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The story of the 1994 World Cup

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Chris Bevan | 12:45 UK time, Thursday, 27 May 2010

Between now and the start of the World Cup, we will be looking back at previous tournaments with the help of some of the key characters and the BBC's archive footage. Today, we speak to the scorer of one of the best goals at USA '94 and two members of the Swedish side that went close to upsetting eventual winners Brazil.

United States, June & July 1994

From a disco diva to the 'Divine Ponytail', USA '94 ended in the same way it began - with the horror of a missed penalty. But, while I still laugh at clips of Diana Ross making a hash of her spot-kick in the opening ceremony, I won't ever forget the tears of Italy's Roberto Baggio after he blasted over to lose the shoot-out that saw Brazil become the first country to win the World Cup four times.

That was the final act of a thrilling tournament that, despite a disappointing final, the tragedy of a murdered player and the disgrace of a legend's failed drugs test, succeeded - temporarily, at least - in conquering football's final frontier - the United States.

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I remember hearing jokes (or at least I think they were jokes) in the build-up that American TV executives had lobbied for bigger goals because of a fear of too many 0-0 draws, and for games to be split into quarters to allow for more advertising during the intervals.

That sounds far-fetched now, even in the era of the Premier League and their plans for a 39th-game, but we shouldn't forget there were serious doubts whether the US public, who at the time did not have a professional league of their own to watch, would embrace the showpiece of 'soccer' (I promise not to call it that again). There was no need to worry, however, as a record total of 3.6m fans filled vast stadiums for all 52 matches.

Despite the often fearsome heat and humidity, they witnessed some thrilling games - partly down to the way Fifa had reacted to the overly negative-tactics that marred Italia '90 by making a win in the group stage worth three points, and also banning the back-pass and relaxing the offside rules.

Confusion reigned over referees' interpretation of the latter (doesn't it always?) but the end-result, as intended, was more attacking play and more excitement too - well, until the final anyway. Normally this would only be good news but I sat my A-levels during the tournament and, as I'm sure many of you can empathize, revision is nigh-on impossible when there's a World Cup game on, even a rubbish one. Sadly (if only for the sake of my grades and my academic future), there weren't many of those.

From the start there were shocks aplenty, starting with the Republic of Ireland's victory over Italy at the Giants Stadium in New York in a match that was notable for Ray Houghton's looping early winner and a vintage defensive display by Paul McGrath - who had the aforementioned Baggio in his pocket.

Houghton, who was having his hair cut when I spoke to him last week (thankfully he decided against the blonde highlights his team-mate Andy Townsend had put in ahead of this tournament), recalled how a dressing room mix-up helped settle their nerves and set up a famous triumph against the eventual runners-up.

"We were in our white away kit but, just before we were meant to be going out, we realised that's what the Italians were wearing," Houghton told me. "We weren't too happy about having to get changed again, but it did take our mind off the match. We'd been told the crowd (of more than 75,000) would be two-thirds Italians but, when we walked out, it was the other way round. Our support was quite incredible.

"We started well and I will always remember my goal. When I hit it, I thought 'if it doesn't go over, then the keeper will save it'. So when I saw it dip and hit the back of the net, it was just pure elation. After that, Paul was awesome. What was even more impressive was that he had a shoulder injury that was causing him a lot of pain. Most players, particularly today, just wouldn't have played, but it was typical of Paul to carry on and he was exceptional for us."

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The Republic, who had been adopted by many British fans, myself included, in the absence of any home-nation qualifiers, lost their next game against Mexico - an encounter that you might remember for John Aldridge's touchline outburst when the fourth official stopped him coming on as substitute. If this was your first World Cup then you probably learnt some new words that day.

Jack Charlton's men still reached round two but were soon on their way home after failing to trouble a classy Dutch side. Houghton feels they simply ran out of steam, and explained: "We had an ageing squad and the heat was a massive factor.

"When we played Mexico in Orlando it was about 110 degrees and there were problems getting water to us on the pitch. I got booked for picking up a bag of water that had been lobbed at me, which was ridiculous given the conditions, but the bags were even more of a nonsense because when you opened them, all the water fell out so you couldn't drink any anyway. To be honest, they weren't the best conceived plan by the Irish FA."

Italy recovered to - just about - reach the last 16, where their poor form continued. The Azzurri were 90 seconds away from being eliminated by Nigeria until Baggio came alive - following up his own equaliser with an extra-time penalty winner - but they were not the only fancied nation in trouble.

Argentina imploded against the talented Romanians after Diego Maradona, still their talisman at the age of 33, tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug and was expelled from the tournament.

But even that shocking news was put into perspective by the fate of Andres Escobar, who was part of an under-achieving Colombian team that had finished bottom of their group despite having the likes of Carlos Valderrama and Faustino Asprilla in their squad.

Escobar, a 27-year-old defender, was gunned down outside a restaurant in his home city of Medellin just days after his own goal in a 2-1 defeat by the hosts. His funeral was attended by 120,000 mourners but it has never been confirmed whether his death was down to a lone angry fan or, as rumoured at the time, drug lords who had sustained heavy gambling losses because of Colombia's early exit.

Brazil were left as the only South American - not to mention non-European - team in the quarter-finals. With the exception of their strikers, Romario and Bebeto (and their memorable 'rock the baby' celebration in honour of the latter's new-born son), Carlos Alberto Parreira's side had less flair than their predecessors but far more steel, personified by their captain Dunga, which was a quality they needed to see off the US after having Leonardo sent off before half-time for a vicious but uncharacteristic elbow that shattered Tab Ramos's cheekbone.

They could still turn on the Samba style when needed, however, and Branco's brutal free-kick settled their classic last-eight clash with the Netherlands. Elsewhere, another late show from Baggio edged out Spain and the biggest upset of the tournament saw outsiders Bulgaria knock out holders Germany, with balding midfielder Yordan Letchkov famously grabbing an unlikely winner with a stunning diving header.

