Football World Cup - 1990: Italy Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Football World Cup - 1990: Italy

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The World Cup: An Introduction | 1930: Uruguay | 1934: Italy | 1938: France | 1950: Brazil
1954: Switzerland | 1958: Sweden | 1962: Chile | 1966: England | 1970: Mexico
1974: West Germany | 1978: Argentina | 1982: Spain | 1986: Mexico | 1990: Italy | 1994: USA
1998: France | 2002: Japan and South Korea

There were some good things about the 1990 World Cup. Cameroon thrilled and charmed the watching world as they beat the world champions, enjoyed an extended run in the competition, and introduced us all to the footballing and dancing skills of Roger Milla. There was a memorable run by the Republic of Ireland. There were even one or two pretty good games of football.

However, this was the World Cup that was generally so disappointing that it induced FIFA to make a radical change to the rules of the game. Two years after this World Cup, the backpass rule was introduced, making it illegal for a goalkeeper to pick up the ball if it had been kicked or thrown to him by a team-mate, and thus outlawing one of the favourite time-wasting tactics of defensively-minded teams. This was also the last World Cup in which two points were awarded for winning a group game. For the 1994 tournament, three points were awarded for a win. Both of these changes were intended to encourage attacking football, and to try to discourage the defensive, negative, cynical tactics that ruined Italy 1990.

In fairness, it should be added that similar problems had plagued domestic leagues all over the world, and there had already been calls for changes to the laws of the game. But it was surely no coincidence that FIFA finally made some changes not very long after this tournament.

Even the number of entries for this World Cup was disappointing. Up until this point, each successive World Cup had seen an increase in the number of teams taking part in the qualifying tournament. This time 112 teams entered, nine fewer than in 1986. Those who failed to qualify included France, Portugal and Denmark. The Republic of Ireland were among the teams making their first appearance in the finals.

The Tournament

The 1990 World Cup finals got off to a sensational start. In the first match, Cameroon soaked up pressure from Argentina for most of the first half. After a quarter of an hour's play in the second half, Cameroon's Andre Kana was sent off, and it seemed certain that the world champions would now take control. But six minutes later, the ten men took the lead. François Omam Bayik scored when he placed a perfect downward header past Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido. Argentina pressed hard for an equaliser, and Cameroon were reduced to nine men when Benjamin Massing got the red card in the 89th minute - but the African team still held out for a shock 1-0 win.

Then, when Cameroon faced Romania in their second game, Roger Milla took centre stage. His inclusion in Cameroon's squad had been controversial. He'd been a favourite in the Cameroon team for years, but he was now 38 years old. He was only in Italy because of political intervention: Paul Biya, Cameroon's President, had insisted that Milla be included in the squad.

Against Argentina, Milla only appeared for the last ten minutes. But in the match with Romania, Cameroon coach Valeri Nepomniachi sent him on in the 58th minute, with the score still 0-0. It proved to be an inspired move. Milla scored with 15 minutes left, then added another with five minutes remaining, thus getting two opportunities to demonstrate his trademark hip-shaking goal celebration dance. Gavrila Balint scored for Romania, but it was too little too late. Cameroon held on to win 2-1. Surprisingly, they were beaten 4-0 in their last group game by a Soviet Union side desperately, and unsuccessfully, striving to stay in the tournament on goal difference. But it didn't matter - Cameroon were through to the second round as group winners. Romania came second in Group B, and Argentina just scraped into the second round as one of the best third-placed teams.

Another surprise team emerged from Group C. Costa Rica beat Scotland 1-0 in their first match, held Brazil to another 1-0 scoreline in their second, then saw off Sweden 2-1 to claim a place in the second round. Brazil bore little resemblence to the free-flowing, free scoring Brazilian sides of earlier years, but they still took maximum points from the group. They began with a 2-1 win over Sweden, then beat both Costa Rica and Scotland 1-0. Scotland's 2-1 win over Sweden wasn't enough to save them from an early return home.

Group F, featuring the Netherlands, England, the Republic of Ireland and Egypt, perfectly encapsulated what was wrong with the 1990 World Cup finals. In the six group games, no team managed to score more than once in a match. England beat Egypt 1-0, thanks to a 64th minute goal from Mark Wright - and that was enough to win the group, since the other five games in Group F were all drawn. Still, the Republic of Ireland did well to come back from behind against both England and the Netherlands to record 1-1 draws. Gary Lineker put England ahead in the eighth minute, but Kevin Sheedy scored a second-half leveller. Ruud Gullit scored an early goal for the Netherlands in the 10th minute of their game against the Irish, but Niall Quinn grabbed an equaliser with 20 minutes left. Being held 0-0 by Egypt was a little less impressive, but manager Jack Charlton had fashioned his players into a determined, disciplined side. The Republic of Ireland fully deserved their place in the last 16.

