On this day in 2002, Paolo Maldini played his last World Cup match against South Korea, setting the record for minutes played after 23 appearances in the competition.
The former Italy international graced the left side in four different World Cups from 1990 to 2002, starting off his track record with Italia ’90, almost two years after having made his debut for the national side.
The Azzurri defender, who stayed at Milan for his whole career, appeared in all seven matches on home soil, when Italy eventually lost on penalties to Argentina in the semi-finals and went on to beat England 2-1 to claim the bronze medal.
Four years later, ahead of the USA ’94 World Cup, the Rossoneri full-back was named vice-captain for Italy and yet again played in all seven games as Italy reached the Final and even had to deputise for his injured club icon and centre-back Franco Baresi as captain.
In 1994, Italy ended the competition second after losing on penalties against Brazil in the Final, when Roberto Baggio memorably skied the ball over the bar in the shootout. When Baresi retired from his national duties, Maldini was promoted to become the captain of the Azzurri.
The World Cup in 1998 ended in a quarter-final defeat against hosts France, as Italy were beaten by the eventual winners for the third consecutive time, again on penalties. Maldini played all five games again.
In 2002, the tournament hosted by South Korea and Japan saw Italy eliminated after a host of controversial refereeing decisions.
Two years after having reached the Final in the European Championship, Maldini played all four games when Italy were sent out by a golden goal in the Round of 16 against South Korea – his last World Cup game, setting a record of 2,216 minutes, according to Opta over four competitions.
Maldini ended his Italy career with 126 caps and seven goals, all coming at home, but never picked up a trophy during his time with the national side.
Paolo Maldini’s World Cup records:
Clean sheets: 10
Cards (Y/R): 3/0
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