Life from 12 yards: Baggio’s Blunder

 Penalty. A term, that can ruffle the feathers of even the calmest of beings.  A term, that in any walk of life, shocks and triggers signals of doom and punishment for some, and  hope  or satisfaction for  others. Football, is no exception. Goalden Times  bring you a series where we look at the more unfortunate events of missed penalties (and their aftermath??). Enjoy the ride with Subhashis Biswas.


Missed Penalty 1 :

Player: Roberto Baggio, Italy

Opponent Goalkeeper: Claudio Taffarel, Brazil

Match Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, USA

Date: 17th July, 1994,

Tournament: World Cup Final, Penalty shoot-out

As earlier mentioned in the promo, we will bring to you “the missed penalty” series, and will discuss the aftermath of the event, broader implications of those missed penalties had on the life of the players, and on football in general. This week, we bring the first incident of the series, and arguably the most talked about penalty miss in the history of football – “The Roberto Baggio” miss in 1994 World Cup Final at Pasadena, Rose Bowl, USA.

Before we actually go into the details, let us just build up to the match. Football is a team game, and often we see that World Cups are won by teams whose players stick together and play together throughout the tournament. Individual brilliances are all right, but seldom they alone win tournaments like World Cup. Diego Maradona was, and will remain as exception.

In 1994, Roberto Baggio came very close to it. Italy lost their first match to Ireland in the World Cup. They defeated Norway and drew against Mexico to come up as third in their group. Italy  qualified as the last team to go through to the next round and that too because of scoring more goals than Norway. But from the round of 16 onwards, Roberto Baggio took charge of events. Italy first defeated Nigeria 2-1 while trailing till 88th minute, then defeated Spain in the quarter-final and Bulgaria in the semi-final via identical 2-1 margin. Roberto Baggio scored five of the six Italian goals in these three rounds, while a certain lesser known Luigi di Biagio scored the other one. He was the main architect of carrying Azzuris to the World Cup Final after 12 years, where they faced Brazil.

The final match itself never rose to great heights. Brazil had plethora of attackers in their ranks, and Bebeto, Romario were well supported by Mazinho, Zinho, Dunga and later Viola. Gianluca Pagliuca made a series of saves and got lucky a few times as well. Baggio was rather ineffective during the match, and did not get a lot of supply from the midfield. Italy however managed to survive for 120 minutes, and the match headed towards penalty shoot out.

It was not the most fluent set of penalties taken by the players of both teams. Franco Baresi missed, Gianluca Pagliuca saved Marcio Santos’ shot. Then Romario and Branco for Brazil and Albertini and Evani for Italy converted to make it 2-2 at the end of 3 rounds.  Danielle Massaro’s shot was saved by Taffarel and Dunga converted the next shot to make it 3-2 in favour of Brazil.

Roberto Baggio stepped up to the spot to take the final spot kick for Italy. He had to score to keep the shoot-out alive. According to him, he was in great state of mind, and was confident of scoring the goal. Baggio said that he knew Taffarel would dive to either side of the goal, so he decided to shoot it down the middle, a little above the ground, so that even an outstretched leg of Tafarel would not be able to save it.

Baggio did shoot down the middle, but the shot was a “little too much” above the ground, about three metres above, and flew over the bar. Taffarel did dive to the left, and had the ball was within the goalpost, it would have been a clear goal.

But, in Football, there is no place of “would haves and could haves”. The shot was over and out, Italy’s hope of winning the world cup was over and out. Brazil won the cup after 24 years.

Baggio stood still at the penalty spot even after Brazilian contingent rushed inside the field and started the jubilation. He was in complete disbelief. He rarely missed penalties in his career up to that point. The image of the distraught Baggio went viral through media. Some sympathised with him, some did not. His relationship with Arrigo Sacchi deteriorated after the World Cup and he found himself on the reserve bench more often than usual. Emergence of Alessandro Del Piero also meant that he was not the main scoring person in national team. He would come back and play for Italy in 1998 world cup, scoring two goals including one from penalty against Chile. But Italy would again lose to France via shoot-out (Baggio did score this time).


Roberto Baggio has achieved a lot of things in his career. But his international career has always been divided in two parts. Roberto Baggio before that dreaded penalty was a different player than Roberto Baggio after that miss. He scored 24 goals in 44 appearances for Italy till that penalty. Afterwards, he appeared only 12 times for his country, and scored only three goals. He has scored more than 300 goals in all official competitions, won several accolades like FIFA player of the year, Serie A, Copa Italia, UEFA Cup. But Roberto Baggio, along with all his achievements, will also be remembered for that penalty he failed convert in a sunny afternoon, in Rose Bowl, Pasadena on 17th July, 1994.

Dr. Subhashis Biswas

About Dr. Subhashis Biswas

Dr. Subhashis Biswas is a professor of chemistry and a student of football genetics. Likes to travel to historical places, loves reading and creative writing in Bengali. Subhashis can be reached at Subhashis maintains a blog at