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.

Best XI : Transfer Deals

Best XI is a compilation of interesting events or snippets from the football world across different locations that we share with you. Best XI will seek to be about topics you are interested in and want explored. You may mail your requests to This month we showcase some memorable transfers in football market


Kaká: Sao Paulo to AC Milan (2003) for $12.2 Million

Kaká was creating quite a reputation for himself in Brazilian Football with São Paulo, scoring twenty-three goals in 59 appearances. A steady European interest culminated with him signing for the Rossoneri. He became quite a fan favourite in Milan and had a great spell with them. Kaká scored seventy goals in 193 appearances for AC Milan before moving to the Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009. The charismatic owner of Milan, Silvio Berlusconi later referred to the amount he paid for Kaká as peanuts.

Alan Shearer: Southampton to Blackburn Rovers (1992) for $5.3 Million

In the summer of 1992, there was a transfer tussle between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United for the then up-and-coming English striker Alan Shearer, who came through the ranks at Southampton and made quite a name for himself. Flushed with Jack Walker’s millions, Kenny Dalglish, the then Blackburn manager convinced Shearer to sign on the dotted lines. Even though he was hampered with injuries in his first season but he still managed to score 16 goals for his new club. In the 1993-94 season, his 31 goals helped Blackburn to finish second in the league table but it was his 34 goals in the 1994-95 season that clinched the one and only Premier League title for Blackburn.

P.S. After being snubbed by Shearer, Sir Alex Ferguson bought a certain Frenchman in 1992. We shall come to that later.

Patrick Viera: AC Milan to Arsenal (1996) for $5.7 Million

After an unproductive spell at Milan, Arsene Wenger bought the Frenchman to Arsenal. With his compatriot Emmanuel Petit, Viera formed a formidable midfield partnership that helped Arsenal do the double (Premier League and FA Cup) in 1998. He became the club captain in 2002 and was an important cog in the ‘Invincibles’ season.

He only scored 32 goals for the club but his contribution towards Arsenal goes beyond that. All that for just under $6 Million!

Gianfranco Zola: Parma to Chelsea (1996) for $7.3 Million


Signed in 1996 from Parma, Zola quickly adapted to English Football and helped Chelsea secure the FA Cup that season. He also became the first Chelsea player to win the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award. A year later, he scored the winner in Cup Winner’s Cup match. In his seven-year spell with Chelsea, Zola scored 80 goals and is still regarded as a hero in Stamford Bridge.

Roberto Baggio: Fiorentina to Juventus (1990) for $13.6 Million


Baggio was sold to Juventus in 1990,amid outcry from Fiorentina fans, for what was a world record transfer fee of that time for any player. Soon after, there were riots in the streets of Florence leavingaround 50 people injured. Baggio replied to his fans, saying: “I was compelled to accept the transfer“. In the match he played for Juventus against Fiorentina in 1990, he refused to take a penalty; and when substituted he picked up a Fiorentina scarf thrown onto the field by fans and kissed it. He claimed: “Deep in my heart I am always purple“, the colour of Fiorentina.

Although he suffered a number of injuries in his time with Juventus, Baggio still managed to score seventy-eight goals in 141 appearances, in his five-year spell with the Old Lady.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid (2000) for $56 Million

In 2000, Luis Figo was part of one of the most controversial and (in)famous transfer deals in Football history. He made a move from Barcelona to their hated rivals, Real Madrid. Despite being a success at Barça and a fan favourite for five years, in his return to Nou Camp in 2002 for a league match, Figo got one of the vilest receptions from Barcelona fans.

He was part of the Galácticos era of Real Madrid that included the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and many more brilliant footballers and assembled a team that won almost everything that is there to be won.

Thierry Henry: Juventus to Arsenal (1999) for $17 Million

After an unhappy spell in Juventus, Arsene Wenger brought Thierry Henry to Arsenal in 1999 and thus started his love affair with Arsenal. He became one of the greatest players to grace English Football and broke Cliff Bastin’s record to become the highest ever goal-scorer for Arsenal. During Henry’s time, Arsenal won two Premier League titles and 3 FA Cups. He appeared two hundred and fifty four times for Arsenal and scored 174 goals. He came back for a short loan spell in 2012 and scored one goal in 4 appearances.

Robinho: Real Madrid to Manchester City (2008) for £32.5 Million


Robinho made it to the list, not because he had a great time with Manchester City but this transfer started the era that built a new power centre in English and World football. On summer transfer deadline day, Manchester City was bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and infused with the millions of the Abu Dhabi royal family, City splashed out the cash for Robinho, who was nailed down to go to Chelsea but came to Manchester.

His time at City was patchy at best. With occasional signs of brilliance, Robinho never really warmed up to the club or the fans or the city. He scored fourteen goals in 41 appearances before moving to AC Milan.


Peter Schmeichel: Brondby to Manchester United (1991) for £505,000

A UEFA Cup run with Brondby in 1991 which was ended by AS Roma in the semi-finals cemented Schmeichel’s standing as one of best in his position. Following his showings on the international scene, Manchester United bought him in 1991 for £505,000, a price which was described in 2000 by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as the “bargain of the century.” Schmeichel played the bulk of his career for United, eight years in total. With United, Schmeichel won five FA Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, one League Cup, and finally played his last match with United in ‘that night in Barcelona’.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Manchester United to Real Madrid (2009) for £80 Million

After a successful five-year spell in English football, playing for Manchester United, winning everything possible for the team, the Portuguese moved to Real Madrid in a record transfer deal for any player, in 2009. Despite winning the La Liga, just last season, Ronaldo has already scored more than 100 goals in just over three seasons and has a healthy rivalry with Argentine Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona.

Eric Cantona: Leeds United to Manchester United (1992) for £1.2 Million

After missing out on Alan Shearer, Manchester United shocked the world of football when they signed Cantona from Leeds in 1992, and it has proven to be one of the defining moments of Sir Alex Ferguson’s extraordinary era at the club. Cantona became a legend at United, with a host of unforgettable performances and goals helping the club to 4 league titles in five seasons. He also fired a dramatic winner against Liverpool in 1996 to win the FA Cup final at Wembley, and a second double in three seasons. Even after his dramatic retirement in 1997, the Frenchman left behind some fantastic memories.