Saudi Arabia’s stay was only temporary as Germany beat them 3-2 in the first of the knock-out matches to proceed; Spain overcoming a disappointing Swiss 3-0 in the next game. Saudi Arabia’s fairytale came to an end at the hands of Sweden 3-1, and a Hagi-inspired Romania dumped Argentina in the out pile 3-2 in one of the tournaments better matches. Holland ended British and Irish interest 2-0 and Brazil overcame a dogged and proud America 1-0 with a late Bebeto goal. The US had made it to the knockout phase and kindled enough enthusiasm and interest to make the MLS launch two years hence a success. Some shine was also removed due to Leonardo’s attempt to rearrange Tab Ramos’ face to resemble the surface of Mars, cracks and all.
Nigeria seemed to be on the brink of one of the shocks of all time as they led Italy with two minutes to go until that man Baggio equalized on 88 minutes. He scored again from the penalty spot in extra time to send the Super Eagle’s home and Bulgaria continued their quiet ascent, sneaking past Mexico on penalties after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
The first quarter final saw the Divine Pony Tale score late again along with his namesake Dino Baggio to beat Spain 2-1; The best game of the tournament to date saw Brazil past a quarter final, 3-2 against the Dutch, which also gave the world the “rocking the baby” celebration after Bebeto’s new born son. Bulgaria cheered the hearts of more nations than their own as they came from behind to beat Germany 2-1 and get to their first semi-finals; Hristo Stoichkov scoring and inspiring the Bulgars to never before reached heights. The final semi place went to Sweden who beat Romania 5-4 on penalties after a topsy-turvy 2-2 match which saw them lead until late, trail in extra time then come back.
The first semi-final saw Baggio seizing his destiny once again with two early strikes against Bulgaria who despite pulling one back from Stoichkov, couldn’t hit the heights their previous performances had promised. The other semi was a lackluster, cagey affair settled by Romario in the 80th minute. Sweden must have been saving themselves for the playoff as they beat Bulgaria 4-0 to seal 3rd.
The 1994 World Cup Final took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in front of 94,000 spectators and promptly lived up to every negative stereotype a soccer-hating yank could hope for. No goals, fewer chances and 120 minutes of tedium later – a penalty shoot out to decide the World Cup Final for the first time ever. Pressure getting to Marcio Santos and Baresi as they both missed their first chances. Romario, Branco, Albertini and Evani all scored; Dunga would put Brazil ahead before Massaro missed giving the Brazilians the advantage. Baggio, hero of the tournament and the nation had the chance to draw Italy level and give Italy a chance when his Golden touch deserted him and his kick was as wayward as Diana Ross’ all those days ago when it sailed over the bar handing Brazil their first World Championship in 24 years.
The 1994 World Cup isn’t that fondly remembered outside of the US for some reason, despite some encouraging performances from some of the smaller and unheralded sides. What has also been forgotten is that the average attendance of 69,000 a match and the total attendance record for the whole tournament of 3.6 million spectators remains not only the highest in World Cup History, but also makes it the single most highest attended, single sport event in US history too – eat that Chick-Fil-A Bowl!
Guy Bailey is a senior writer for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.