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World Cup records

Penalty heartache and goal gaps

June 3, 2010
By Mark Lomas

Each time the World Cup rolls around, enduring football memories are created on the biggest stage of them all and the tournament's history books rewritten. Here, Soccernet tells the stories of those players, coaches and teams who can already claim to hold a place in the record books.

Most penalty shootout defeats suffered by a participating player: 3 - Roberto Baggio
(Italy in 1990, 1994, 1998)

Roberto baggio woe
GettyImagesRoberto Baggio stands dejected after misisng the crucial spot-kick in the 1994 World Cup final

Is there an unluckier player in World Cup history? I'm sure the likes of Harald Schumacher, Karl-Heinz Foerster and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge - all of whom lost two succesive finals with West Germany in 1982 and 1986 - would feel they have a claim to the title. But having experienced three successive tournament exits with Italy, all courtesy of penalty shootout defeats, Baggio must take the prize.

Il Divin Codino (the Divine Ponytail), as he would come to be known, was selected in Italy's World Cup squad for the finals on home soil in 1990, and much was expected after Juventus broke the world transfer record to sign him from Fiorentina for €12 million - a deal that caused riots in the streets of Florence. After initially being left out of coach Azeglio Vicini's first XI along with eventual Golden Boot winner Salvatore Schillaci, he forced his way into the starting line-up, but again found himself on the bench for the semi-final clash with Argentina. Gianluca Vialli made way for Baggio as the game headed into extra-time, and when the penalty shootout arrived, the substitute volunteered to take a spot-kick. In a glimpse of what was to happen four years later, Baggio produced a poor effort from 12 yards, though he fortunately scored as goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea palmed the ball into the net. But that was where Italy's luck ended, as misses from Roberto Donadoni and Aldo Serena sent the hosts crashing out.

By the time World Cup 1994 rolled around, Baggio was an integral part of the national team, and he proved his worth at the tournament in the USA with five goals in the knockout stages - netting the match-winning strikes in the second round, quarter-finals and semi-finals. Brazil were the opponents in the final, but Il Divin Codino was unable to find a way through the South Americans' defence and, after 120 minutes of stalemate, the first ever World Cup final penalty shootout reared its head. Misses from Franco Baresi and Daniele Massaro meant it was left to Italy's star player to score in order to keep the Azzurri's hopes of winning alive. It was not to be. Baggio's penalty was blazed high over the crossbar, and the striker looked at the floor in despair as Brazil's players danced with delight.

Four years on, Baggio formed a prolific partnership with Christian Vieri to fire Italy into the quarter-finals for the fifth time in six tournaments, becoming the only Italian player to score in three World Cup finals in the process. Surprisingly, Baggio was dropped for the final group game against Austria in favour of Alessandro Del Piero - a move that drew widespread criticism of coach Cesare Maldini. For the quarter-final against France, the Divine Ponytail - minus the ponytail - came on as a substitute but the hosts' defence held firm and the scores remained at 0-0 after extra-time, meaning another dreaded shootout. Determined to atone for the pain of the 1994 final, Baggio volunteered to take the first penalty and confidently stroked home from 12 yards, banishing some of his outstanding demons. But it was not to be a happy ending as Demetri Albertini and Luigi Di Biagio failed to convert, allowing Les Bleus to progress and ensuring that Baggio is the only player in World Cup history to have participated in (Paolo Maldini was part of all three defeats without taking a penalty) and lost three shootouts.

Longest period between first and last goals: Michael Laudrup - 12 years and 16 days
(Denmark vs Uruguay, 1986 - Denmark vs France, 1998)

There are a number of illustrious challengers for this particular record, with four players able to claim a gap of 12 years between their first and last World Cup goals. Legendary striker Pele scored his first goal in 1958 - the winner in a 1-0 quarter-final victory over Wales - and famously netted his last as Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in the 1970 World Cup final, 12 years and two days later. For fellow superstar Diego Maradona, the gap was 12 years and three days between his first finals goal for Argentina against Hungary in the 1982 group stage and his last, in the opening game of the 1994 World Cup against Greece - a match that will be remembered for the wide-eyed celebration that was indicative of his off-field indiscretions.

Michael Laudrup Denmark World Cup 1986
GettyImagesMichael Laudrup: Scored 37 goals in 104 games for Denmark

Uwe Seeler, who lies sixth on Germany's all-time record goalscorers list with 43 goals from 72 appearances, netted his final World Cup goal in West Germany's in thrilling 3-2 comeback win over England in the 1970 quarter-finals, 12 years and six days after opening his finals account in the first game of the 1958 tournament against Argentina. But the player who can boast the biggest gap between their first and last World Cup goals is former Denmark captain Michael Laudrup.

After an impressive 1985-86 season in the heart of Juventus' midfield alongside Michel Platini, Laudrup continued to be an instrumental player for a Denmark side competing at their first ever finals, in Mexico. The midfielder netted his first finals goal in the Danes' 6-1 thrashing of Uruguay, tiptoeing his way through the South Americans' defence before taking it past the goalkeeper to finish off an excellent solo effort. But despite finishing top of the group and beating eventual runners-up West Germany, Denmark went crashing out of the competition after a 5-1 second round demolition at the hands of Spain.

Two failed World Cup qualifications in 1990 and 1994 sandwiched a shock triumph at the 1992 European Championships for Denmark, though Laudrup was not part of the winning side after quitting international football following a falling out with coach Richard Moller Nielsen. Laudrup returned to the national team in 1993 and led the Danes to the 1998 World Cup finals as captain, in what would be his international swansong alongside younger brother Brian. Twelve years and 16 days after his first World Cup strike, the elder Laudrup netted his second, and final, goal in the competition - converting from the penalty spot in a 2-1 defeat to eventual winners France in the group stage.

Laudrup's record could be broken at the 2010 finals by one of his opponents that day, Thierry Henry. But it's a long shot for the current France captain, as it would require both Les Bleus to reach the semi-finals and Henry to be on the scoresheet - two events that don't seem too likely on current form.