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USA '94 story
Story of USA '94
Many people were sceptical when FIFA made the ground-breaking decision of
holding its monster event in a country foreign to football.. uh soccer. Pessimists predicted
half empty stadiums during the tournament, but USA '94 turned out to be the most
successful cup in history attendance-wise with nearly 70,000 spectators in
average per game. These fans witnessed the re-birth of attacking football in the
World Cup. The defensive play of Italia '90 was soon forgotten as the action
unfolded in the US. The newly invented backpass rule was an instant success
and basically forced defenders to look for forward movement on the ball
instead of knocking it between eachother in the backline and home to the keeper
who could safely pick it up with his hands and waste time. The rule-change contributed a great deal
in making USA '94 a much more entertaining tournament than Italia '90. A vast
number of teams played football that will linger in the memory of World Cup
The opening match of every World Cup is seldom a highlight and USA '94
followed a well-known pattern in that matter. Germany beat Bolivia 1-0 following
President Clinton's opening speech. Klinsmann scored one of his five goals in
this World Cup for a German team that looked tired and lacked new blood.
Matthäus was now libero and old hero Völler was called back to action when
younger forwards failed to deliver alongside Klinsmann. Berti Vogts' team
lacked sparkle. They almost wasted a solid 3-0 lead to South Korea and lost to
Bulgaria in the quarterfinal having been 1-0 in front. Germany would not reach a
fourth consecutive final and Klinsmann - the only veteran playing up to his full
standards - left the World Cup in tears.
Brazil were back as usual, but had lost their first ever qualifying match against
Bolivia and people wondered whether this edition was any stronger than the
team who disappointed in Italy four years earlier. Romario led the attack in
America partnered by Bebeto and these two players showed early on that Brazil
had serious ambitions of ending their 24 year long titledrought since Mexico
1970. This Brazil was a much more "European" Brazil than ever. More defensive
minded players in midfield, better organization and solid centerbacks mixed with
more traditional Brazilian flying full-backs like Jorginho and Leonardo. This team
was going to be very hard to beat. As it turned out only the Netherlands managed
to fully stretch Parreira's men when they came from two goals down to equalize in
the quarterfinal. A spectacular Branco free-kick goal gave Brazil a famous 3-2
win. The following two games, Sweden in the semifinal and Italy in the final, were
very one-sided affairs. Brazil looked winners all the way and when Roberto
Baggio missed his penalty in the shoot-out after a goalless draw, the fans could
start celebrating Brazil's first World Cup triumph in nearly a quarter of a century.
Italy had struggled throughout the tournament and their place in the final was a
great reward in itself. Roberto Baggio saved the team in every game during the
knock-out stage making up for his disappointing groupstage performances. Arrigo
Sacchi's men lost to Ireland in the first match and had captain Franco Baresi
injured against Norway in the second game after goalkeeper Pagliuca was sent
off. Dino Baggio managed to score the important winner against Norway which
kept Italy in the tournament. A freakish finale to this group saw all teams end on
same points and goaldifference. Norway eliminated on least goals scored.
More luck for Norway's neighbours Sweden who really shone in the US after the
fiasco in Italy four years earlier. Dahlin, Brolin and Andersson led Sweden's
attack which was the most efficient in the tournament. A 4-0 demolishion of
Bulgaria gave Sweden well-deserved bronzemedals. Bulgaria had experienced
a fair share of glory themselves before that humiliating bronzematch. Both
finalists from 1990 - Argentina and Germany - had been beaten by Stoitchov,
Letchkov and their teammates. Who would have thought that after their lacklustre
3-0 defeat to Nigeria in the first match? Stoitchkov in particular was impressive
and was alongside Baggio and Romario the best player of the tournament. His
six goals made him joint topscorer. His most memorable goal was the beautiful bending free-kick
Stoitchkov shared that topscorer's title with Oleg Salenko of Russia who made
history scoring five of his six goals in one match against Cameroon. Sadly for
him, it wasn't enough to stay in the tournament. Another goalscorer who made
history in that game was Roger Milla. Cameroon's 42-year old supersub
became the oldest ever player and goalscorer when he netted Cameroon's
consolation goal in their 6-1 defeat. A few days earlier Rigobert Song, only 17,
was sent off for a wreckless tackle on Brazil's Bebeto and became the youngest
ever player to receive a red card. The Indomitable Lions looked toothless and
nowhere near the side that impressed so much in Italy. Africa's torch was instead
carried by Nigeria who had Italy in their grasp for 89 minutes in the second round
before Roberto Baggio woke up and scored twice after sleep-walking through the groupstage.
Nigeria surprisingly topped Argentina's group. Maradona was back again as
playmaker for Argentina and looked impressive in the first two games before
failing the drugtest. Argentina, with an impressive line-up including Batistuta,
Caniggia and Redondo, failed to function without their old master and fell apart
with two defeats in a row and bowed out against Romania in the second round.
That match was one of the best in recent World Cup history and symbolized the
optimistic atmosphere and attacking will of the 1994 World Cup. Gheorghe Hagi
reached the zenith of his career this summer and was the heart and soul of
Romania's team. He scored a goal in the 3-2 win over Argentina, but his goal
against Colombia from long range will always be the most classic. Another
classic goal scored in this World Cup was by Saeed Owairan of Saudi Arabia
against Belgium when he got past five players on a counter-attack to score the
winner that sent the Saudis, against all odds, to the second round. Saudi Arabia thus became the
first Asian team to reach the knock-out stage of the World Cup since North Korea in 1966.
Seven out of eight quarterfinalists were European. This was especially strong
knowing that England, France and European Champions Denmark didn't even
qualify. Colombia was the big disappointment of USA '94. They were hyped up big time before the cup, even by Pelé, much thanks to the 5-0 demolishion of Argentina in Buenos Aires, but Valderrama & Co couldn't deliver the goods on the field even if they were handed a favourable first round group. Despite big European representation in the latter stages, the trophy stayed in the Americas with Brazil. The hosts had their big day when playing the eventual
winners on 4th of July. Prior to that Team USA had already achieved their primary
goal of advancing from the groupstage thus avoiding being the first host
ever to be eliminated in the first round.
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