There were more goals in Group D, but a lot of them were due to the defensive inadequacies of a United Arab Emirates team that lost 2-0 to Colombia, 5-1 to West Germany and 4-1 to Yugoslavia. All three of the UAE's first round opponents reached the last 16, with West Germany topping the group after an impressive 4-1 win over group runners-up Yugoslavia.

Italy won Group A with a 100 per cent record achieved via cautious football. They beat Austria and the United States 1-0, and Czechoslovakia 2-0. Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci, who'd played only one international before the World Cup finals, came on as substitute in the 74th minute against Austria and scored Italy's winner four minutes later. Czechoslovakia thrashed the USA 5-1 and claimed the runner-up spot in the group, while the USA's first appearance in a World Cup Finals since 1950 ended abruptly after three consecutive defeats. The winners of Group E were Spain, for who Michel hit a hat-trick as they beat South Korea 3-1. Belgium and Uruguay also reached the last 16 from the same group.

The second round featured some intriguing fixtures. Two of the ties - Argentina vs Brazil and Italy vs Uruguay - pitted former champion countries against each other, and West Germany met the Netherlands in a re-run of the 1974 World Cup final. The all-South American game turned out to be a tight, edgy affair, won for Argentina by a goal from Claudio Caniggia with ten minutes remaining and an outstanding performance from their goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea. A strong second half showing from Italy saw them beat Uruguay 2-0, thanks to another goal from Schillaci and one from Aldo Serena. The West Germany-Netherlands clash produced a repeat of the scoreline in the 1974 final. Juergen Klinsmann put the West Germans ahead early in the second half, and Andreas Brehme added a second with eight minutes left. Ronald Koeman converted a penalty for the Netherlands in the 89th minute, but West Germany held on for a 2-1 win.

Meanwhile, the heroics of Cameroon and Roger Milla continued. In Cameroon's game with Colombia, Milla was introduced in the 49th minute with the score 0-0. The scoreline stayed that way after 90 minutes, and after the first period of extra time. And then, as those around him tired, the veteran shone. Milla scored twice in four minutes in the second period of extra time. Bernardo Redin reduced the deficit for Colombia with five minutes left, but the 'Indomitable Lions' held out to win 2-1. For the first time ever, an African team was in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

The other first-round giant-killers fared less well. Costa Rica were comfortably beaten 4-1 by Czechoslovakia, for whom Tomas Skuhravy scored a hat-trick. Yugoslavia beat Spain 2-1 after extra time, with Dragan Stojkovic scoring both the Yugoslavs' goals. The Republic of Ireland's match with Romania remained goalless after extra time, and the Irish side won through 5-4 on penalties. Future Leeds United manager and BBC football pundit David O'Leary converted the penalty that clinched Ireland's place in the quarter-finals. The Republic of Ireland thus achieved the remarkable feat of reaching the last eight in a World Cup finals tournament without actually winning a match, other than on penalties.

The tie of the quarter-finals was surely the one between England and Cameroon. Apart from anything else, it was the only quarter-final to produce more than one goal. Despite Cameroon's heroics earlier in the tournament, England were hot favourites to go through, and it looked as though things were going to go according to plan when David Platt put England ahead in the 25th minute.

But at half-time, the mighty Milla was brought on, and Cameroon suddenly looked sharper. The game was turned on its head in five second half minutes. First Cameroon were awarded a penalty, from which Emmanuel Kunde scored the equaliser. Then, in the 65th minute, Eugene Ekeke put Cameroon ahead. The African team came within eight minutes of reaching the semi-finals - and then they conceded a penalty, which Gary Lineker gratefully converted. Midway through extra time, England were awarded another penalty, and Lineker again scored from the spot. This time, not even Milla could write another chapter for the Cameroon fairy tale. England were through to the semi-finals, after a major fright.

The Republic of Ireland's World Cup run was brought to an end by a single goal from Schillaci in the first half of their quarter-final with Italy. One goal was also enough for West Germany, who beat Czecholslovakia with a 25th-minute Lothar Matthaeus penalty. Argentina and Yugoslavia played out a stalemate that stayed at 0-0 after extra time, despite the fact that Yugoslavia were reduced to ten men after half an hour when Refik Sabanadzovic was sent off. Argentina reached the semi-finals after winning the penalty shoot-out 3-2.

