This is the 14th 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 1994 World Cup
The 1994 World Cup was held, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, in the United States of America for the first time. FIFA had been aching to give the USA the World Cup for some time and despite opposition from Morocco and Brazil, it was inevitable once a credible USA bid was on the table.
There were four new teams at the tournament – Greece, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Russia, competing as themselves for the first time following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the short-lived Commonwealth of Independent States. Germany was also represented by a singular entity team this time and Africa had three representatives due to their improving performances. For the first time since 1950 and since, no British team made the finals although attention at home centered on Ireland as they were close enough.
The format of the tournament remained the same although this time three points would be rewarded for a win as opposed to two in order to encourage attacking football. The opening ceremony attracted undue attention, not just because we all know how the US likes to put on a show, but because Diana Ross missed an open goal, which then collapsed anyway. Jon Secada also turned up but nobody is quite sure why.
Group A saw the hosts entertain Colombia, Switzerland and Romania and took place in the first ever World Cup game to be held indoors when they drew 1-1 with the Swiss at the Detroit Silverdome. Romania won the group with two wins over fancied Colombia and the US but lost 4-1 to Switzerland in between who secured second place. The US beat Pele’s selection for the Cup (Colombia) due to an unfortunate own goal by Andreas Escobar and a well-taken Ernie Stewart goal in the second half. A late consolation by Valencia was no consolation back home, especially not for Escobar who was killed on his return to Colombia, the folklore surrounding his death being revenge for a gambling syndicate’s loss on this match. The result meant that the US qualified as one of the best third place teams.
Group B saw Brazil, Cameroon, Russia and Sweden meet. A workmanlike Brazil beat Russia and Cameroon but a workmanlike Brazil is still a force to be reckoned with and a Romario at the peak of his powers scored in each of their victories. Russia put Cameroon to the sword 6-1, which earned Oleg Salenko a share of the Golden Boot with five goals in this match to accompany his strike against the Swedes earlier – Hristo Stoichkov from Bulgaria would share this award with him. This was his only consolation as despite finishing third above Cameroon, they were eliminated from the tournament as Sweden followed Brazil into the second round.
Group C saw holders Germany meet Spain, Colombia and South Korea. The Koreans came from 2-0 down to shock the Spanish and hold them to a draw in the first match but they couldn’t break down a stubborn Bolivia in their second and went out when Germany overcame them 3-2 in the final group game. This was Bolivia’s only point. Germany won the group beating the two bottom teams and a 1-1 draw with Spain ensured European honors finished even. The Spanish players had taken to each growing a beard/mustache combo as during the opening ceremony, a depiction of their country as brave but effete matadors was presented to the world and they decided that if that’s what the world thought they looked like, why disappoint them?
Group D saw Argentina, Greece, Bulgaria and Nigeria meet in this tournaments group of death but this really only applied to the Greeks who were dead men walking from the time a resurgent Argentina led again by a sprightly-looking Maradona smacked them 4-0 in the first match, a hat-trick from Gabriel Batistuta. Maradona’s form was explained shortly afterward after providing a drug sample Rick James would have been proud of and disappeared from the World Cup stage in ignominy. Not that this seemed to affect his team who beat Nigeria 2-1 in the next game before their reserves lost 2-0 to a tough Bulgaria. The group winner though were Nigeria who beat Bulgaria and Greece either side of this result to go through comfortably and warm neutrals hearts with their free-spirited attacking and lackadaisical approach to defending. Bulgaria’s defeat of Argentina allowed them to leapfrog the Argentines’ into second but Argentina went through in third regardless.
Group E was an organizers nightmare as it ended as the only group in World Cup history where all teams had four points and equal goal differences. The Republic of Ireland almost started a race war in New Jersey as they beat the home team, Italy, 1-0; Norway beating Mexico 1-0 at the same time. The roles were reversed in the second round of matches as Italy beat Norway 1-0, an ice-cool Roberto Baggio scoring from the spot, whilst Mexico made the best of the blistering conditions in Orlando to beat Ireland 2-1 despite some Mickey Mouse officialdom which almost saw John Aldridge suspended. The final games saw Mexico and Italy draw 1-1 and Norway and Ireland 0-0. On goals scored then, Mexico went through as group winners, Ireland second and Italy claiming third.
Group F saw a return to World Cup with Holland, Belgium, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. Holland crucially it would transpire beat Saudi 2-1 in the first game while Belgium saw off Morocco 1-0. Belgium then secured qualification beating the neighboring Dutch 1-0 while Saudi scored their first ever World Cup victory over Morocco 2-1. The final round saw Holland clinch the group with a 2-1 win over Morocco whilst Saudi surprised a relaxing Belgium 1-0 with a quite stunning Al-Owairan goal to finish second above the land of fries, chocolate and beer.
Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com.