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Sweden joined them in the last four, but only after a nail-biting end to their clash with Romania, which was decided on penalties. A young Henrik Larsson, who until then I'd only noticed because of his dreadlocks, put away the Scandinavians' sixth effort before Miodrag Belodedici had his shot saved.

"I was very, very nervous," Larsson recalled with a laugh. "I was 22 at the time and one of the coaches told me 'Henrik, you will have to take the sixth penalty'. I said 'sure, no problem' but it became a problem when I had to go and take it because I knew if I missed all the blame was on me. I have learnt since then that sometimes at these moments you make it, and sometimes you don't - I was lucky enough to score that time, Thomas Ravelli saved the next penalty and we were into the semi-finals."

The high-scoring Swedes were up against Brazil for a place in their first final since 1958 but, having fought out a 1-1 draw during the group stage, they were not overawed. Brazil went through thanks to Romario's 80th-minute header but Sweden played for most of the second half with 10 men and another of their heroes that summer feels they were not outclassed.

"Romario and Bebeto were two great strikers but if you look back, Kennet Andersson and I scored more goals than they did in that World Cup," Sweden striker Martin Dahlin told me. "We didn't fear them but the problem we had was that we had three or four players who were playing in that game despite injuries.

"I was one of them myself. I had a calf injury that meant I couldn't really do myself justice and play as well as I had done earlier in the tournament. So, we were not only playing with 10 men after Jonas Thern was sent off, but we were also playing with injured players and, looking back on that now, maybe myself or one or two others shouldn't have played at all.

"I think the biggest difference between Sweden and Brazil in 1994 was that they had 20-plus world class players and we had 11 or 12 who were as good. They could easily change one, two or even three or four players and still be one of the best teams in the world, or even the best. We couldn't do that but our group game was a better sign of how close we were to being on their level."

Another two-goal salvo from Baggio had ended Bulgaria's run and set up what was billed as a battle between him and Romario for the trophy and the glory. It should have been a classic in the vein of Brazil's win over Italy in the 1970 final - their last triumph - but the reality saw two exhausted sides fight out a tame stalemate at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. That meant, for the first time, a World Cup final would be decided on penalties.

Baggio, who took his country's fifth spot-kick, was not the only Italian to fail to score in the shoot-out - Franco Baresi skied over the bar and Taffarel denied Daniele Massaro - but his miss was the decisive one and sadly, in a glittering career, the moment for which he is most famous.

For Parreira, who will be in charge of the hosts South Africa at this summer's tournament, success was vindication of his belief that Brazil would only regain their mantle as world champions if they added defensive discipline to their attacking verve - a tactic that had not brought him much popularity back home. "Although most of the Brazilian and international press were always criticising my philosophy, I stuck by my ideas and my principles," he said afterwards. "It feels great because, like Frank Sinatra in that song, I did it my way."

Watch holders Germany get knocked out by Bulgaria (UK only)
Watch Gheorge Hagi beat a Maradona-less Argentina (UK only)
Watch Branco's stunning free-kick end Dutch hopes (UK only)

Let me know your memories of 1994 - I hope it didn't ruin your A-levels too. On Monday - with the help of the England captain - we look back at France '98, when Beckham kicked out and Ronaldo went walkabout as Les Bleus triumphed.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This was my first world cup, just before the final I had missed a penalty in a final which meant my team lost, I was gutted as any 10 year old would be, when baggio missed his in the final I always remember my mother saying see even the worlds best player misses now and then.

    Nigeria were great I always remember one of their players scoring a brilliant goal from the edge of the area.

    Just gutted England weren't there

  • Comment number 2.

    That Argentina Romania was the best game I have ever seen. The second goal is just amazing. Brilliant game, brilliant tournament.

  • Comment number 3.

    We'd all thought this was going to a terrible world cup - in the USA, still hadn't got over Paul Bodin missing a penalty for Wales when they so nearly qualified, no other home nations...but it was amazing. Argentina v Romania was a stand out match - the pub had a tiny telly so we went home to watch it properly at half time. That Letchkov header got the biggest cheer of the tournament in our house. Bulgaria were a joy to watch. You just knew the final would be a let down after all the amazing games. BBC coverage was brilliant, I still remember the programme starting...La La la la la la America, la la la la la la America.....

  • Comment number 4.

    Just to asked will they have article on 2002 because the BBC on there website seem always to miss that world cup in there video arcive.

  • Comment number 5.

    This was one of my fave world cups,but how can you comment on it without even mentioning Stoichkov or Hagi? both were inspitational! there was also a quite brilliant Bergkamp goal in the Argentina game,with a bit of skill he used more than once. Happy days.

  • Comment number 6.

    Very few good games, final was dire.

  • Comment number 7.

    First World Cup I was old enough to seriously watch.

    Opening day was a farce; Diana Ross's penalty miss was nearly as bad as the Daryl Hall theme song at the opening ceremony, followed by Germany beating Bolivia with a dodgy offside goal, while Bolivia had their star man, Echeverry, sent off about 10 seconds after coming on as a sub for apparently poking Matthas in the ribs.

    Argentina looked unstoppable in their first 2 games, then Maradona was sent home,Caniggia got injured and it all collapsed for them. That being said, their defeat to a superb Romania in the Second Round is an overlooked classic.

    Bulgaria came from nowhere after a bad start, and produced some memorable moments; Several of Stoichkov's goals, Lechkov's versus Germany, Ivanov's Beard/Mullet combo.

    Other memorable images, Luis Enrique's broken nose, Stefan Effenberg's obscene gesture, John Aldridge's face of rage, Russia's insanely bad kit.

