World Cup 1994


Winners Brazil
Teams 24
Host USA
Teams in qualifiers 147
Notable absentees England, France
Surprises Greece, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia
Golden Boot Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Oleg Salenko (Russia) - 6
Stats A total of 141 goals were scored (2.71 per match); Sweden (15) scored the most
Format Six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to a knockout round of 16, plus four best 3rd place finishers
Number of matches 52

Innovations
• Three points for a win in group matches as opposed to two in a bid to encourage more attacking play
• Yellow cards accumulated in the group stage were wiped clean after its completion
• Referees were allowed to wear colours other than black to avoid a clash with the two competing teams
• Players had names above their numbers on shirts
• The USA v Switzerland match in the Pontiac Silverdome was the first to be played indoors in World Cup history - although it was still on grass

Controversies
• Chile were banned from the 1994 tournament after their goalkeeper Roberto Rojas pretended to have been hit and seriously hurt by firecrackers thrown by Brazilian fans in a successful bid to get a 1989 qualifier abandoned. FIFA subsequently used TV evidence to prove Rojas' deceit and Brazil were awarded a 2-0 win
• Diego Maradona tested positive for the banned stimulant ephedrine but the Argentinean FA withdrew him from the tournament before FIFA could ban him and, amazingly, he remained in the USA as a commentator

Trivia
• Colombian defender Andrés Escobar scored an own goal against USA that helped knock his team out of the competition. A few days after he and his team-mates returned to Colombia, Escobar was shot dead by gangsters amid speculation his error had cost drug barons millions in gambling losses
• Germany's Stefan Effenberg was sent home by coach Berti Vogts after showing the finger to fans when substituted against South Korea
• Russia's Oleg Salenko shared the Golden Boot with six goals, but five of them came in one match against Cameroon. In the same game, 42-year-old Roger Milla broke his own record, set four years previously, as the oldest man to score in a World Cup finals. He also established a record as the oldest player
• The overall attendance of 3,587,538 - an average of 68,991 per match - was a World Cup record

In an attempt to convert the 'New World' to a different form of football, FIFA chose the USA to host the tournament, a decision greeted with massive scepticism. But despite 'soccer' being way down the American sporting popularity list, it was full houses all-round throughout the tournament.

After a Hollywood-style opening ceremony in which Diana Ross, rather prophetically, missed a penalty, Germany beat Bolivia in rather unconvincing fashion. This, too, was to prove prophetic.

Brazil, after two poor World Cups, looked stronger than they had since 1982, with Barcelona striker Romário at the very peak of his predatory powers. Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira had added a defensive ballast to midfield in the tandem of Mauro Silva and Dunga and it paid dividends in the opening wins over Russia and Cameroon. The final group game came against a strong and free-scoring Sweden side and honours were shared as both progressed.

Russia and Cameroon both exited prematurely but not without sharing a record-breaking match. Russia's Oleg Salenko scored a record five goals in a 6-1 win over Cameroon for whom Roger Milla became, at an official age of 42 (some say he was older), the oldest ever scorer in the World Cup.

Argentina started in a similar fashion to Brazil, thrashing the Greeks 4-0 in Boston and then beating the impressive Nigerians 2-1. While Gabriel Batistuta and Claudio Caniggia fired the bullets, the strings were pulled by Fernando Redondo and Diego Maradona, back playing after a ban for cocaine use and a series of false starts at Napoli, Seville and Newell's Old Boys. Looking suspiciously trim and energetic, Maradona lashed in an amazing goal against Greece and celebrated maniacally.

Argentina became most people's favourites for the tournament. Until, at least, the news came out that Maradona had tested positive for banned stimulant ephedrine. Broken by the loss of their leader, Argentina faded against Bulgaria in their last group game and now faced the challenge of Romania in the second round.

The Romanians had won a group that included the hosts and Colombia, Pelé's pick to win the tournament. But Colombia, for all their pretty passing moves, fell to the wiles of Gheorghe Hagi in their opener and then catastrophically lost to the USA in their next, putting them out. Harrowingly, defender Andrés Escobar paid for an own goal with his life, shot by gangsters on his return to Medellin. It was an incident that cast a shadow over Colombian football for years to come.

Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland continued to delight the neutrals by beating Italy in New York after a tremendous goal from Ray Houghton. However, they met a rather damp end to their campaign in the second round when a mistake by Italia 90 hero Packie Bonner handed progress to the Dutch.

The hosts put up a brave showing against Brazil but lost to a late strike from Bebeto, Brazil's other striker. Germany struggled to get past the Belgians while Italy needed a late equaliser from Roberto Baggio against Nigeria. Baggio, rumoured to be at odds with coach Arrigo Sacchi, was the hero on the field as he converted an extra-time penalty winner.

The best game of the round saw the Argentinians face the Romanians. Hagi, often termed the 'Maradona of the Carpathians', showed the Argentinians what they were missing, supplying two goals for Ilie Dumitrescu and then scoring himself. Well though Argentina played, Maradona's cutting edge was lacking and they were overrun by Romania's incisive attacking.

Sweden, though, matched the Romanians in the quarter-final and held their nerve in a penalty shoot-out. The other quarters were all thrilling games. Brazil fought off a late Dutch surge to win 3-2 through a Branco goal. Italy narrowly beat the Spanish with goals from Baggios Dino and Roberto. 'The Divine Ponytail' struck his winner in the 88th minute but there was still time for an improbable miss from Julio Salinas. Spain, once again, had flattered to deceive.

The story of the round came when Bulgaria, with only one recognised star in Hristo Stoichkov, staged a late comeback to knock out the Germans. Stoichkov rattled in a free-kick after Lothar Matthäus had put the Germans ahead from the spot before the bald head of Yordan Letchkov dived in to head the ball for an improbable winner.

Perhaps that Herculean effort was too much for the Bulgars as, in the semi-final, Roberto Baggio tore them apart - Stoichkov's penalty to make it 2-1 made the game look closer than it was. Similarly, the Swedes were outclassed in a dull semi-final with Brazil. A lone Romário strike was enough to take his team through.

After what had been a vastly entertaining tournament, it was sad that the final was such a drab affair, even surpassing the horror show of 1990. Both Romário and Baggio played with injuries and their talents were consequently dulled, with both missing good opportunities. Though Brazil played the more attacking football, Italy defended well, with Franco Baresi outstanding. Despite a thrilling cameo from mysterious Brazil substitute Viola, extra-time petered out and penalties would, sadly, decide which side won the World Cup for a record fourth time.

Baresi and Márcio Santos both missed and, after an exchange of two successful kicks, Daniele Massaro's poor effort was saved by Cláudio Taffarel. After Dunga had given Brazil the advantage, up stepped Baggio, so deadly all tournament. He blazed over, choosing power over the precision that had served him so well, and Brazil were crowned champions for the fourth time.

Source: FIFA, ESPN, AllSports & Getty

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