By JERE LONGMAN, ( Special to The New York Times ) 1009 words
WORLD CUP '94; For One Shining Moment, Brazil Has the World at Its Feet
Published: July 18, 1994
PASADENA, Calif., July 17 -
Many would have preferred another solution. Sudden death. A full replay after a day's rest. But rules are rules, and so the first World Cup held in the United States condensed itself to the first final ever decided by penalty kicks. Out of this unforgiving moment came an unimaginable result.
The match ended with Brazil holding aloft its first World Cup trophy in 24 years, having gained a 3-2 edge on penalty kicks after 120 scoreless minutes, but this is a championship destined to be remembered less for how it was won than for how it was lost.
While Brazil's stars danced and hugged and skipped around the Rose Bowl and the stadium became a celebrative samba of green and yellow, the stunned Roberto Baggio of Italy stood in the penalty area, hands on hips, hanging his head, unconsolable. The most celebrated player in the world had missed a free shot into the net from 12 yards. A shot he could make in his sleep. A shot that not a single one of the 94,194 onlookers believed he would miss.
But Baggio did, punching the ball high over the crossbar, and Brazil, not Italy, became the first country to claim four World Cup titles. For the longest moment, Baggio hung his head, motionless, as if this merciless conclusion had left him momentarily unable to move a muscle.
He had lifted his team into the finals by scoring five of its eight goals, providing late, dramatic rescues in the second round and the quarterfinals. Today, Baggio played despite a tender hamstring and lasted nearly three hours in the heat, fighting off cramps in his legs. Then the World Cup turned from skill to chance in the penalty-kick phase, and he lost his magic.
"We have to accept the rules with great calm and great serenity," said Italian Coach Arrigo Sacchi. Alternatives 'Unfair'
The debate about penalty kicks is certain to rage on between those who favor the current procedure and those who demand change. Rules alterations for this World Cup had served their intended purpose, increasing scoring, tendering livelier matches, but to some the harshness of penalty kicks will never be satisfactory.
"It is not the most eloquent way to win, but it would be grossly unfair to do anything else," said Brazilian Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. "Certainly it would be unfair to make them play another game," which the rules once called for.
Italy's players reacted to Baggio's miss with sinking disbelief. Gianluca Pagliuca, the Italian goalkeeper, buried his face into the Rose Bowl turf. Franco Baresi, the resilient defender who played today three weeks after knee surgery, slumped into the arms of Antonio Mattarese, the head of the Italian federation. Baresi had played a valiant game, but he, too, had missed a penalty kick, nerves and adrenaline conspiring to turn his effort into a wild punt.
"When you reach the final, it's always horrible to lose, whether it is on the field or in penalty kicks," Baresi said. "Unfortunately, that is the nature of sport."
Brazil, meanwhile, erupted into a celebration of joy and relief, a quarter-century worth of frustration having been lifted. Some players danced, others dropped to their knees in prayer and several carried aloft a banner in tribute to a countryman, the race driver Ayrton Senna, who died in a crash on May 1. Brazil was in dire need of a hero, and now it has 11 of them.
"We're worthy of the title because we were the best team in the World Cup," said the goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel, who blocked a shot by Italy's Daniele Massaro during the penalty-kick phase. "Of course, penalty kicks don't necessarily mean the best team came out on top. But we believe this was our destiny."
From the beginning of this month-long tournament, Brazil played assertively and impressively. Parreira had been relentlessly criticized for paying too much attention to defense and not enough to "jogo bonito," the beautiful game. Sticks to His Plan
He had been under tremendous pressure to change his lineups and tactics and had been admonished by everyone from Pele to his own mother. He was even booed during introductions today. But Parreira stuck to his plan, and Brazil finished with the largest goal differential, with 11 goals scored and only 3 allowed.
"Our mission has been accomplished," Parreira said in a terse post-game news conference. "Again, Brazil is the No. 1 team in the world."
In today's taut if inelegant final, Brazil faced a familiar tactic. Italy compressed its defense like the bellows of an accordion, and Brazil could not penetrate for a goal. Given the limit of two substitutions, Sacchi took a huge risk in starting Baggio and Baresi, but both endured the entire game, even with cramps. Baresi and Paoli Maldini, especially, made Italy's defensive wall impervious to the runs of the Brazilian forwards Romario and Bebeto.
Brazil's game became invigorated in overtime with the insertion of Viola, a forward who had not played a minute previously, but it could not score. The match moved to penalty kicks and the goalkeepers, Taffarel and Pagliuca, hugged and walked upfield together. Taffarel plays professionally in Italy, and he and Pagliuca are friends.
"We told each other that whatever team was predestined would win it," Taffarel said.
Baresi went first for Italy and chipped his shot high. Then Pagliuca snuffed a shot by Marcio Santos of Brazil. Both teams made a pair of kicks, then Massaro telegraphed a shot into the right corner of the net and Taffarel slid to his left to stop it. Dunga put Brazil up by 3-2, and it was Baggio's turn. A goal would force Brazil to take its final, pressure-packed kick. A miss would give the title to Brazil. Earlier, Baggio had wheeled atop the penalty area and left a shot high. He did the same thing again, with the world watching and the World Cup on the line.
"There is a lot of luck involved in penalty kicks," Taffarel said. "I try to place all the responsibility on the kicker. Nobody likes to arrive at a penalty-kick decision. Italy must be frustrated. They were so near a title and didn't get it."