The World Cup of 1994 was held in the USA, where what most people thought of football was in fact a strange game involving the throwing of a rugby ball played by large men wearing fancy dress who need to stop play for a breather every 30 seconds. Football's showpiece tournament was entering an alien landscape, but would the Americans notice?
There was not a proper national football set up in the States after the collapse of the North American Soccer League in 1984. A condition of the USA getting to host the finals was that a new league would be set up, but this goal was not achieved until two years after the tournament with the formation of Major League Soccer. Teams representing 147 nations applied to enter the various qualifying tournaments, and of the 24 teams competing in the finals, three would be from Africa for the first time in World Cup history. Countries which were competing in their first world cup finals were; Greece and Saudi Arabia.
The 24 competing teams were split into 6 groups of 4, with the teams in each group playing in a round robin format. After each team had played the others in their group once the two leading teams would be go through to the next round and would be joined by the next 4 teams with the best record in the group, provided they had finished third. This would make up the magic number of 16 which would enable a straight knock-out tournament to proceed with the winners progressing to the next round. If the score of the match was level after 90 minutes, a further half hour of extra time would be played. If at the end of extra time the scores were still level a penalty shoot-out would decide the winner.
Matches were held at 9 stadiums spread throughout the USA.
USA 1 Switzerland 1 (Detroit)
Colombia 1 Romania 3 (Los Angeles)
Switzerland 4 Romania 1 (Detroit)
USA 2 Colombia 1 (Los Angeles)
USA 0 Romania 1 (Los Angeles)
Switzerland 0 Colombia 2 (San Francisco)
Romania 3 2 0 1 5 5 6
Switzerland 3 1 1 1 5 4 4
USA 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
Colombia 3 1 0 2 4 5 3
The opening match between the USA and Switzerland was the first world cup match to be played under an enclosed roof. The USA obtained a well-earned draw their team of undistinguished professionals working well as a team. Meanwhile a very good Romania side led by Gheorge Hagi beat the Colombians who had been expected to have a good tournament. The next two games in the group produced big surprises, Switzerland easily beating Romania and the victory of USA over Colombia.
In the latter game Colombia seemed to be utterly disinterested in the game. Although they sought redemption by beating Switzerland in their last game, it was too little too late to qualify and the Colombian team headed home. A couple of days later, while the football in America continued, the Colombian defender Anders Escobar was shot dead leaving a restaurant in Medellin. Escobar had scored an own goal in the defeat to the USA. Prior to the game the Colombian player Gabriel Gomez had been removed from the team after receiving death threats, as did the Colombian coach Pato Maturana. The murder of Escobar would linger on throughout the remainder of the tournament, a reminder that football is only a game.
Cameroon 2 Sweden 2 (Los Angeles)
Brazil 2 Russia 0 (San Francisco)
Brazil 3 Cameroon 0 (San Francisco)
Russia 1 Sweden 3 (Detroit)
Brazil 1 Sweden 1 (Detroit)
Russia 6 Cameroon 1 (San Francisco)
Brazil 3 2 1 0 6 1 7
Sweden 3 1 2 0 6 4 5
Russia 3 1 0 2 7 6 3
Cameroon 3 0 1 2 3 11 1
Brazil managed to negotiate an easy path to the next phase. Both Russia and Cameroon were suffering from disharmony in their squads. For Russia many of their best players refused to travel to the USA after the penny pinching tactics of the Russian FA. Cameroon who had gained so many friends after their adventures in the 1990 World Cup, had suffered constant financial problems and their players seemed forever on the verge of walking out pay disputes. Neither team could compete when they played Brazil, who gained two straightforward victories.
The match between Cameroon and Sweden was very enjoyable, watched by a crowd of over 83,000, but Cameroon could not maintain this form into their remaining games. With Brazil and Sweden already qualified they played out a dull draw, while Russia thrashed Cameroon in their last game, with five goals scored by the little known Oleg Salenko, who would afterwards return to the obscurity he came from. Cameroon's only consolation was a goal for the 42 year old Roger Milla.
