BAGGIO: The Final Function
On This Day In 2004, 37-year-old Roberto Baggio earned his final cap for Italy in a friendly match against Spain. He wore the number 10 shirt for the final time, as well as the captain’s armband for part of the match. Baggio was unable to score, despite winning a free-kick from which Christian Vieri’s equalising goal arose. The match finished 1–1 and Baggio was given a standing ovation after being substituted off for Fabrizio Miccoli.
This was the first time an Italian footballer’s career had been celebrated this way since Silvio Piola retired in 1952. Baggio Baggio is the only Italian player ever to score in three World Cups with nine career World Cup goals, putting him equal with Christian Vieri and Paolo Rossi as Italy’s top World Cup goalscorers. He was a member of Gli Azzurri squad that finished third and second at the 1990 and 1994 World Cups respectively, famously missing the decisive penalty kick in the final of the latter.
The 1993 Ballon d’Or winner remains the only Italian player with the most caps to never have played in a European Championship. In all, Baggio represented Italy between 1988 to 2004, netting 27 goals in 57 caps. He is Italy’s fourth-highest all-time goalscorer, tied with Del Piero, who managed the tally in 91 caps.