World Cup Special: 18 Tournaments, 18 Moments – US 1994

A tale of two penalties

Sometimes in football, as in life, the end is the beginning, a career finishes where it started and an ambitious club comes full circle and returns to its humble roots.

I bet he pissed himself at the time but little did Italy star Il Divino Codino (the Divine Ponytail) Roberto Baggio know that when soul diva Diana Ross missed her opening ceremony penalty that he was part of a grand cosmic comedy. And the joke was on him.

When the US was awarded the tournament, a grand opening spectacle was taken for granted. It didn’t disappoint – but, on this occassion, for the wrong reasons.

Central to the ceremony was an all-singing, all-prancing Diana Ross. Ross runs up the pitch at Chicago’s Soldier Field waving to the sun basked crowd, followed by twisting dancers and musicians.

It’s only when the camera pans away to a stretching goalkeeper, preparing himself for a Supreme effort on goal, that we realise that the whole act is playing out towards a spot-kick.

And fair play to the Americans because if it worked it would’ve been great. Ross was supposed to smash the kick hard into the net, the goal splitting in half mechanically as if caused by a thunderous effort.

Ross toe pokes the shot tamely wide and the goal bursts open anyway.

Kismet ensured that penalties would also play a part in the final almost a complete full moon cycle later. In one of the least entertaining World Cup finals ever, Brazil and Italy played out a 120 minute bore-fest.

And to be fair to Baggio he wasn’t the only play to miss. Brazil’s Marcio Santos fluffed his lines as did Italy’s Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro. But Baggio was last and it was his kick that handed the cup to the South Americans.

His penalty, which soared over the bar, was a fitting end to a World Cup which began very much in the same vein. Suddenly Ross wasn’t so funny.