Germany 1 Bolivia 0 (Chicago)
Spain 2 South Korea 2 (Dallas)
Germany 1 Spain 1 (Chicago)
Bolivia 0 South Korea 0 (Boston)
Germany 3 South Korea 2 (Dallas)
Bolivia 1 Spain 3 (Chicago)
Germany 3 2 1 0 5 3 7
Spain 3 1 2 0 6 4 5
South Korea 3 0 2 1 4 5 2
Bolivia 3 0 1 2 1 4 1
The tournament had kicked off with the encounter between Germany and Bolivia, a boring game as these 'showpiece' events often are. A goal from Jurgen Klinsmann decided the match. The game between Spain and South Korea was far more entertaining, with the Koreans being able to comeback to draw the tie after the dismissal of the Spanish defender Nadal.
Germany and Spain met and cancelled each other out, where Klinsmann's successful partnership with Rudi Voller was set up again. The two European teams then secured their places in to the next round, although Germany nearly suffered a hiccup against South Korea. As the match drew to a climax in the stifling heat of Dallas in June, the German team began to stutter and their three goal lead was reduced by two Korean goals. German fans began to barrack their team, and when the midfielder Stefan Effenberg was substituted he responded with a middle fingered salute. Effenberg was then sent home in disgrace, and despite being the best German player of his generation, he would not play an international match again.
Argentina 4 Greece 0 (Boston)
Nigeria 3 Bulgaria 0 (Dallas)
Argentina 2 Nigeria 1 (Boston)
Greece 0 Bulgaria 4 (Chicago)
Argentina 0 Bulgaria 2 (Dallas)
Greece 0 Nigeria 2 (Boston)
Nigeria 3 2 0 1 6 2 6
Bulgaria 3 2 0 1 6 3 6
Argentina 3 2 0 1 6 3 6
Greece 3 0 0 3 0 10 0
Before this World Cup began, one of the bigger questions being asked was would Diego Maradona play for Argentina? Maradona had been suspended for a year after testing positive for cocaine while playing in Italy (as did his teammate Claudio Caniggia), and had returned to Buenos Aires, and had been playing little football. As it turned out Maradona did play, and seemed to be back on top form with a blistering opening win over Greece. This game also introduced Gabriel Batistuta to the world cup.
Nigeria had promised to be the pick of the African teams this time round, and they managed to live up to expectations by soundly beating a good Bulgarian team. So the stage was set for Argentina against Nigeria. Nigeria scored first although the goal had a large whiff of offside about it, but two goals from Caniggia gave the game to Argentina. Again Maradona played well. Two days later he was expelled from the tournament, after his urine sample tested positive for ephedrine. The improved Maradona had been chemically enhanced.
Bulgaria played their neighbours Greece and won, the first game they had won in the world cup finals in six attempts, Bulgaria had a genuine star in their striker Hristo Stoichkov who scored two penalties in the game.
In the last games a demoralised Argentina faded away against Bulgaria, who gained second place in the group as the result of this win. Poor Greece, playing in their first world cup finals, lost again to Nigeria, they were out of the competition and had failed to register a single goal.
Italy 0 Ireland 1 (New York)
Norway 1 Mexico 0 (Washington)
Italy 1 Norway 0 (New York)
Ireland 1 Mexico 2 (Orlando)
Italy 1 Mexico 1 (Washington)
Ireland 0 Norway 0(New York)
Mexico 3 1 1 1 3 3 4
Ireland 3 1 1 1 2 2 4
Italy 3 1 1 1 2 2 4
Norway 3 1 1 1 1 1 4
The Group of Death of 1994, Group E featured three European teams and Mexico, who have always been capable of good performances. In the opening game the Italians surprisingly lost to Ireland, whose midfielder Ray Houghton scored with a long chip over the Italian keeper Gianluca Pagliuca. Ireland playing with 5 in midfield and a lone striker, were dominant throughout a game whereas as the Italians playing in an unfamiliar formation. In the other game Norway beat Mexico with a late goal.
In their next match, Italy scraped through against a negative Norway team whose long balls tactics where mind-numbingly boring to watch. Pagliuca added to his misfortune by being sent off for handling outside the penalty area. Meanwhile playing in Orlando in the middle of a hot afternoon (the kick-off times set up to maximise European television audiences), Ireland lost to Mexico. The Ireland manager Jack Charlton had a series of altercations with the FIFA officials as he tried to ensure his dehydrated players were receiving water, and the substitute John Aldridge swore at the fourth official after his introduction to the game was delayed by poor communication between the officials. Aldridge and Charlton would be fined, and Charlton was banned from the dug -out for the next match against Norway.
