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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Donadoni remains positive
Donadoni picked up 63 caps for the Azzurri
Donadoni: Philisophical about his World Cup memories

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If England consider themselves cursed when it comes to penalties, then they still have some way to go to match Italy.

The Azzurri have watched the past three World Cups go up in smoke for their failure to finish from 12 yards.

Stunned in the semi-finals of their home World Cup in 1990 by Argentina, they went one better in USA 1994 when they lost to Brazil in the final.

That they were beaten by the eventual champions, France, four years later in the quarter-finals, by that time, may have seemed inevitable.

However much a 1990 semi-final defeat must have cut through Stuart Pearce, it is unlikely to have compared to the despair of Roberto Donadoni.

The former AC Milan midfielder missed the third penalty against Argentina, before collapsing in a heap on the floor, praying for the ground to swallow him whole.

By USA 94, the memory had obviously proved too much to bear as he avoided taking one in the final in Los Angeles. He looked on as the team's other Roberto, Baggio, sent the deciding penalty over the bar.

If the memories hurt him at the time, the 38-year-old remains philosophical about them now.

Roberto Donadoni
Donadoni had two spells with AC Milan
Born: 09.09.1963
Caps: 63
Major honours: 6 Scudettos, 3 European Cups
Former Clubs: Atalanta, AC Milan, NY Metrostars, AC Milan

"In that final I nearly lost my life three or four times," Donadoni says with a wisp of grey in his still curly hair.

"But I don't look back on USA 94 or Italia 90 with disappointment. In your life you have one, maybe two chances to play in the World Cup.

"It is the best opportunity a player can have - to have a chance to win the World Cup final."

A veteran of 63 caps for the national side, Donadoni was a mainstay on the right side of Milan's midfield for over a decade.

Arriving from Atalanta in 1986, he went on to win six Scudettos and three European Cups as his foraging runs played a significant part in Milan's glory days.

Argentina won the game 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time
Baggio consoles Donadoni after his 1990 penalty miss

Ray Wilkins was fortunate enough to play alongside him for a season upon Donadoni's arrival at the San Siro.

"He was part of a very talented young side during the 1986-1987 season," Wilkins recalls.

"He was quick, had tremendous feet and although individually skilled was a good team player.

"As far as I can tell, you don't get into the Italian national team and stay there unless you're extremely talented."

One would be hard pushed to name a better right midfielder of his time, but Wilkins regards perhaps today's best right midfielder, David Beckham, as a more complete package.

"David has a better final ball, but not unlike him, Roberto had tremendous natural fitness."

Deciding factor

Fitness is something Donadoni regards as essential if progress is to be made in the Far East, and it is a quality which he believes the Azzurri have.

"Italy are one of the best teams in this World Cup," he says.

"It's important to have players in good physical condition, but I think that the Italian side will have that after a very tough domestic season.

"Experience is also very important, as is having players that can do something different. I like (Allesandro) Del Piero and (Francesco) Totti for their ability to decide a game.

"My favourite players when I played in the national team were the ones who tried different things, not just the easy pass or the easy solution."

For that read Baggio.

Judging by past results, one magician in the Italian team is not enough.

Now that Italy have two conjurors in Del Piero and Totti, perhaps they can avoid the lottery of penalties.

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