'Toto' Schillaci scored yet again to put Italy ahead in the 17th minute of their semi-final with Argentina, but Claudio Cannigia equalised midway through the second half. There were no more goals in the 90 minutes or in extra time, but there was a sending-off: Ricardo Giusti of Argentina was shown the red card in the 13th minute of extra time. Argentina went through on penalties, winning the shoot-out 4-3.

The semi-final between West Germany and England was goalless at half-time. Then, in the 60th minute, a shot from Andreas Brehme was deflected by a defender, looped up into the air, and dropped over goalkeeper Peter Shilton and just under the bar. But then, with 10 minutes left, Gary Lineker equalised for England.

In the ninth minute of extra time came a famous moment that made a huge impact in England. Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne, England's mercurial midfielder, was cautioned. It was his second yellow card of the tournament, and it meant that, should England reach the final, Gazza would be suspended and ineligible to take part. Realising this, he burst into tears. But as things turned out, no England players took part in the final. The game ended 1-1, and West Germany won the penalty shoot-out 4-3.

The final between West Germany and Argentina produced a couple of football firsts. In the 65th minute, Argentina's Pedro Monzon became the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup final. But he didn't remain alone in his shame for too long. With four minutes left, his team-mate Gustavo Dezotti received the second red card of the game.

Shortly before Dezotti's departure, referee Edgardo Codesal Mendez of Mexico awarded a hotly-disputed penalty to West Germany, from which Andreas Brehme scored the only goal of the game. The 1-0 scoreline provided another first: Argentina were the first team ever to take part in a World Cup final without scoring.

The penalty award may have been a questionable decision, but it was also a merciful decision, in that it spared onlookers extra time. The 1990 final was, by common consent, the worst in the history of the competition: dull, scrappy, bad-tempered and full of negative, cynical football. West Germany's triumph meant that Franz Beckenbauer had achieved a remarkable double, by playing in a World Cup-winning team and then coaching a team that captured the trophy.1 But the 1990 World Cup tournament was a very poor advertisement for football. Before the next World Cup came around, FIFA took drastic action to try to ensure that the 1994 tournament would be a more enjoyable spectacle.

Tournament Trivia

Roger Milla's goals against Colombia in the second round made the Cameroon star the oldest player ever to score in the World Cup finals, at 38 years and 20 days. The record stood until the 1994 finals, when it was beaten... by Roger Milla, still going strong at 42.

Italy's 'Toto' Schillaci won the 'Golden Boot' award as the tournament's leading scorer with a remarkable display of consistency. He scored one goal in every game he took part in, his last contribution being a late winner from the penalty spot against England in the third place play-off match.

Before the tournament, the England team did something unprecedented: they released a cool, hip official World Cup record. 'World In Motion', credited to Englandneworder, featured the critically-acclaimed Manchester band New Order teamed up with comedian Keith Allen2 and England striker John Barnes, who delivered a memorable rap. It deservedly topped the UK singles chart.

For The Record

First Round

Group A
  P W D L F A Pts
United States of America3003280

Group B
  P W D L F A Pts
Soviet Union3102442

Group C
  P W D L F A Pts
Costa Rica3201324

Group D
  P W D L F A Pts
West Germany32101035
United Arab Emirates30032110

Group E
  P W D L F A Pts
South Korea3003160

Group F
  P W D L F A Pts
Republic of Ireland3030223

Second Round

Czechoslovakia 4 : 1 Costa Rica
Cameroon 2 : 1 Colombia after extra time
West Germany 2 : 1 Netherlands
Argentina 1 : 0 Brazil
Italy 2 : 0 Uruguay
Republic of Ireland 0 : 0 Romania after extra time
(Republic of Ireland won 5-4 on penalties)
Yugoslavia 2 : 1 Spain
England 1 : 0 Belgium after extra time

Argentina 0 : 0 Yugoslavia after extra time
(Argentina won 3-2 on penalties)
Italy 1 : 0 Republic of Ireland
West Germany 1 : 0 Czechoslovakia
England 3 : 2 Cameroon after extra time

Argentina 1 : 1 Italy after extra time
(Argentina won 4-3 on penalties)
West Germany 1 : 1 England after extra time
(West Germany won 4-3 on penalties)

Third Place Play-Off
Italy 2 : 1 England

West Germany 1 : 0 Argentina

Tournament Top Goalscorer
Schilacci (Italy) - 6 goals

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1Beckenbauer was only the second man to achieve this feat, the first being Mario Zagallo of Brazil.2Allen has an impressive track record when it comes to England football anthems. He went on to form Fat Les, who gave us the stirring 'Vindaloo' in 1998.

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