    The tournament also featured one of the weirdest and most eventful World Cup games ever - Bulgaria vs Mexico in the 2nd round: first a collapsing set of goals that had to be replaced, 2 ridiculous red cards by a totally inept referee (Saudi Arabian if I remember correctly), a vintage perfomance by the worst striker ever to appear at a World Cup (including Serginho), Luis Alves Zague, the Mexicans' complete inability to score in the penalty shoot out, and the bizarre homoerotic incident in the Bulgaians' post match pile up (if you can find a video, watch out for Ilian Kiriakov's wandering hands).

    Terrible final, only moments of excitement came in extra time when Brazilian sub Viola dribbled through the entire Italy defence then fell over the ball and Pagliuca fumbling a long range shot against his own post.

  • Comment number 8.

    Boring world cup. Lacked atmosphere. The final was the WORST on record - absolute BORE, over two hours of my life I will never get back. Didn't really feel like a world cup, more like footballers on holiday. Fans who went there didn't feel the WC fever from the host nations citizens. Most memorable thing wasn't even any of the matches, it was Diana Ross' penalty miss. Oh, and I don't care about FIFA profits or big stadiums (Americans use this to argue their WC was 'the greatest' - sorry, I don't buy into that garbage) - it's the football I'm interested in. And it was dire. To sum it up: rubbish.

    USA94. What an embarassment.

    I don't ever want a world cup like that ever again.

  • Comment number 9.

    England's failure to qualify for USA 1994 was offset by the brilliant football played from Romania with Hagi and Bulgaria with Stoichkov and I'm sure I wasn't the only Englishman hoping that Ireland would do well in the competition.

    Sweden were the surprise package of the tournament, reaching the Semi-Finals but Brazil were worthy winners of the World Cup in the end.

    Full match details and statistics from the FIFA World Cup Finals USA 1994 available here:

  • Comment number 10.

    I always seem to adopt an East European team when it comes to World Cups and this time around it was Romania. Hagi as ever was inspirational and then there was Raducioiu, Dumitrescu and Petrescu and another underrated player from the past Belodedici. He was so elegant a sweeper and it was cruel that it was he who would miss the crucial penalty.
    First man I believe to win the European Cup with two different teams - excellent player.
    Also felt sorry for Barry Davies. Best commentator on the box and he finally gets a World Cup final...and it turns out to be this one.

  • Comment number 11.

    Boring world cup. Lacked atmosphere. The final was the WORST on record - absolute BORE, over two hours of my life I will never get back. Didn't really feel like a world cup, more like footballers on holiday. Fans who went there didn't feel the WC fever from the host nations citizens. Most memorable thing wasn't even any of the matches, it was Diana Ross' penalty miss. Says it all about the football really. It was dire. To sum it up: it was rubbish.

    USA94. What an embarassment.

    I don't ever want a world cup like that ever again.

  • Comment number 12.

    There was a great group game between Germany and South Korea, the first suggestion really that a great German team was ageing and about to struglle. 3-0 up at half time and looking invincible, the Koreans were electric in the first 20 mins after half-time - pulled one back immediately, and a second after about an hour. How Germany hung on for the rest of that game was a miracle based on Jurgen Kohler's brilliance and a lot of luck!!

  • Comment number 13.

    My A Levels are during this year's World Cup. Thanks for providing that link to Clearing, Chris.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'd just done my G.C.S.E's then moved to Hong Kong when this tournament started and I watched most games on my own at stupid o'clock spending half time on the balcony looking over the Hong Kong sky line and drinking cans of San Miguel - happy, happy days and seem a long time ago.

  • Comment number 15.

    Most boring final ever.

  • Comment number 16.

    The final really was one of the worst games of football I've ever seen. Plus I don't remember any one team really standing out as being fantastic all the way through but so many of the matches were still brilliant. Compare it to Italia 90 and it was an absolute classic World Cup, just a shame none of the home nations were involved. But as most people did I took Ireland to my heart and supported them. There were some great goals as well, the goal from the Saudi fella was a great one, and I don't even remember Phillipe Albert's goal but that was pretty sweet too.

  • Comment number 17.

    Good WC:

    Lots were sceptical about the finals in US but they were a big improvement on ’90.

    Bulgaria the surprise package: Stoichkov, Balakov and Letchkov were outstanding and in that great QF with Germany get their rewards. They also had a left back, Ivanov? Scarey looking man: ‘wolfman’ on the run from a Dracula movie.

    And talking of horror movies, Andres Escobar: back in Columbia shot for scoring an own-goal which helped eliminate his country.

    Diego’s fall from grace but he is the greatest footballer anyways, though this was a tournament just too far for him. But Argentina also had batty-goal Battistuta who was great to watch (and Canniga). Their match with Nigeria was a good one and they won I think.

    Great win for the Irish over the Italians albeit in an utterly boring group. The Italians did their usual slow start stuff though and had a good squad: including Maldini, Baresi and Baggio. Baresi missed the first penanlty in the final but he was brilliant to watch and Maldini too.

    Felt sorry for Baggio missing that penalty in the final. He was one of the best players on show and it would have been his tournament and not Romario’s had the Italians won. I’m sure though Baggio done his hamstring in the semi, was touch and go for the final and made it but still didn’t look right in the game, and it showed?

    People can also sometimes forget the Romanian side and how good they were at that time with Hagi, Răducioiu, Petrescu and Belodedici. Loved watching Hagi (the ‘maradona of the Carpathians’), a great, great player. They put out the Argies in an absolutely tremendous match and then had that QF with Sweden which I felt that they probably should have won but contrived to lose on pens. Swedes were a very good side as well though. They came through a strong group with Brazil in it.

