Countdown to Brazil: Part 5 – FIFA World Cup 1994

Roberto Baggio_colour2

One of the worst outcomes of the FIFA World Cup 1994 was the effect it had on Roberto Baggio. For a player of his talent, people now remember the pony-tailed Italian for ‘his penalty miss in ’94?’,  rather than his artistic and imaginative style of play. Roberto Baggio is a FIFA World Player of the year as well as a Ballon d’Or winner.

Tell me, do you fondly remember Zinedine Zidane for the genius he was or him giving Marco Materazzi a headbutt?

5 July 1994. Round of 16 – Nigeria vs Italy.

Nigeria took the lead via Amuneke, as the Italians failed to defend a corner. A fairly deserved lead and the game looked set to end 1 – 0 to the Nigerians given their performance. The Italians lacked a spark in their attack and big name Roberto Baggio had failed to score throughout the group stage. Couple this with the African defensive grit to hold on for a win, an upset was on the cards.

However, 2 minutes from full time, Roberto Mussi dribbled inside from the right flank and laid the ball off for Baggio, who slotted the ball home. This took the game into extra time and it required a Roberto Baggio penalty in the 102nd minute to separate the two teams.

[embedplusvideo height=”300″ width=”450″ editlink=”” standard=”″ vars=”ytid=koWfgmpSkTE&width=450&height=300&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep8084″ /]

Il Divin’ Codino’s heroics didn’t end there. The Italians progressed to face Spain in the quarter finals and Baggio’s goal in 88th minute turned out to be the winner. The Italians next faced surprise package of the tournament, Bulgaria. Roberto stepped up again. An inspired performance and two goals from the creative trequartista secured the Azzuri’s safe passage to the final.

On the other hand, Brazil. Led by Carlos Alberto, the team boasted the likes of Romario, Dunga, Bebeto, Rai, Mazinho, Jorginho, and the likes. By Brazil standards, these were surely not the best, but they were very effective. The men in yellow and blue topped the group of Sweden, Russia and Cameroon with 2 wins and a draw against the Scandinavians. In the round of 16, they churned a win against hosts United states with Bebeto scoring the only goal of the game.

Next, the Selecao faced Dick Advocaat’s formidable Dutch side, one led by the likes of Ronald Koeman, Dennis Bergkamp, Marc Overmars, Frank de Boer, and much more.

Extended highlights, HD. I’ll let you enjoy this one.

[embedplusvideo height=”300″ width=”450″ editlink=”″ standard=”″ vars=”ytid=NLWjDgyeBkM&width=450&height=300&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3469″ /]

Sweden, who the Brazilians had failed to beat in the group stages were the only final hurdle to the final. The Scandinavians were hard to break down again and it required a moment of genius from Romario to earn a place in the 1994 World Cup final.

[embedplusvideo height=”300″ width=”450″ editlink=”” standard=”″ vars=”ytid=wrvOo08OeWc&width=450&height=300&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep1469″ /]

Bulgaria deserves a mention here, who entered the tournament never winning a World Cup game. They, along with Nigeria, had knocked out previous year’s finalists, Argentina in the group stage;a story in itself. Argentina were topping the group going into injury time of their last group game against Bulgaria. A 10-mean Bulgaria doubled their lead in injury team, and on the other hand the Nigerians hammered the Greeks 4-0. This meant table toppers Argentina dropped to third and were out of the World Cup.

Bulgaria’s cohesive team unit coupled by stellar performance from Hristo Stoickov helped them reach the semis, where they were knocked out by the Italians. Stoickov ended the tournament with 6 goals sharing the Golden boot with Russia’s Oleg Salenko (who famously scored 5 in just one game, against Cameroon). They were later beaten 4-0 by Sweden who ended the tournament the 3rd spot.

The 1994 FIFA World Cup final was held at the Rose Bowl Stadium, California in front of a crowd in excess of 95,000.

Brazil vs Italy. This had happened before – 1970 World Cup final, where a a certain Pele had been the focal point of a 4-1 destruction. However, no goals were produced this time by the end of 120 minutes and it was for the very first time that penalties were required to decide who the World Champions would be.

[embedplusvideo height=”300″ width=”450″ editlink=”” standard=”″ vars=”ytid=gZo4aY4LLSs&width=450&height=300&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep7848″ /]

Roberto Baggio, famously missed the penalty which culminated in Brazil’s 4th World Cup, more than anyone else on the planet.

And guess what? A 17-year-old Ronaldo was warming the bench.

Gaurang is a part of the @Football_P family. You can follow him at @TheTotalLFC

Gaurang Manjrekar

Believes in the lost art of story-telling. Committed to revolutionizing football journalism.