Monday, July 5, 2010

5 July 1994 - It's In The Baggio

On 5 July 1994, Italy staged a dramatic extra-time comeback win against Nigeria in the World Cup Round of 16, despite being down to 10 men. The hero of the day was forward Roberto Baggio (pictured), who would make headlines of a different kind later in the tournament.

Italy had been largely unimpressive in the group stage, finishing third in their group behind Mexico and Ireland. But the rules at the time allowed the top four third-place teams to advance and Italy - in fourth place - just made it. Nigeria, on the other had, won their group over Bulgaria, Argentina, and Greece.

Played before a crowd of 54,367 at Foxboro Stadium outside of Boston, the Round of 16 match appeared to going Nigeria's way, as winger Emmanuel Amuneke scored off a 25th minute corner kick that was poorly defended by Italy. The Azzurri's attack looked anemic for most of the match and Italy's fate appeared to be sealed by the ejection of midfielder Gianfranco Zola. Zola, playing in his one and only World Cup match, was sent off for elbowing Nigeria's Augustine Eguavoen, though replays suggested that the red card was not warranted.

The ejection spurred the Italians to action and, in the 88th minute, Baggio found the equalizer with a low driving shot from the top of the box. In extra time, Eguavoen conceded a penalty, bringing Italian defender Antonio Bennarivo down just outside Nigeria's 6-yard box. Baggio stepped up and converted the kick, sending the ball in off the left post for the win.

Italy eventually advanced to the Final where they lost to Brazil on penalties, with Baggio famously missing the Italians' last kick.

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