of crystal shattering. Inside Roberto Baggio, there is still something cracking – it could be the dream of winning a cup, or the tired shiver of a missed penalty. Perhaps even a muscle. And so old and new weaknesses return – the physical and psychological limits of a young man used as a totem and a talisman, of a champion of whom too much has to be asked, and if it’s not all, it’s nothing. Every cure, now, seems like a palliative, an aspirin given to a dying man.”

During a recent interview, Baggio was quoted saying: 

“They had to choose one image from the finals and they chose my mistake,” he wrote, seemingly unconscious of the irresistible dramatic tragedy he had served up.

“It’s the same sense of bitterness as in 1994,” he said last year. “It hasn’t diminished and I don’t think it will ever go away.”.

After he retired from the game in 2004, Baggio was much celebrated for his charitable endeavors, which included becoming a global ambassador of the United Nations in 2005. He served as the technical director of the Italian Football Federation from 2010 to 2013. 

Join us in celebrating The Divine Ponytail,


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