    And the 1994 WC was the first time I remember seeing the ‘not-quite-yet-but soon-to-be mighty’, HENRIK LARSSON. As the blog says all you remember was the flowing dreadlocks and he looked a bit flashy and lightweight. But not at Celtic Henrik, you were just immense.

    Wanted Romania or Italy to win that year and it just didn’t happen. But good tournament all the same.

  • Comment number 18.

    Baggio was injured and should not have played in the final. Allegedly, the Italy coach, Arrigo Sacchi, was forced to include the pony-tailed one at the insistence of team sponsors. At any rate, Baggio's only natural replacement, Gianfranco Zola, had been wrongly sent off in the match against Nigeria and was not available for the final.

  • Comment number 19.

    This was probably the worst World Cup I can remember - and before anyone asks, it has nothing to do with England not being in it. The final in '90 was bad enough, how Brazil and Italy managed to top it is quite an achievement.

    Following on from Argentina in '78 and Mexico in '86 it certainly was disappointing.

    Having said that, I thought overall Baggio was outstanding in this tournament as an individual, and had Italy gone on to win the final, I think he could easily be tagged on to the end of the list which usually starts with Pele and Maradona and finishes with Cruyff and Zidane.

  • Comment number 20.

    #5 I reckon you're thinking of 1998

    Yeah as if the States could give us football! But they did their part in hosting. With no England I followed Ireland with much hope, my beloved Alan Kelly on the bench. Irwin, Aldrigde and Houghton - what was with the refs and Ireland?! And Norway fielding two more Blades also in Group E, which finished neck and neck, and neck, and another neck, despite being very dull.

    I could not see for the life of me at the time why Colombia were amongst the favourites, but I loved Romania's game. Dumitrescu, Popescu, Radiciou shone through. If only the great Hagi could have followed them to the Prem - what a star. I remember having to go to bed and then sneaking up
    to watch them play Switzerland.

    Loved Bulgaria too - Stoichkov, Kostadinov and that Letchkov diving header to knock out Germany was pure glory. Oleg Salenko's goal rush, al-Owairan's wonderous run, Bolivia actually turning up and the whole of Group D all other highlights. I think everyone was impressed with Nigeria, never forget that celebration in the net (from Yekini I think?).

    Sadly the semis were forgettable and the final disappointing. Everyone was talking about Baggio and Romario who both had their moments. I preferred Brazil but I felt for Baggio missing the pen. Baresi deserved a world cup too. I thought Rai would have shone at some point, but this was the result Brazil falling early in the 80's, a refined, pragmatic and altogether more modern Brazil side finally finding a winning formula. Even now they look down on that side in Brazil as one that simply pleased no one.

  • Comment number 21.

    I remember being so shocked when we lost to mexico, after beating Italy the whole country was top of the world a bit of revenge after Italia 90.

    If not for paul mcgrath we wouldnt have gotten out of the group.

    Its funny how Norway, who topped englands qualifying group ahead of holland played so rubbish in the finals,

    would have been great to see england ireland and italy in the same group.

  • Comment number 22.

    #5 - shaun

    You're thinking about the wrong World Cup. The Holland-Argentina game in which Bergkamp scored the winner was France '98.

  • Comment number 23.

    USA 94 i'm afraid coincided with the greatest squad of talent England had ever assembled. The tragedy was, we never qualified. I defy anyone to tell me a better set of players than the ones that would have won USA 94.

    Seaman, Martyn, Woods, Flowers

    Pearce, Rob Jones, Pallister, Adams, Keown, Mark Wright, Des Walker

    McManaman, Sharpe, Gascoigne, Platt, Ince, Batty, Anderton, Le Tissier, Barnes, Waddle, Merson

    Shearer, Ferdinand, Wright, Sheringham, Fowler

  • Comment number 24.

    I remember an amazing World Cup advert, where Baggio amongst others were kicking a football around the globe, after coming alive from a poster or something

    I wish we could see all the old world cup promo adverts again

    There was loads in 1998, all the lads playing togger on a beach, and the brazilians doing a bit in the airport.

  • Comment number 25.

    USA 94 famous for some bad jerseys as well fellas, mexicos one was bad, and their keeper, Yorghi Camps has a very bad shirt that he designed himself.

  • Comment number 26.

    In 1994 I had finished my first year at uni so this was the first WC I was able to enjoy in pubs! As Ireland had qualified again there was a great atmosphere especially as the 1994 team was arguably superior to the 1990 team which had reached the quarter finals. For the Italy game I was at a pub in my hometown Newry and it was breathing room only as it was that full! The game started off slowly but when Ray Houghton scored after 10 minutes the whole place went mental, I thought it had come off it's foundations! As Chris mentioned aboved, the rest of the game was all about Paul McGrath's immense performance at the back, the greatest individual performance I have ever seen which earned high praise at the time from Baresi and Cantona no less! After the tournament Liverpool paid £3.5 million for Phil Babb only to discover that he only looked good alongside McGrath. I can remember staggering home at about midnight and watching the Romania v Colombia game and seeing Hagi chip the goalie from the sideline. Sadly when I woke up the next morning it was to the news that during the Ireland match, 6 Irish fans had been murdered by Loyalist scumbags in Loughinisland Co. Down. For Irish football fans that put a huge cloud over what was a superb result, this was made worse when FIFA refused to allow the Irish team to wear black armbands as they considered it "political."

    Sadly the next game against Mexico was a horrible 2-0 defeat in the Orlando furnace, memorable only for the afforementioned row on the touchline with a FIFA jobsworth. I think Alistair McGowan did a spoof of it with Jack Charlton claiming it was a takeaway order gone wrong by pointing at his sheet of papaer and shouting "OI! WHAT ABOUT JOHN'S CHICKEN BALLS??!!!" The final game was against Norway, an unbelieveably tense 0-0 draw (Ireland never do things easy!!)

