Roberto Baggio

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Roberto Baggio : biography

18 February 1967 –

In the quarter-final match against the hosts and eventual World Cup Champions France, Baggio came on as a substitute in the second half. The score remained 0–0 and the match went to extra time, with Baggio coming closest to scoring the golden goal with a volley. The match eventually went on to yet another penalty shootout. Although Baggio this time netted his penalty, the shootout was won by the host nation. Italy’s coach, Cesare Maldini was criticised for starting the recovering Del Piero ahead of Baggio (who appeared to be in better form and under less pressure from the public) for the quarter-final match against France. There were several rumours at the time stating that the substitutions had created a rivalry between the two players. Despite these rumours, Baggio and Del Piero remain good friends to this day, with Baggio stating in an interview that he has the utmost respect for Del Piero, his leadership at Juventus and his timeless talent, and that there had never been disagreements between them. Del Piero also stated that he believed that Baggio and Zidane were the best players with whom he had ever played, and that "technically they were brilliant and a delight to watch".

Later career

Baggio was not called up for Dino Zoff’s squad in Euro 2000 due to limited playing time at Inter that season. He was also excluded from the Italy 2002 FIFA World Cup squad, as Italy’s coach Giovanni Trapattoni considered him not fully recovered from injury. Fans and pundits criticised the omission of Baggio, as Italy were eliminated by South Korea in the Round of 16. Baggio had made a direct appeal to Trapattoni prior to the tournament by writing a letter to the then Azzurri coach. In the letter, he spoke of his love for the national team, the sacrifices he had made in recent months, and his desire to participate in the tournament. "Two years ago I decided to stay in Italy, choosing Brescia and Mazzone, to try and win a jersey for the World Cup." Despite Baggio’s plea, he was ultimately left out of Trapattoni’s squad. Many hoped to still see him play for Italy at Euro 2004 or for the Italian Football Team at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, that eventually managed a Bronze Medal, although this was not to be the case. He was however given an international sendoff by Trappatoni in a friendly against Spain on 28 April 2004, in which he wore the number 10 jersey and the captain’s armband for part of the match. The match finished 1-1 and Baggio was given a standing ovation upon being substituted. This was his final match for Italy, and it was the first time an Italian footballer’s career had been celebrated in this way since Silvio Piola.