After taking part in the 1990 World Cup without playing a minute, Pagliuca overtook Walter Zenga, Stefano Tacconi and Luca Marchegiani, becoming first choice goalkeeper for Italy at the 1994 World Cup under Arrigo Sacchi. He received the dubious honour of being the first goalkeeper to be sent off in a World Cup match, when he was dismissed for handling outside his area against Norway. However, he returned after suspension to feature from the quarter-finals onwards with his team losing to Brazil in a penalty shootout. Despite the loss, Pagliuca became the first ever goalkeeper to save a penalty from a shootout in a World Cup final, denying Marcio Santos his shot. In 1995, Pagliuca’s international career was halted by the emergence of Juventus goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi, his perceived career rival, and it would be 2 years before he returned to the Italy senior squad, although he took part at the Olympics with the under-21 side as an overage player in 1996. Under Cesare Maldini, Pagliuca would have taken part to the 1998 World Cup only as a back-up, but he earned the starting spot because of a last-minute injury to Peruzzi. He made one of the saves of the tournament, again against Norway, when he shot out a hand to prevent Tore André Flo’s point-blank header from netting. However, Italy lost against host country France in the quarter-final after the penalty shootout, even though Pagliuca blocked Bixente Lizarazu’s shot. After the tournament, the emergence of fellow keepers Francesco Toldo and Gianluigi Buffon (who were, themselves, Pagliuca’s deputies in the 1998 World Cup), along with Peruzzi’s recovery from his injury, put an end to Pagliuca’s international career on 39 caps.