    For the last 16 it was between Ireland would play Holland or Saudi Arabia. Unbelieveably, everyone I knew wanted Holland as the Saudi's were a good team, witness Owairan's wonder goal! and would be used to the heat in Orlando whereas we thought the Dutch would be just as susceptible as we were. What we didn't take into account was just how superfit the Dutch were! They scored an early goal and then Pat Bonner, the hero of 1990 took his eye off a Jonk shot and it went straight through his hands and in and that was it! Compared to 1990 it was an awful anti-climax.

    I'll never know how Italy managed to make the final as they were very poor and Arrigo Sacchi didn't seem to know his best team. They scraped through the group, I think it was the Norway game in which Maldini got injured right at the end after all the subs had been made, he couldn't run so had to stand upfield, unable to hit the ball while the forward Massaro had to play left back! They then mugged a very good Nigeria team in the last 16, Nigeria were leading but had lost Daniel Amokachi and Emmanuel Amunike through injury when right at the death, Baggio decided to show up at the tournament and scored and equaliser. You could see the Super Eagles visibly drain at that and Italy scored again in extra time.

    The Escobar incident was truly shocking and hung a huge cloud over the rest of the tournament. Colombia had been strongly fancied but they never recovered from their opening defeat. The own goal also took attention away from the achievement of the Americans in confounding the experts and qualifying from their group, they were a decent team, well managed by Bora Milutinovic who has managed to get a number of unfancied sides through in the WC. There second round game against Brazil was memorable for Leonardo's elbow smash on Tab Ramos which left him with a broken cheekbone and allowed Kevin Keegan to make a total fool of himself on live TV when he said the sending off was harsh!

    The Romania v Argentina game was brilliant, especially the winning goal for the way Dumitrescu took the ball forward and managed to hold it long enough for Hagi to catch up and then hit an unstoppable shot past the keeper! The Brazil v Holland quarter was another cracker famous for Bebeto's celebration. I think it was en route to this game that a disgruntled journalist made a bomb threat to the Dutch team plane resulting in an emergency landing and Dennis Bergkamp becoming afraid of flying! Something which us Gooners were to rue in following years!

    Game of the tournament had to be Germany v Bulgaria. I think neutrals didn't like Germany for their cynical tactics in the 1990 final. They were cruising when Stoichkov scored a blockbuster of a free kick before Iordan Letchkov scored his legendary header (Sun headline "Herrs 1, No Hairs 2!). Bulgaria were a strange team, the keeper Bobby Mihailov had a hair transplant and the centre half Trifon Ivanov was nickmaed "Wolf Man" because of his long hair, beard and scary eyes!

    Sweden were another very good team with Anderson, Dahlin and Brolin up front and the young Henrik Larsson on the bench, as well as keeper Thomas Ravelli, they were really unlucky to get Brazil in the semis as they would probably have beaten Italy.

    The final was totally forgettable but the right team won and yes I was delighted when it was Baggio who missed the penalty simply because I thought Italy didn't deserve to be there. In all this was a great WC, with good organisation and brilliant stadia!!

  • Comment number 27.

    Brilliant tournament and the first one where i wactehd most of the games. Missed some of the opening games and rememmber wanting Colombia to do well after hearing about them destroying Argentina and Pele predicting they`d win( i didnt know then that he was always wrong!). After the dourness of Italia 90 this was a welcome change. Great big massive packed stadiums, some great goals (Maradona v greece, Hagi v Colombia, switzerland,argentina, Amokachi v greece, Brolin v romania, al owairan v Belgium, klinssmann v Korea), great games( holland v brazil,argentina v nigeria & romania, colombia v romania, italy v spain, germany v belgium) and some truly great players at their peaks( Klinsmann, Hagi,stoichkov,brolin, romario, Baggio, Maldini, Kenett Andersson). The final was awful but i think their were only 3 0-0`s in the entire 52 games and Italy looked knackered.Baggio i remember had some heavy strapping on one of his legs and Baresi was masterful having missed 4 games for an operation! Brazil were workman-like and possibly the most boring ive seen in a world cup. I do remember a young Leonardo being the most attacking player at left-back(allegedly keeping a young Roberto Carlos out of the squad). Great great memories which kept me going in a difficult summer!

  • Comment number 28.

    A poor World Cup, more notable for "off-the-field" incidents (Escobar's murder, Maradonna's drug taking, Jack Charlton and John Aldridge losing it, and the oppressive heat) than football. I think others have already noted the highlights (Rumania beating Argentina and Bulgaria beating Germany), and there was a lot of dross, most particularly the final (far worse than W. Germany v Argentina in 1990, which is also often slated).

    This was a step back from 1990, which at least had England in it.

  • Comment number 29.

    Somehow this World Cup seemed to pass me by, doubtless because England failed to qualify, also weren't the games played at some godless hour here in England?
    The Holland qualification game is what sticks in the memory: Koeman not getting sent off, then scoring with a cheeky free kick (Brian Moore- "he's gonna flick one here you know, he's gonna flick one"), then of course Graham Taylor telling the linesman that the referee just got him the sack. Priceless.
    I just recall some strange atmospheres at grounds, not disimilar to Korea/Japan 2002 where US "fans" would get excited at the tiniest bit of skill, then falling deathly silent again. I also remember bad kits (clearly influenced by the baggy scene), wanting to be Hagi on the school playing field, and wondering how on earth Sweden and Bulgaria got to the semi final. Terrible final, but what a defense Italy had- Maldini, Baresi and Costacurta. Roll on '98.

  • Comment number 30.

    Not sure I agree with it being a thrilling tournament.

    No England and all the game on late at night.

    Even my bet on fancied Colombia went sour. I remember watching their first game vs Romania and after 10 minutes or so Romania hadn't really touched the ball. I smiled and thought' '10-1? Cheers!' As soon as Romania scored the Colombians fell to pieces. I placed my bet after seeing Colombia destroy Argentina in Buenos Aires 5-0. A lot of others followed.

