Roberto Baggio


Roberto Baggio : biography

18 February 1967 –

Baggio had difficulty getting into their third match in the group stage, as Italy drew 1-1 against Mexico, finishing in third place in their group. They however managed to advance to the knock-out stages as the best third-place team.

Baggio re-found his form in the knockout stages however, and scored five memorable goals, starting every match from the beginning. He scored two in the round of 16 to beat Nigeria (scoring with a low drive placed into the bottom left corner, from just inside the right half of the penalty area, with 2 minutes left of the game sending it into extra time. He then scored another goal from a penalty in extra time, after setting up Antonio Benarrivo with a lobbed pass, who was then fouled in the area).

Baggio scored another goal in the quarter-finals to top Spain (the game winner with 3 minutes remaining, assisted by Signori. He dribbled past and jumped over the goalkeeper, scoring off-balance from a tight angle). He had also previously assisted Dino Baggio’s goal.

He scored two more goals to beat Bulgaria in the semi-finals; the first was after a throw-in on the far left side of the pitch in the opposition half. Baggio controlled the ball, beat two players and curled the ball from outside the area, past the keeper, into the bottom right corner. The second was a half volley from a tight angle, inside the area, on the right-hand side of the goal, assisted by Albertini with a lobbed throughball.

Baggio was not fully fit for the final against Brazil, after pulling his hamstring in the semi-final, although he still tested Claudio Taffarel and was able to set up a few chances for his team mates. The match ended 0–0 after extra time; he took Italy’s last penalty in the resulting shoot-out, but his kick went over the cross-bar and the Brazilians won the title in what would be remembered as one of the most upsetting moments in World Cup History. Two other Italians, Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro, had already missed penalties.

Baggio finished tied for second in the tournament in goals scored and was named one of the top three players, also being elected to be part of the team of the tournament. Baggio finished runner up for the Ballon d’Or and in 3rd place for the FIFA World Player that year.

1998 FIFA World Cup

After his lengthy absence from the National Team, Baggio was called up again by Cesare Maldini for an important Qualifying match against Poland. Baggio scored the winning goal in that match, helping Italy to come one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup. He was subsequently selected as one of Italy’s 22 players for the 1998 World Cup following his performances that season for Bologna. Baggio was given the number 18 jersey that he had worn for Milan and for Italy in recent matches, since the young star Del Piero had been handed the number 10 after a dominant season with Juventus.

In Italy’s opening match of the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Italy played Chile. Baggio started the match alongside Vieri, playing all 90 minutes, since Del Piero was still recovering from an injury. Italy’s first goal was scored by Christian Vieri on an assist by Baggio. Towards the end of the game a Baggio cross touched Chilean defender Ronald Fuentes’ hand, resulting in a penalty scored by Baggio which made the score 2–2. With this goal, he became the first Italian player to score in three World Cups. Baggio assisted Di Biagio’s goal against Cameroon, and scored a goal in that game, which was however incorrectly ruled offside. His performance was not quite as strong in this match, partially due to the heavy marking and harsh tackling of the opposition defense. Baggio scored his second goal of the tournament against Austria, scoring the winning goal after a splendid one-two with Filippo Inzaghi as Italy topped their group. He also assisted a goal for Inzaghi which was once again incorrectly called offside. With this goal, he tied the record for most goals by an Italian player in the World Cup Finals, with 9. This was also his last goal he scored for Italy. He was left on the Bench for Del Piero for the Round of 16 match against Norway as Italy advanced to the quarter finals.