History Of The World Cup (1990)

This is the 13th in a weekly series of World Cup history lessons brought to you by our very own “Professor” Guy Bailey. He is not actually a professor; the only professor on staff is Jamie Clary. Well, sort of.

The 1990 World Cup

The 1990 World Cup held in Italy attracted a record number of entrants – 116 teams, of which 22 qualified through the qualification process, Argentina qualified as holders and Italy as hosts, with Italy becoming the second nation (after Mexico) to host a World Cup twice, edging Russia for the honor.

The format remained the same as four years previously, six groups of four with the top two teams qualifying automatically and the top four third place teams joining them in the knockout stage.

Group A saw hosts Italy entertaining Austria, Czechoslovakia and the USA, making its return ot the World Cup after 40 years. Unfortunately, the long wait was barely worth it as the Americans lost all three of the opening matches, narrowly 1-0 to Italy and 2-1 to Austria, but thumpingly 5-1 to Czechoslovakia. Italy won the group with three wins and the Czechs accompanied them in second, beating Austria in the decider.

Group B featured holders Argentina, Romania, Cameroon and the Soviet Union. In the first match of the competition, Argentina were shocked by the physical Cameroon side that, despite having two men sent-off for an over physical approach, took a 1-0 lead on the break and held on for the win. They continued their ascent in the second match with “38-year-old” Roger Milla, only included in the squad at the behest of the Cameroon President, scoring twice in a 2-1 win over Romania. They lost their final group game to the Soviet Union 4-0 but went through as group winners. Romania edged out defending champs Argentina for second with the Russians unluckily finishing bottom.

Group C saw Brazil as the heavyweights with Scotland, Sweden and minnows Costa Rica in their first competition. The Costa Ricans then confounded the football world and further added to Scotland’s infamy by beating them 1-0. They then proceeded to beat the tough Swede’s 2-1 to qualify for the second round in their first tournament. Brazil steamrollered the opposition with three wins of their own and Scotland took 3rd after beating Sweden 2-1.

Group D placed West Germany with Yugoslavia, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates who quickly became the piñata of the group losing 2-0 to Colombia, 5-1 to West Germany and 4-1 to Yugoslavia. West Germany beat Yugoslavia 4-1 and drew 1-1 with Colombia to win the group and were followed by Yugoslavia who overcame the Colombians 1-0.

Group E was the designated “Group of Death” as Belgium, Uruguay, Spain and South Korea fought to go through. Spain edged Belgium with two wins and a draw, including a victory over the favored Belgians; who also recorded two wins over the other two teams to finish second. Uruguay defeated South Korea 1-0 to clinch third.

Group F was something of a war of attrition between Holland, The Republic of Ireland, Egypt and England. England and Ireland drew 1-1 in their first game as did Holland and Egypt. England then drew 0-0 with Holland, while Ireland and Egypt matched that result as well. Fortunately, England beat Egypt 1-0 in the final game to clinch the group and eliminate the Pharaohs but Ireland and Holland drew 1-1 which then required them to draw lots to see who came second and third as they both had identical records, goal differences and goals for and against. Ireland won to finish second. As well as Holland, the other qualifiers from 3rd place were Argentina, Colombia, and Uruguay.

Cameroon continued their staggering rise with a 2-1 extra-time victory over Colombia, that man Milla scoring two more, including an audacious goal, taking the ball off eccentric Colombian keeper Rene Higueta, and laughing as he dribbled past him to put it in the net.  Costa Rica’s adventure, on the other hand, came to an end as Czechoslovakia put four past them.  Four bitter rivals faced off in the next two matches, Brazil battering Argentina for 80 minutes to no avail before Claudio Caniggia scored a breakaway winner for the Argentines. West Germany were a far tougher proposition for the Dutch and were cruising to a 2-0 victory before Ronald Koeman’s late consolation penalty.

Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland continued to make history, after qualifying for the knock-out phase for the first time in their history, they made it to the quarter finals knocking out Romania 5-4 on penalties after a nervy 0-0 draw. Italy would meet them after a workmanlike 2-0 victory over Uruguay with suddenly hot striker Toto Schillachi gaining another strike to his name. Yugoslavia shocked the Spanish, 2-1 in Extra Time after the match finished 1-1 and England left it very very late to beat Belgium 1-0 in the last minute of extra time.

The Quarter Finals began with another tough 0-0 draw, this time between Yugoslavia and Argentina, the holders going through 3-2 on penalties. Italy then overcame the brave Irish 1-0 with a sole Schillachi goal.  West Germany were rolling ominously on, winning despite flat performances, this time against Czechoslovakia, 1-0. The real drama was once again supplied by England who met the tournaments surprise package Cameroon in Naples.  The last-minute hero against Belgium, David Platt put England in front but then five mad minutes in the second half left both Queen and Country gasping for breath and the rest of the world rooting for the underdog after Cameroon scored twice in succession. They held out until 83 minutes when Gary Lineker, now of Barcelona, coolly slotted home an equalizing penalty and scored another, also from the spot, in extra time to give the improving and on-form English their first semi-final since 1966.

The first semi-final saw hosts play holders as Italy entertained Argentina. Schillachi scored again on 17 minutes to give them the lead and him six goals for the tournament, and the golden boot.  Caniggia equalized in the second half and despite Argentina being reduced to 10 men in extra time, the Italians couldn’t force a breakthrough. Penalties ensued and like pantomime Villains, Argentina prevailed 4-3 with Diego Maradona scoring the decider, in Naples, the city he had single-handedly revitalized with his virtuoso displays for Napoli. The King had turned on his own people.

The second semi final was a cagey affair between West Germany and England. The Germans took the lead after the hour with Andreas Brehme’s deflected cross beating Peter Shilton. Lineker again equalized for England with 10 minutes remaining and extra time beckoned. Gifted midfielder Paul Gascoigne who had begun to seize the tournament was booked for a rash challenge and in the enduring image of the championships, began crying when he realized he would not be able to play in the final if England made it. No further goals occurred and both teams scored each of their opening three penalties. Stuart Pearce, rugged fullback blasted his penalty straight at the goalkeeper and after Andreas Thon had put Germany in front, gifted winger Chris Waddle skied his final penalty sending England into a needless third place playoff with Italy which they sportingly lost 2-1 to goals from Baggio and Schillachi again.

The final between Argentina and West Germany, a rematch of four years previously, was described as one of the worst witnessed. This was a little harsh but it was undoubtedly niggly and saw the first World Cup final sending off as Monzon went for fouling Klinsmann, who was accused of exaggerating the damage. Another Argentine, Dezotti, went for a cynical foul on Brehme who then scored the resulting penalty, the game-winner. Maradona being lucky not to have been sent off himself for pushing a linesman over whilst arguing about Dezotti’s dismissal.

West Germany equaled Brazil’s three tournament wins and manager Franz Beckenbauer became the first man to both captain and manage a World Cup winning team.

Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at guy@yanksarecoming.com.

Filed Under: May 2010

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