With the group all square, both final matches ended in draws which made all teams level on points and goal differences. Ultimately Norway's negative tactics did for them as they went out due to having scored the fewest goals. The fancied Italians only managed third place, due to their defeat from the Irish and they were lucky not to lose to Mexico.
Belgium 1 Morocco 0 (Orlando)
Netherlands 2 Saudi Arabia 1 (Washington)
Belgium 1 Netherlands 0 (Orlando)
Morocco 1 Saudi Arabia 2 (New York)
Morocco 1 Netherlands 2 (Orlando)
Belgium 0 Saudi Arabia 1 (Washington)
Netherlands 3 2 0 1 4 3 6
Saudi Arabia 3 2 0 1 4 3 6
Belgium 3 2 0 1 2 1 6
Morocco 3 0 0 3 2 5 0
The two lowland European teams against two Arab ones. Morocco and Saudi Arabia both performed creditably in the opening matches making Belgium and Holland work hard. There was a surprise result in the next game where Belgium beat the fancined Netherlands with a Phillipe Albert goal. The Dutch defence, using three centre halves looked vulnerable. Holland managed to qualify by beating Morocco in their last game, while Belgium were beaten by Saudi arabia and the goal of the tournament - Saeed al Owairan picked up a pass in his own half and then proceeded to set off on a run at the Belgium team, beating five players before sending the ball into the Belgium goal.
Belgium 2 3 Germany
A good game, with both sides scoring in the first ten minutes. The old combination of Voller and Klinsmann secured this game for Germany. Belgium grabbed a consolation goal in the last minute to make the tie look closer than it actually was.
Spain 3 0 Switzerland
A fairly easy win for Spain. Their first goal was god to watch, a breakaway by Fernarndo Hierro, after a Swiss attack was broken up. Switzerland managed to acquit themselves well in their first World Cup since 1966.
Saudi Arabia 1 3 Sweden
Another straightforward victory for a European side, Sweden scored early with a Martin Dahlin header and Saudi Arabia never managed to get back into the game.
Argentina 2 3 Romania
Argentina looked lost and bewildered after the departure of Maradona. The Romanians capitalized on this with Georghe Hagi and Ilie Dumitrescu playing superbly, would score the goals for them. The merits of having Batistuta in your side were demonstrated as Argentina managed to give their fans hope even as they were being played off the park.
Ireland 0 2 Netherlands
Ireland had progressed about as far as their team were capable, they possessed no strikers of note and under Jack Charlton packed the midfield and hoped for the odd breakaway or set-piece to be successful. Both Dutch goals were down to dreadful mistakes by the Irish defence, noticeably suffering from the Florida heat.
Whatever other merits of the Netherlands team, it should be noted that any team that fields a player as abysmal as Peter van Vossen should not be expected to win trophies.
Brazil 1 0 USA
As was expected Brazil progressed at the expense of the hosts. It was not as easy as expected. Brazil had been reduced to 10 men after the dismissal of Leonardo the left back who blatantly shoved his elbow in the face of Tab Ramos with such force that his skull was fractured. Rabas had been one of USA's most effective figures.
The USA team failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage, indeed they rarely pushed enough players forward to produce half-decent attempts at goal. A single goal by Bebeto won the game (being played on the 4th of July a significant date for America) late in the second half.
Italy 2 1 Nigeria (4:3 penalties)
Nigeria so nearly put out the Italians, in a match that is mainly remembered for the catalogue of appalling refereeing mistakes. Nigeria had gone ahead early with a goal from Emmanuel Amunike had would hold the lead right up to the end of normal time. Italy started off poorly but improved for the second half.
Meanwhile the referee made a series of blunder. First the Italian substitute Gianfranco Zola was sent off shortly after coming on to the pitch, accused of stamping on an opponent. Most observers felt this was a harsh and unfair decision. Italy had several penalty appeals which would not have raised eyebrows if they were given. Then with time running out, Paulo Maldini escaped dismissal after committing a cynical professional foul as the last defender.
