x

Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

My favourite World Cup moment: Roberto Baggio's magic at USA 94

The 'Divine Ponytail' was at the peak of his powers

Roberto Baggio celebrates after scoring against Nigeria in World Cup 94 in the United States. Photo: Ric
Roberto Baggio celebrates after scoring against Nigeria in World Cup 94 in the United States. Photo: Ric

I've met only one person who owned a pocket television, the kind of which was available in the likes of Dixons and Tandy stores, but far from prevalent in 90s England.

They actually sound like a useful concept for an era when smartphones and iPads were yet to enter the vernacular. The reality was that they were truly rubbish as you constantly needed to tune in the frequency and the screen size and resolution was appalling. Samsung Galaxy OLED they were not.

Yet I was thankful that such a device existed in the summer of 1994, when a badly-timed school summer camp coincided with the World Cup.

Just imagine: no phones, no TV, in fact no electricity, but the latter stages of the most colourful, spirited and entertaining football tournament being played out while I was taught how to tie knots and follow a compass. It was a schoolboy's nightmare.

Until, from the depths of an increasingly pungent two-man tent, appeared the sound of static and then the grainy image of Italy's Roberto Baggio slaloming through the Bulgaria defence. I can't recall who owned the pocket TV, but it was as if Christmas had arrived early.

Baggio had already starred at Italia 90 but he was the main man this time around, and it was he who managed to feed my insatiable appetite for football when I had to spend a week lost in the woods - literally.

Having lost all hope that I would see any World Cup action, I ended up seeing the world's most graceful player do what he did best - he scored twice in that match against Bulgaria - and the memory overrides his calamity in the final against Brazil when he missed in the penalty shoot-out.

Baggio, to me, will always be a symbol of how World Cups should be. He was a player with a catchy nickname - The Divine Ponytail - who kids wanted to copy in the playground, and he encapsulated both the ecstasy and the agony experienced during the space of just a few days during a memorable summer.

___________

Read more:

World Cup 2018: Guides, predictions, galleries and where to watch in UAE

My favourite World Cup moment: Mario Goetze's late show for Germany

My favourite World Cup moment: Maradona makes his mark at Mexico 86

My favourite World Cup moment: The Ronaldo mystery at France 98

___________

I must also mention the opening match of Italia 90 between Argentina and Cameroon - the first World Cup match I properly watched.

The reason this lives long in the memory is the incident when Claudio Caniggia rode two tackles and was then assaulted by the flying Benjamin Massing who was duly sent off. It was a moment of pure theatre where you wondered how many attempts it would take to derail the Argentine as Cameroon tried to cling on to a 1-0 lead.

When Cameroon finally did stop him, it was a sickening challenge and Caniggia was fortunate not to suffer any long-lasting damage. Massing meanwhile was left wearing one boot after the other fell off. He subsequently tried to kick an approaching Argentina player with his yellow sock before the referee pulled out the red card.

_____________

Read more:

World Cup Group A guide: Hosts Russia under pressure to reach last 16, will Salah be fit for Egypt?

Ian Oxborrow is Home Page Editor at The National