World Cup 1990

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  • Story of Italy '90

         Italy became the second country, after Mexico, to host two World Cups when their bid was preferred in competition with England, Soviet Union and Greece. The upgrading of stadiums took more time than planned and the organizers feared they would have to start the competition with some of the stadiums unfinished, but everything was perfect by June 8th 1990 - the date for the opening match in Milan. The only thing that went wrong was the official opening of the tournament and the order of speeches. FIFA President Joao Havelange waited for the President of the Organizing Committee to hold his speech and vice versa. So no speeches were held.

        Cameroon kept their unbeaten run in the World Cup (3 draws in 1982) after the opening match against defending champions Argentina. Omam-Biyick headed past Pumpido and gave the Africans a sensational 1-0 win. The Indomitable Lions had more in store and beat Romania in the following match with the hero being a 38 year old semi-retired substitute. Roger Milla burst onto the scene with two magnificent goals and became an instant favourite among neutral fans around the world. He took his team all the way to the quarterfinals and a legendary match with England. Prior to that game he had scored two more brilliant goals against Colombia in the round of 16. Both again as substitute. He helped Cameroon turn the game against England when he came on at half-time, but two late penalties by Lineker ended the dream for the Lions. Cameroon's successful run along with Egypts respectable showing made FIFA increase Africa's quota of spots from two to three for USA '94.

        England had a tiresome World Cup and got nothing for free. Three tight matches in the groupstage were followed by three more matches that went to extra-time, the last against West Germany, even to penalties. Paul Gascoigne had a fine tournament and Lineker got better as the tournament progressed and scored four goals.

        Italia '90 was a World Cup for the old powers. All the previous winners were present. All the previous winners survived the groupstage and the semifinal places were occupied by four of the five best teams on the all-time ranking. Only Brazil disappointed and lost against Argentina against the run of play in the second round. A single Maradona-Caniggia combination was enough to send Careca and company home. Maradona showed glimpses, like against Brazil, of his old self but couldn't fully repeat what he did in 1986. Argentina were a shadow of the side that triumphed in Mexico, but they were tactically and mentally strong and knew how to survive in international football. 22 yellow and 3 red cards gave them many suspensions, but they always found a way to get by much thanks to an unlikely hero; goalkeeper Sergio Goycoechea who came on only because first choice keeper Pumpido broke his leg early in the tournament.

        Goycoechea was the hero in consecutive penalty shoot-outs. First against Yugoslavia and then in the semifinal against Italy where he saved efforts from Donadoni and Serena. Italy had until midway through the second half of that semifinal not conceded a single goal in the tournament before Caniggia headed past Walter Zenga who was out of position. Unbeaten for 517 minutes is a World Cup record.

        Another record was West Germany's three consecutive appearances in the Final of a World Cup. Lothar Matthäus and Pierre Littbarski were members of the two previous silvermedal teams, but in Italy it was glory at third attempt for them. Matthäus was the best player of the tournament. A great spielführer who worked all over the pitch and contributed with four goals. The team had two strong forwards in Völler and Klinsmann, plus a very good left-back in Brehme and as always with German teams - a well organized defence. They did lack creative forces in midfield other than Matthäus' running and relied heavily on set pieces to win games in the latter stages. Only three goals scored from the quarterfinal onwards with two of them coming from penalties is a rather poor record for a World Cup winning team although they did impress with a 4-1 win over powerful Yugoslavia in the preliminary round.

        Another team who definitely had a poor record was the Netherlands who arrived in Italy as hot favourites to win the cup, but fell flat and didn't win a single match in the tournament. Van Basten failed to score and Gullit had just come back from injury and was out of shape. The Netherlands did give West Germany a good match in the second round, which might also have been the best performance by the eventual winners, but the World Cup missed the Dutch flair and style of Euro 88 as the tournament went into its final rounds.

        That match in Milan was marred by the expulsions of Rijkaard for spitting and Völler for pushing and alledged abusive racial comments. Sixteen players were sent off at Italia '90. More than at Mexico '86 and España '82 combined. Fans are stuck with lots of other negative impressions from this World Cup. Pedro Monzon of Argentina became the first man to be sent off in a Final and Dezotti followed shortly after as Argentina finished with nine men. Italia '90 was also the lowest scoring tournament ever. Ireland got to the quarterfinal without winning a single match and scored only two goals in total. The Soviets were title challengers before the tournament, but never showed signs of being capable of winning and ended dead last in their group with a bunch of ageing has-beens. Not even Brazil impressed in attack and coach Lazaroni used five out-and-out defenders in his starting line-up. Most teams played to avoid losing rather than to win. This was especially evident in the knock-out stage when half the matches went to extra-time and/or penalties.

        On the bright side we had Cameroon as pointed out earlier and also Costa Rica who put Sweden and Scotland behind them and advanced through to the second round. With Mexico banned for illegal use of overaged players in a FIFA youth tournament and the US only in Italy to learn, most people predicted a poor showing by Concacaf in this tournament, but Costa Rica gave their confederation some fine moments when it needed it the most.

        1990 was definitely a year for unlikely heroes. Milla and Goycoechea are already mentioned and so should Salvatore Schillaci be. He who took over the role Gianluca Vialli was supposed to have as hero for the host nation. Schillaci scored six goals and became topscorer. He scored in six different matches and opened his account as a substitute against Austria and closed it with a goal against England that secured bronzemedals for Italy. He never found this form again and faded quickly after the World Cup.





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