    I rememmber that ITV had a terrible presenter as well. Can't quite remember his name but he was woeful.

    Enjoyed watching Germany lose to Bulgaria. I also remember a ref totally losing it in the Bulgaria vs Mexico game.

    Overall, pretty average WC.

  • Comment number 31.

    The first world cup I properly remember! I was only four during Italia’90 so things are hazy from then...94 may not have been the best World Cup in terms of quality, but I have more specific memories from it than most of the world cups since. Sweden captured me and I was devastated when they went out, always wanting the underdog to prevail! I remember an fantastically worked free kick involving Thomas Brolin in which they shaped to shoot and merely side footed a pass, taking the wall out of the equation and Brolin scored with ease (I may be wrong with the players…but that did happen, didn’t it?) I was at my Gran's when Ray Houghton scored that screamer...we recorded it and I remember watching it over and over again while everyone was outside enjoying themselves in the sunshine! The Bulgarians were class, the Romanians memorable and I remember seeing that Saudi bloke score that wonder goal against Belgium (was it Belgium? I'm at work and the video won't play here... :-( not allowed!) Honourable mentions also to Nigeria and Maradona's mad celebration to the camera. My view of him has always been swayed by the fact that my earliest memory is him being banned and disgraced. Many people will say he's the greatest player ever, but what he had in talent is diametrically taken away with his persona...Hand of God anyone?...
    Anyway, back to ninety four...As an eight year old I was captivated by the whole thing – I had the 94 football, the clapper thing and all kinds of nick-nacks and collectibles. It was my first taste of international football other than watching England fail to qualify (vague memories…) and I've been hooked ever since! I'm one of those weirdoes who records every match of world cups just in case I need to watch them again! I still have every game from '98 and '02...most from '06 and have a great feeling about this one, although my love of football has turned more to cynicism in recent years.
    Here's hoping the diving is quelled and we see a memorable world cup which is known for its football, rather than its controversies. If Capello plays the right team, with balance and the inform players then England stand a great chance of winning the thing, especially if we win our group. Bring on the football!

  • Comment number 32.

    26. At 09:38am on 28 May 2010, JPSLotus79 wrote:
    Leonardo's elbow smash on Tab Ramos which left him with a broken cheekbone and allowed Kevin Keegan to make a total fool of himself on live TV when he said the sending off was harsh!

    Seems Keegan makes a habit of ridiculing himself at World Cups, 4 years later...

    "Kevin, you know David Batty better than anyone...will he score? Quick answer, yes or know?"


    Batty Shoots

    "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh No"

  • Comment number 33.

    USA 94 was the first World Cup I remember really well. The biggest memories that stuck with me were the Leonardo elbow (that was apparently accidental) that had such severe force that it knocked the American out and left him pretty badly injured, John Aldridge and Jack Charlton going mental at the fourth official as he was being delayed from getting on the pitch and, of course, the Baggio miss.

    The most shocking event I remember connected to the 94 competition was Escobar being shot dead when he returned to Colombia. Another side event to this was Alan Hansen stating just a day later, "the Argentine defender wants shooting for a mistake like that". Awesome!

  • Comment number 34.

    #23 tomefccam, you're right, it was an excellent England team, gutted they didn't qualify. I seem to remember a good France team also failed to qualify, with Israel getting an unlikely result in the last game. The other important teams for me that didn't qualify were Australia, losing out to some disgusting gamesmanship from Iran, and Japan, who failed to defend in the last few minutes. I was living in Japan at the time so was hoping they'd qualify so I'd see some decent coverage. Stoichkov's free kick was memorable and the Irish beating Italy. Poor final, amazed Baggio missed, he was the best penalty taker I'd ever seen, always put the ball into the inside of the side netting, unstoppable. The whole tournament didn't quiet have the feel of a great world cup for me, maybe it was becasue no-one around me gave a stuff!

  • Comment number 35.

    This was the first world cup that i watched and i will always remember this world cup.

  • Comment number 36.

    It was only really a decent tournament because some smaller teams upped their game. Brazil, Italy, Germany were all poor. But Sweden, Bulgaria and Romania played out of their skins.

    Dont really remember the crowds or the stadiums. But I do remember lots of daft new rules (like bringing on golf buggies instead of stretchers and not allowing water). And the weather was too hot which meant that a lot of players were very jaded.

    7/10 for USA 1994.

  • Comment number 37.

    94 was the first World Cup I was alive for, albeit I was only 2 or 3 years old. Would love a Diana Ross-esque moment at the 2010 World Cup by Charlize Theron.

  • Comment number 38.

    There'a a mistake in the top ten goals video. Dino Baggio's goal was against Spain in the quarter finals not against Norway in a group stage which D. Baggio did score to win the game 1-0.

  • Comment number 39.

    Some people spouting some utter rubbish about USA 94.

    They seem to have something against it because it was held in America and England weren't there.

    Brazil and Italy were not 'poor', it was not an 'average World Cup'. It was a rather good one, with a disappointing final but there were excellent knock out games. The Germans didn't have their greatest side but it's not always about the big nations. Bulgaria and Romania played some excellent football, Brazil were good. It had individuals stars like Baggio, Romario, Stoichkov and Hagi who produced memorable performances. A really good World Cup. Just cos England weren't there, blame Graham 'Turnip' Taylor for that one.

  • Comment number 40.

    It was great! The final was a let down but as a huge Brazil and Romario/Bebeto fan i was delighted they won. Some absolute classic goals and it was refreshing not to have to listen about England for a month!

    Once again the BBC theme song was brilliant and the best bit was Brazil Vs Holland to theme of Dallas. Genius.

  • Comment number 41.

