Roberto Baggio: My goal against Nigeria the best
Roberto Baggio, the man of many beautiful goals described his goal against Nigeria as the best of his career.
At the mention of the name ‘Roberto Baggio,’ there you have sores opened in the hearts of many Nigerians – the now 53-year-old sole handily denied the most populous African country a quarter-final slot at the 1994 World Cup.
64 years after the maiden edition of the World Cup, Nigeria debuted in 1994, and what would have been the farthest the Super Eagles had gone till date in the competition was fluffed by Baggio.
Nigeria, who were debutant had fought their way through in a group of death that had Argentina, Greece, and Bulgaria – and qualified as group winners to set-up a round 16 clash with the Azzurri.
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Though Emmanuel Amunike drew the first blood in the encounter for Nigeria, in the 25th minute, and Italy had to trail for most of the match, Baggio restored parity for the Azzuri, with two minutes left on the clock.
In extra-time, the ‘man of many beautiful goals’ from the spot scored the winning goal for Italy.
Immediately Baggio created the sore, he reveled: “The World Cup begins now; not just for me, but for Italy.” The Azzuri would go on to the final, where they lost out to Brazil on penalty shoot out – this time around, Arrigo Sacchi wouldn’t demand for a plane to a place where no one knows, like he asked for after the win against Nigeria.
Meanwhile, two decades plus after, Baggio wouldn’t let the sore in the hearts of many Nigerians heal anytime soon, as he described his 102-minute winner from the spot as the best of his career.
“Sometimes you might score a goal, but it’s important for you and the team,” he said while reflecting on his 27 goals for the Italian National team
“If you create a masterpiece and you lose 8-1, it doesn’t count. My most important goals was the last minute winner against Nigeria in 1994.
“It probably wasn’t so beautiful to look at, but it was useful because it got Italy through.”
Baggio’s story would have been different if in the words of Finidi George, “the players hadn’t rejoiced prematurely.
“The game is never over until the final whistle sounds,” the now ex-international said after the game. “You don’t rejoice prematurely. We had possession and were passing the ball routinely, but we lost concentration in one moment.
“When you face players like Baggio, they punish you for those kinds of mistakes.”
1994 was the closest Nigeria came closest to reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The three-time African champions made it to round 16 on two occasions – 1998 and 2014 and got knocked out from the group stage in 2002, 2010, and 2014.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 28, 2019, but was recently updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Olatosimi Fadahunsi278 Posts
Olatosimi is a part-time non-professional footballer and a football writer with spotkick. His ideology/mind/eyes endlessly rove multidimensionally.