Roberto Baggio the Italian fans' favourite managed to equalise a couple of minutes from time putting the game into extra time. The game could have gone either way, Nigeria missed their chances, Italy took theirs. Italy won a clear-cut penalty and Roberto Baggio converted.
Bulgaria 1 1 Mexico (3:1 penalties)
Another match marred by poor refereeing. The game started out promisingly with an early Hristo Stoichkov goal being cancelled out by a Mexican penalty. The penalty had been conceded by the Bulgarian defender Emil Kremenliev who had already been booked, so it seemed he would be sent off. However he stayed on the pitch only to be dismissed early in the second half for a much more trivial offence. Soon the skilful Mexican striker Luis Garcia would also be taking an early bath for two bookings after two innocuous fouls.
The game dried up and became a non-event. A penalty shoot out would finally decide the winner, but even then the first three penalties were all saved. Bulgaria had the better luck and so progressed to the quarter finals.
Italy 2 1 Spain
Italy were lucky, Spain not so, the scoreline could so easily have been reversed. Italy had gone ahead with a goal from Dino Baggio and Spain equalised through Jose Caminero. As the second half progressed Spain gained the upper hand but were unable to score. Their best chance came when Julio Salinas beat the offside trap and was through with only the keeper to beat, but Salinas failed, Pagliuca making an important save.
Spain continued to press but were caught by a typical sucker bunch Italian breakaway near the end, the little pony-tailed buddhist Roberto Baggio scoring from a narrow angle. In the couple of minutes left to play the Italian defender Mauro Tassoti managed to launched his elbow into the nose of Luis Enrique and escape detection from the referee and both linesman. After the match Tassotti would be banned for 8 matches, the first player to be punished in such a manner in a world cup match from video-taped evidence.
Brazil 3 2 Netherlands
The Brazilian strikeforce duo of Romario and Bebeto were getting better with each game, and the slow and cumbersome Dutch defence was like a red flag to a bull. Brazil produced some of the best football of the tournament in the first half but failed to score, but in the second half Romario and Bebeto grabbed a goal apiece, giving Bebeto the chance to launch into his infamous 'baby rocking' celebration.
The Dutch refused to go quitely into the night, and fought back with goals from Dennis Bergkamp and Aron Winter. The game was then decided by a missile of free kick from thirty yards out taken by the left-back Branco, appearing in his third world cup, but only playing due to the suspension of Leonardo. A great goal fit to end an exciting match.
Bulgaria 2 1 Germany
Germany the current champions seemed favourites to make the semi-final, and they duly took the lead in the second half thanks to a penalty from captain, Lothar Matthaus. With fifteen minutes to go the ball was again in the Bulgaria net, but the ruling was offside. Stoichkov who had been having a quiet game then won a free kick on the edge of the German penalty area. Taking the kick himself he slotted it over the wall and into the corner of the net - Bulgaria were level. Then a couple of minutes later a cross was sent in to the German penalty area, no defender responded to the threat and the head of Yordan Letchkov sent Bulgaria into the semi finals and no all European football fans outwith Germany into cheers.
Romania 2 2 Sweden (4:5 penalties)
A close game between two tightly matched teams, Romania started as most pundits favourites after their disposal of Argentina in the previous match. The game had two goals late in the second half, and again in extra time each side scored again. Sweden's Stefan Schwarz was sent off late on for a second bookable offence.
So penalties would decide, with no team doing enough in regulation team to lay a greater claim for progress. Hakan Mild missed the first penalty for Sweden, put the balances were evened up when Thomas Ravelli (making his 115th appearance) saved from Dan Petrescu. The shoot-off went into sudden death and Henrik Larsson success meant that the sweeper, Midrag Belodedici had to score to keep Romania in the tie. Ravelli managed a diving a save to send the Romanians out in a shoot-out for the second world cup running.
Bulgaria 1 2 Italy
Italy played their best football of the tournament here, thoroughly deserving their place in the final. Two first half goals from Roberto Baggio turned the Italians supremacy into fact, and Demetrio Albertini also had an excellent game. Bulgaria were lucky to get back into the game with a penalty just before half-time and in the second half they showed glimpses of the team that had defeated Germany.
