The 1990 World Cup in Italy probably ranks second only to 1966 in the minds of most England fans. It was the last time the Three Lions got even remotely close to reclaiming the World Cup and remains a tournament full of memorable moments for Bobby Robson’s team.
Paul Gascoigne’s tears, David Platt’s volley and, of course, Chris Waddle’s penalty are all burned into the memories of football fans up and down the land. But there’s another moment, involving Roberto Baggio, that’s become as equally enduring over the years.
It came against Czechoslovakia and, to this day, ranks among the very best goals of this or any World Cup.
27 years on from this sensational strike, loaded uncovers seven things you may not have known about Baggio’s Italia 80 wonder goal.
He’d pissed off half of Italy before the tournament
Baggio had been in brilliant form for then-club Fiorentina in the season running up to the World Cup in Italy. Despite La Viola spending much of the campaign battling relegation, he still racked up 17 goals to finish second only to Marco Van Basten in the Serie A scoring charts. He also played a part in Fiorentina’s unlikely march to the final of that season’s UEFA Cup, where they were eventually beaten by Italian rivals Juventus.
It was to get worse though, with Juve then swooping in to sign Baggio for a world record fee of £8 million that summer in a move that sparked mass riots in the streets of Florence, with 50 people injured in the process. It also left a lot of fans very angry at Baggio
He was under immense pressure to perform
Going into Italia 90, the pressure was on the 22-year-old Baggio to finally deliver for the national side. Injuries had prevented him from playing at Euro 88 and, in the wake of his world record transfer, expectations were high going into Italia 90.
Described as “more productive than Maradona” and “the best number 10 in the league” by Fiorentina legend Miguel Montouri, Baggio had also received the Bravo Award as the best player under the age of 23 in any European competition that season and had even finished inside the top 10 for voting on the 1990 Ballon D’Or.
He didn’t feature in either of Italy’s first two games
Despite the hype surrounding him, Baggio actually found himself on the bench for Italy’s first two group fixtures with manager Azeglio Vicini preferring the striker partnership of Gianluca Vialli and Andrea Carnevale up front for the Azzurri.
It’s often been wondered what could have prompted this. Some claim Vicini simply favoured Vialli and Carnevale, while others have suggested it was more a case of saving Baggio for the big games. Given the Divine Ponytail’s checkered past with managers like Marcelo Lippi, who famously froze him out of the first team at Inter Milan, it could have simply come down to egos.
He’d scored a similar goal for Fiorentina
In the season prior to the World Cup, Baggio had already shown signs of what fans could expect, most notably with one particular wonder goal which came against Napoli in Serie A and a certain Diego Maradona.
Essentially the perfect fusion of Baggio’s Czechoslovakia strike to come and El Diego’s famous effort against England, it was also the goal that helped announce the Italian on the world stage.
The defender he fooled never really recovered
So solid for much of the 1990 World Cup, the Czechoslovakian defenders left for dead by Baggio in that memorable encounter largely went on to bigger and better things, save for one exception.
Julius Bielik, the man famously turned inside and out by the Divine Ponytail, had only come on as a second-half substitute but would never again by capped by the Czechs following the World Cup and left club side Sparta Prague a season later for a four-year stint in Japan.
His other goal at the tournament was less memorable
Baggio would go on to score one more goal at the 1990 World Cup and, if his Czech strike was memorable for all the right reasons, this was the exact opposite.
Coming against England in the largely joyless third place play-off between the two heart-broken semi-finalists, Baggio bagged his second of the tournament courtesy of an absolute clanger from Peter Shilton on his final ever appearance for the Three Lions.
Alan Parry’s commentary is very Alan Partridge
Though the Italian commentary of Baggio’s goal is the recommended one to watch, there’s some enjoyment to be had from watching the one broadcast on British terrestrial television back in 1990.
With Alan Parry on the microphone, fans are treated to an Alan Partridge-style masterclass from Parry via some rather repetitious use of the word “yes!” Yes, indeed, Alan.