It is said that by simply playing for the joy that football brought, Garrincha came first. Romario, many considered, came a close second. Nicknamed Baixinho (Portuguese way of calling someone Shorty), Romario was never a committed athlete with a lackadaisical approach to training. “The night was always my friend,” he once said.
“When I go out, I am happy and when I am happy I score goals.”
Romario was one of the most-talked about players in the lead-up to 1990 World Cup in Italy but injuries restricted him to just 66 minutes of action. But at USA 1994, he burst on to the scene and took Brazil to its fourth World Cup, after a gap of 24 years. Partnering Bebeto, he scored five goals, one each in three first round matches, including a trademark toe-poke finish against Sweden. He bagged one against the Netherlands in the quarterfinal and scored the match-winning header against Sweden in the last four.
Though he didn’t get on the score-sheet in the final against Italy, he did convert Brazil’s second penalty in the shoot-out, which ended 3–2 in its favour. The performances earned him both the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Adidas Golden Ball award given to the best player at the World Cup.
He later revealed that it was the first time ever he had taken a penalty for the national team. “I never practised penalties,” he said to FourFourTwo. “It was a tense experience to take part in a penalty shootout of such importance but, of course, it all worked out well for us. It was a big relief. After 24 years, we had finally won. My proudest moment was becoming a world champion.”
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