The men who set the world alight in ’94
Roberto BAGGIO Italy: b. 1967 PONY-TAILED playmaker whose skill level and invention have not always been appreciated by his country.
As the world’s most expensive player at Italia 90 he flattered only to deceive, scoring a quite brilliant individual goal against Czechoslovakia but failing where it counted in the later knockout stages.
Three years later he was voted European and World Footballer of the Year and at USA 94 was a sensation, almost single-handedly dragging Italy to the final.
Saved the Azzurri against Nigeria with two late strikes, grabbed the winner against Spain in a violent quarter-final and then both goals in the semi-final win over Bulgaria.
Ironically, it was his skied penalty in the final shootout against Brazil that condemned Italy to an unlucky defeat.
Buried his penalty hoodoo by converting his spot kick in the 1998 shoot-out with France but it was not enough to stop the Azzurri from exiting to the eventual winners.
Was overlooked for the 2002 finals despite a clamour for him to go, before retiring in 2004. ROMARIO Faria de Souza Brazil: b. 1966 CONTROVERSIAL forward who mixed raw opportunism and exceptional cool in front of goal with a fiery temperament on and off the pitch – “the night is my friend,” he was fond of saying.
Starred in Brazil’s 1988 Olympic team and with PSV in Holland before a move to Barcelona in 1993 saw his international career take off.
Provided a razor-sharp cutting edge to a largely pragmatic Brazil team at USA 94, scoring the winner against Sweden in the semi-finals. He also scored against them in the group stages, with further strikes against Cameroon, Russia and Holland taking his tally to five.
He missed out on the 1998 World Cup through injury and was overlooked by coach Luis Felipe Scolari for the 2002 finals despite being the top-scorer in the Brazilian first division for the previous two seasons.
In May 2007 he scored what he claimed was his 1,000th career goal in a game between Vasco da Gama and Sport Recife. Hristo STOICHKOV Bulgaria: b. 1966 THE single most important factor behind Bulgaria’s emergence as a world football power.
Dynamic forward with a vicious left-foot and searing pace. Ran straight at the heart of defences, but was equally adept from dead-ball situations.
Expert at drawing fouls, though his temperament often let him down.
Bulgaria hadn’t won a game in six World Cup tournaments but Stoichkov soon changed that with two penalties in a 4-0 thrashing of Greece. Was outstanding in a 2-0 defeat of Argentina, scoring again, as he did against Mexico in the second round.
Stoichkov and Bulgaria’s finest hour came in the quarters, however, when Germany were beaten. Stoichkov curled in a majestic free-kick in the 2-1 win. He was also on target in the semi-final defeat by Italy to finish the tournament’s joint top scorer with six goals.