Roberto Baggio

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Roberto Baggio : biography

18 February 1967 –

International career

Baggio totalled 27 goals in 56 caps for his national team, the fourth-highest of all time for Italy, tied with Alessandro Del Piero, who managed this tally in 91 appearances however. He was initially called up for one Italy-U21 Match in 1987, although he was an unused substitute. His first professional International call-up was given to him by then Italy Manager Azeglio Vicini, and he made his first appearance for Italy on 16 November 1988, at the age of 21, in the International friendly match against the Netherlands, which was won by Italy 1-0. He scored his first goal for Italy on 22 April 1989, from a free-kick against Uruguay in an International friendly in Verona, which ended in a 1-1 draw. In the friendly match against Bulgaria on 20 September 1989, Baggio scored the 500th goal of the Italian National Team in Italy. He later added another goal. He is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups with a total of 9 career World Cup goals, which puts him even with Christian Vieri and Paolo Rossi as Italy’s top World Cup scorers. For all his talent he was never rewarded with a victory in an international competition. Despite his performances at World Cups, he has never played for Italy in a European Championship. Baggio was not called up very often for the Euro 1992 Qualification matches, only making 3 appearances and scoring 2 goals, as Italy failed to qualify for the tournament finishing second in their group behind the Soviet Union. After the 1994 World Cup, Sacchi and Baggio infamously had a falling out and Baggio was no longer called up to the national team, missing out on Euro 1996, despite winning the Scudetto with Milan in 1996. After leading Italy to the final of the 1994 World Cup, scoring 5 goals in the process, he infamously missed the deciding penalty in the final of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which contributed to Italy losing the trophy to Brazil.

1990 FIFA World Cup

Baggio’s first World Cup was the 1990 FIFA World Cup, and although he was used most often as a substitute in the tournament, he was still able to display his quality, play-making skills, and scoring ability, scoring twice including the "goal of the tournament" against Czechoslovakia, involving a dribbling run, beating several players, before putting it past the keeper. This goal was later elected to be the 7th best goal in World Cup History in a poll hosted by FIFA. Italy were eliminated on penalties against Argentina in the semi-finals, although Baggio was able to net his penalty. Baggio is also much remembered for his class; in the 3rd-4th place final match against England, he managed to help win a crucial penalty for Italy. Although he was regularly designated the penalty taker for his team, he stepped aside when he was awarded one, allowing his teammate Salvatore Schillaci to score and capture the Golden Shoe. He also managed a goal in that match, allowing Italy to capture the 3rd place medal, as the match ended 2-1 in their favour.

1994 FIFA World Cup

Baggio was the cornerstone of the Italy team during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, wearing the number 10 jersey, and leading them to the final after a disappointing start. The Italy manager, Arrigo Sacchi, had been criticised for excluding key players and for being unable to decide on a specific formation, as well as Baggio’s role (striker, trequartista/playmaker or second forward/rifinitore. Baggio eventually ended up playing as a forward, but in a free "fantasista" role.)Leggende Azzurre: Roberto Baggio

In the disappointing first match against Ireland, Italy were defeated 1-0. Baggio was not yet at his best in this match since he was recovering from an injury to his Achilles tendon, although he attempted several assists for his team-mates, who were also criticised by the Italian press for not supporting Baggio enough when he retreated into the midfield or onto the wings to pick up the ball and try to create attacking plays for Italy.

In the second match against Norway, he seemed more inspired, creating chances and almost scoring a goal in the opening minutes, however Italy goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca was sent off for handling the ball outside the area. Luca Marchegiani was brought in to replace him, and Arrigo Sacchi decided to take off Baggio, in what produced an outcry amidst the fans. Baggio later stated in an interview that Sacchi was "crazy." Italy however managed to win the match 1-0.