Friday, May 4, 2012

The myths and realities of legends Roberto Baggio and Zinadine Zidane

          When examining the 1994 World Cup and the 1998 World Cup two names seem to jump out at you immediately, Roberto Baggio and Zinadine Zidane. Baggio and Zidane were the heros of Italy and France respectively. Zidane is considered the biggest star on home soil in 1998, while Baggio is widely heralded as the Italian hero in the 1994 World Cup in America, guiding his team to the final, before tragically missing the final penalty in shootout against Brazil. However, if you look closely maybe they weren't the biggest stars, but heroes nonetheless. It is hard to separate myths from reality, particularly for younger fans of the sport who are taught that Zizou and the Divine Ponytail were legends of their time, and they were, nobody is taking that away from them. However, sometimes fans can get sucked in watching some poor quality highlights of some event, without knowing the whole story. Let's take a look at Baggio first. While Baggio is widely recognized as the star of the 1994 world cup for the way he catapulted soccer for that specific time, and his charismatic persona, he actually struggled in that World Cup, until the semifinals. Baggio did not score in the first two games of that tournament, and was virtually invisible until the semifinals, where he you could argue single-handledly won the game 2-1 against Bulgaria, pushing Italy into the world cup final. He was virtually invisible in the final against Brazil, and missed that famous penalty in the shootout. Baggio did score 5 goals in that tournament, and had some great moments, particularly in the semi-finals, but you could make a case that he was not the best player in that World Cup. Baggio will forever be remembered as a hero, for his dynamic style on the field and off, particularly in the 1990-1994 period, but his 1994 World Cup performance is a little suspect. Zidane is another case, in where he was widely remembered as the best player and hero of the France squad that beat Brazil in the final. However, when looking closely it is really hard to make that statement. For one, Zidane missed 2 of the 7 games, having been suspended in the second game against Saudi Arabia for stomping on a player; This was the first time, and certainly not the last time that Zidane would get in trouble for his temper. He played decent, not well, until the final where he scored those fantastic headers against Brazil, and played a good game overall. However, was he really more outstanding than Thuram, Deschamps, and Henry. It is hard to say. However, what separated Zidane and Baggio, in the 1998 and the 1994 World Cup, and throughout their careers for that matter was their magnetism that raised their teammates play, as well. Looking past the numbers, Zizou and the Divine Ponytail were natural born leaders, and it takes much deeper to see that.

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