    I am now 27 but distinctly remember this World Cup, my first World Cup. I remember Klinnsmann's opening game goal for Germany v Bolivia. Claudio Caniggia scoring 2 goals v Nigeria after being 1-0 down, Hagi scoring a wonder goal.

    As Chris put it, I also wanted the Republic to do well - Houghton's goal v Italy was top - being a United fan still remember a young Roy Keane at the time.

    Valderama with his hair, kampos with his colourful keeper attire, Maradonna's celebration after scoring.

    Moving on Letchkov's goal v Germany was class as were the goals throughout the tournament from Stoichkov. Can't beat Brazil v Holland, Branco's top free kick.

    Final was boring, staying up until midnight to watch the final! I wanted Brazil to win, but lets hope the boys do the job in 2010.

    England till I die!

  • Comment number 42.

    USA '94 was probably the first World Cup i remember in full. I do remember some things from Italia '90 (like England going out for one!).

    I am half Italian so we supported the Italians naturally. It was that World Cup that confirmed Baggio as my favourite player. He was brilliant. Milan (my Italian team) had just won the European Cup too beating Barca 4-0 in the final and Baggio later signed for Milan.

    I also remember the other games, the Germans getting knocked out by Bulgaria and their team of 'ovs' - Stoichkov, Ivanov, Letchkov. Brazil, i think, beat Cameroon 6-0. There was Romania and their great team.

  • Comment number 43.

    I defy anyone to tell me a better set of players than the ones that would have won USA 94.


    Yes thats right..... you "would have won" USA 94 had you qualified.

    Isnt the clue in the statement?? They were not good enough to qualify but yet they would have won it if they did??

    Are you ok? Seriously??


    Anyway my 1st real world cup memories were 94. I remember some choice language from the irish game on the sidelines!! I thought there was some great football played at that tournament and a lot of surprises.

  • Comment number 44.

    That was the world cup where I got so excited I had a nose bleed before the match and cried like a baby after it. Now there was no Schillaci but there was Houghton. What a goal. Where I was, when I saw him hit it, I knew where it was going.
    The Mexican match we felt really hard done by. We were inventing rumours that they didn't want us in the quarter finals again as the officals seemed to be completley against us. I remember well Aldridges outburst and we all agreed at the time. He was so fired up in was inevitable he would score when he came on.
    The Dutch match we were exhausted and I can rememeber the goal that came from nearly the half way line I think, Bonner got his hands behind it but not his body. It was an elementary goal keeping error. Unusal for Bonner at the time....... we were gutted and we cried like babies. The dream was over.

  • Comment number 45.

    39: I agree, funny how when your team isn't it, it seems rubbish.

  • Comment number 46.

    26. At 09:38am on 28 May 2010, JPSLotus79 wrote:
    Leonardo's elbow smash on Tab Ramos which left him with a broken cheekbone and allowed Kevin Keegan to make a total fool of himself on live TV when he said the sending off was harsh!

    Seems Keegan makes a habit of ridiculing himself at World Cups, 4 years later...

    "Kevin, you know David Batty better than anyone...will he score? Quick answer, yes or know?"


    Batty Shoots

    "Ohhhhhhhhhhhh No"


    Ha ha ha ha

    "There's only one team going to win this now and thats England"

    ha ha ha ha

    Keegan = Legend!

  • Comment number 47.

    Was a good tournament let down by the final... probably remembered as better than it actually was as comparisons at the time were made with the dross of Italia 90, and USA saw a return to a more attacking style of play.

    Brazil V Holland was a classic game, Baggio was excellent and carried the Italians to the final on his own. Romanians were great to watch.

    Said on a previous blog.... I watched this tournament while on holiday in Ibiza so my perceptions may be... ahem.... enhanced LOL... but the celebrations in British bars the night when Bulgaria knocked the Germans out were amazing.

  • Comment number 48.

    Ha Ha yes my first thought on Keegan commentary was also his Batty comment!

    No Scotland! - put out by Roy Hodgson's Switzerland - what ever happened to him? So had to be the Irish of course - but the Italy match was the highlight, after that the heat and the jobsworths just seemed too much for them.

    Seem to remember watching the Germany Bulgaria match at a Conference where some of us compared the agenda with the tv guide and opted for the football - good choice. And Romania Argentina was at work - extended meal break, hoping no jobs would come in - saw to the end, so must have got away with it. Fortunately work forced me to miss the final so that wasn't the waste of time others suffered.

    I think the big memories were Romania and Bulgaria - it was their moment, in particular Stoichkov and Hagi. As to whether it was a good world cup, I'm not sure - we've noted before that sometimes it's about your own circumstances - I was preparing for a career change and life was hectic, as I look back at all the results nothing really stands out other than the matches mentioned was that because it wasn't a good world cup, or just the way it was for me?

  • Comment number 49.

    Odd abiding memories of this World Cup for the 14-year-old me:

    1) the USA-Switzerland match which was the first to be played indoors and seemed to have a strange atmosphere as a result. I sort of latched on to the Swiss team because it was managed by this strange Englishman called Roy Hodgson, who I'd never heard of before. I wonder what happened to him...

    2) That Hagi goal against Colombia. I had it on in a little portable telly in my room and was fighting to stay awake because it was on so late. Glad I kept my eyes open for that one, what a strike.

    3) My prevously-thought-to-be-football-phobic French teacher putting a French language wallchart up in the classroom for us all to fill in.

    4) And, finally, and most enduringly, the mad groundsmen cutting the grass into concentric circles. Why?

  • Comment number 50.

    cant believe Ronaldo didnt even get a sniff of the World Cup. if he would have played in the final, especially in extra time, he would have had a tired Italy at his mercy...