The Italians, as traditional, had a far firmer defence than the Germans though, and limited the an improved Bulgaria chances in the second half.
There were only a few hiccups to upset the Italians victory, baggio the goal-scorer picked up a strained hamstring which made him a doubt for the final, and the defender Alessandro Costacurta picked up a booking for his foul that gave Bulgaria their penalty making him illegitimate for the final. Bulgaria with only a third place play-off to look forward to had nevertheless exceeded expectations.
Brazil 1 0 Sweden
A one-sided match, with Brazil pressing down a sturdy Swedish defence. The toll of extra time against Romania was visible as Sweden toiled to create chances of their own, and the crosses which they hoped to use to exploit Brazils lack of height in defence were not forthcoming.
Brazil failed to score despite their pressure, at least not until Sweden had Jonas Thern sent off for a foul on the Brazilian captain and workhorse Dunga. Finally in the 80th minute the right back Jorginho drifted in a deep cross that Romario managed to head in from the back post. Otherwise it was not a memorable game, but Brazil were back in the final of a world cup for the first time since their renowned 1970 win.
Third Place Match
Bulgaria 0 4 Sweden
Sweden scored four times in the first half against a Bulgaria team who had to fly from coast to coast to take part in one last game.
Brazil 0 0 Italy (3:2 penalties)
Brazil: Taffarel, Jorginho (Cafu), Aldair, Marcio Santos, Branco, Mazzinho, Mauro Silva, Dunga, Zinho (Viola), Romario, Bebeto
Italy: Gianluca Pagliuca, Roberto Mussi (Luigi Apolloni), Franco Baresi, Paulo Maldini, Antonio Benarrivo, Nicola Berti, Dino Baggio (Alberigo Evani), Demetrio Albertini, Roberto Donadoni, Roberto Baggio, Daniele Massaro
Sadly, the final was an anti-climax, no goals, little excitement, it became the first world cup final to be decided on a penalty shoot out. The Brazil team was as expected, but the Italians produced a few surprises. The defender Franco Baresi, who was captained and had returned from international retirement before the tournament returned to the line-up after a quick recovery from a knee operation after an injury sustained in the Nigeria game. The other surprise was the return of Daniele Massaro who had been a member of Italy's 1982 world cup winning squad. Roberto Baggio would play after recovering from his earlier injury.
The game never really got going, Italy sat back playing cautiously, but their finishing did not excel, Massaro missed his few chances, while Baggio never looked fully fit. As for Brazil they always held the threat of Romario and Bebeto but fireworks resolutely refused to fire. No Brazilian had a poor game but neither did any of then distinguish themselves, aside from Dunga who tried hard but lacked the vision to produce a killer final ball to his front men. Branco came close with a few free kicks but Pagliuca was equal to the task at hand.
So the game edged to full time with neither team being able to make the breakthrough, and just before the final whistle Bebeto got to a cross put failed to get enough power on his connection to beat the keeper.
In extra time the shut outs continued, Baggio forced a good save from Taffarel with a shot from outside the penalty area, but by now it seemed the lure of a penalty shoot out was irrestible, with neither team prepared to take chances to force a win.
So to the shoot out. Baresi, a life-long penalty taker was up first for Italy. He missed the target. Marcio Santos was up now for Brazil and Pagliuca made the save. The next two sets of penalties both went in; -Demetrio Albertini and Alberigo Evani for Italy and Romario and Branco scoring for Brazil. Then the experienced striker Massaro was up for Italy, as in the match he could not score, Taffarel making the save. Brazil had the advantage and a calm Dunga converted the next shot. Roberto Baggio, injured and worn out, at odds with his manager but the architect of Italy's path to the final had to score to keep Italian hopes alive. A short run up and the ball is skied over the bar, Brazil have won the world cup.
For Italy it was another loss on penalties, their choice of exit in the 1990 competition, they would repeat the experience in 1998. For Brazil after becoming the first country to win three world cups in 1970, they were now the first country to win four in 1994.
6 - Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Oleg Salenko (Russia)
5 - Romario (Brazil), Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany), Roberto Baggio (Italy), Kennet Andersson (Sweden)
4 - Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina), Florin Raducioiu (Romania), Martin Dahlin (Sweden)