International

Even Great Players Can Miss Penalties

The most memorable moment of the USA 1994 World Cup final, and some say the only one in what was a boring final itself, was Roberto Baggio’s penalty miss in the shootout. Baggio, who had been Italy’s star player throughout the tournament, conjuring two goals in the last 16, one in the quarter and two again in the semi finals to send Italy through to face favourites Brazil in the final. The Brazilian’s powered through to the finals mostly due to the goals of strikers Bebeto and Romario, keeping a young 17-year-old Ronaldo on the bench for the entire tournament. In the final, the two sides played out a drab match with few chances falling to either side, leading eventually to the dreaded penalty shoot out.

Under the baking hot sun in the Rose Bowl Arena in Pasadena, California, AC Milan legend Franco Baresi  stepped up to take the first penalty for Italy. He missed, giving Márcio Santos the chance to put Brazil ahead but he too caved under the pressure and miss his strike. The next two penalties from either side were scored, tieing the game at 2-2 after three penalties taken each.  Italy striker Daniele Massaro then missed his penalty and watched helplessly as Brazil captain, Dunga put his away. It was now down to Roberto Baggio to score the fifth and final penalty for Italy and keep them in the game. He placed the ball down, took a look at Cláudio Taffarel in the Brazil goal, steady himself for a long run up before skying the ball over the crossbar to hand the 1994 World Cup to Brazil. The divine ponytail, as Baggio was known at the time due to his chosen hairstyle, could only look at the ground in disgust. Camera replays show the ball moving slightly which could have led to the striker blasting over but there was nothing he could do but watch Brazil celebrate.

The Baggio miss is one of many penalty misses from football greats. Looking back through history, players like Van Basten, Muller, Platini, Cruyff and Puskas all missed penalties at some stage in their careers, granted not all of them as important as Baggio’s one. Even new stars like Messi and Neymar have missed penalties in their time. Only two days ago, in a friendly between Brazil and Colombia, Neymar replicated the Baggio miss in the last few minutes of the game. Although it was only a friendly, pride was at stake between these two countries coming into the match. Neymar had managed to equalise for Brazil after they fell behind to Colombia, courtesy of a Juan Cuadrado strike just before half time. But when Brazil were awarded a penalty in the 78th minute following a foul inside the area, Neymar, unopposed, confidently picked the ball up and placed it on the spot. Similar to Baggio, he took a long run, glanced at the keeper and then sent the ball some 15 yards over the cross-bar in an amazing miss. Neymar looked in disgust at the ground, but it may have been the slight hesitation he had in his run up that led to the miss. Either way, this miss cost Brazil the win, with the game finishing at 1-1.

Neymar was dismissive after the game, blaming the state of the pitch:

“The penalty was horrible but you probably noticed the state the pitch was in, it didn’t have any stability. I tried to take it slowly but it didn’t work out. These things happen.”

To be fair to Neymar, the surface at the East Rutherford Stadium, more suited to NFL than international football, was not in the best of conditions. The ball may have bobbled or rolled on the pitch resulting in him lifting it skywards and into the crowds. Neymar will no doubt want to correct his mistake in the next game for Brazil but this time he may have a few others looking to take over the penalty taking duties from him.

To see Neymar’s miss, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILqIS39fca8

To see Roberto’s miss in the 1994 final, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRpmm2GucK4

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