  • Comment number 51.

    an average World Cup really being Italian it had bittersweet memories from Houghton's fluke beating us in the opening game from the amazing performance with 10 men against a half decent Norweigen team, the downsides from that game a suspension for Luca Pagliuca our unpredictable #1 and a bad injury for the legend that is and was Franco Baresi, then the insipid 1-1 draw with Mexico which saw us squeeze through to the second round, then the second round and a deserved win against an excellent Nigerian team the only down-side being a scandolous (in that it was never a red card) sending off for the player I felt most for in this tournament Gianfranco Zola, I had sympathy for him as with the best player in the world Roberto Baggio ahead of him in the starting XI he never had a chance really despite being the legend that we all know he is and was, in the QFs another good performance against Spain capped off with two fantastic goals from Dino and a last minute goal from Roberto Baggio, in the SFs we didn't play that well against a very good Bulgarian team but we alway had the ace in the pack with Roberto Baggio in our side and so it was as he bagged both goals in a 2-1 win, the final was a travesty Baresi made a remarkable comeback to play a man of the match performance, Roberto Baggio shouldn't have played as he was blanatantly injured, had Zola played maybe we'd have won? who knows, as it was it was an injustice was done as the best player of the tournament and in the world at the time ended up the undeserved villain of the final...

  • Comment number 52.

    Great tournament.Every match with Romania in it seemed to be a classic.2nd year at Uni so was forced to watch certain matches at 2am.Remember almost coming to blows with a guy arguing whether Bebeto's goal against the Dutch was offside or not.I remember Kenneth Andersen's rugby league celebration.Also how he ruined what was supposed to be Ronaldo's WC debut.He was supposed to come on against Sweden in the 3rd group match but the Swedes had the temerity to take the lead and all sentiment went outta the window at that point.Oleg Salenko getting a share of the golden boot after only playing 3 games(thanks Cameroun!)Roger Milla scoring yet again!Strong Nigerian team let naivety get the better of them and got mugged by the street wise Italians.Alwas found it funny that on the Milan bench last season where the two guys that committed the worst fouls of USA 94,Leonardo on Tab Ramos and Tassoti breaking Luis Enrique's nose in the quarter finals.Bulgaria started with a 3 nil defeat and ended with a 4 nil thumping but ended up 4th.Anyone remember the goalposts breaking during one match?
    This was a great WC for me but after a while the Yanks seemed more interested in the developing O.J Simpson case.Pity about the two Milan players missing penalties in the final and for Danielle Massaro it was 2nd time unlucky since Taffarel had saved one from him in Serie A on the last day of that season.

  • Comment number 53.

    Ronaldo & Reberto Carlos was on he bench, incredible! those 2 would have given Italy a headache if they came on in extra time!

  • Comment number 54.

    My first proper worldcup.
    I remeber watching the 1990 worldcup but really didnt understand much about football then.
    1994 was a memorable year for me. I remember romario and bebeto forming the formiddable partnership. I also remember Romania and Bulgaria. Nigeria were the surprise package. Sweden were good. I remember Jurgen Klinsmann's cartheel like goal against Korea.......we kept on trying that in school playgrounds after that...Mexixo's keeper wearing the very bright jerseys...
    Apparently Stoichkov's mother had a heart attack after he took that cheek penalty against Germany ( I think).
    Amazing world cup.
    98 was a very good worldcup as well.
    2002 and 2006 have been a dissapointment as I was busy studying for exams and didnt really get to concentrate as much.
    But 2010, I am hoping to give it my full concentration. Lets hope this is a worldcup remembered for all the skills and goals and played in good spirits.

  • Comment number 55.

    Never judge a book by its cover - similarly, never judge a World Cup tournament by its final. We all remember (if that's the correct term) the deciding 'stalemate' between Brazil and Italy, but I cannot understand why that guy upthread needs to bang on and on that this was a 'boring' tournament. (Probably because England didn't qualify, but under Graham Taylor we really didn't cut it whatsoever in those qualifiers, folks. If you think otherwise, you're kidding yourself - go back to the defeat in Norway and the thrown-away home fixture with the Dutch...)

    The final, I agree, was dire - but still an improvement on that of Italia '90, in that at least there was some skill on display. Other than that, I think USA 1994 was arguably the best tournament I can recall in four decades of watching World Cups. There were some great moments in the group stages: Ireland's well-documented defeat of Italy; South Korea's comeback against Spain - almost repeated against the Germans; some fantastic shooting from the Nigerians; the Romanians shocking the Colombians, then themselves being put to the sword by Roy Hodgson's Switzerland; Salenko's five-goal salvo vs Cameroon; Owairan's solo run...

    The knockout stages were definitely the best we've seen in the past 20+ years: goals flew in from all angles, with Germany's narrow defeat of Belgium bettered only by Romania's 3-2 humdinger with Argentina (the best match of the tournament) in Round Two. All four quarter finals were exciting, close affairs, with Bulgaria's shock elimination of Germany perhaps the best. The semis also had their moments.

    Other memories: Diana's opening ceremony shocker; Sweden's unexpected goal-making abilities, via Dahlin and Andersson, plus Brolin's brilliant free-kick vs Romania; huge, vibrant crowds; Maradona's impression of a donkey - both in celebrating his goal against the Greeks and in post-ban interview; the constant whirring of that above-pitch helicopter; Jack and Aldo's completely justified touchline tantrums; Campos's bizarre apparel; the horror of Escobar's assassination...

    Sorry, naysayers - this was, overall, a fine World Cup tournament.

  • Comment number 56.

    I was staying in the same hotel as the Argentinian team and Maradona at the time the news of his failed drug test broke, and remember the media commotion. However, I was there on business, not for the football...

  • Comment number 57.

    43. At 10:37am on 28 May 2010, AScottishGooner wrote:
    Isnt the clue in the statement?? They were not good enough to qualify but yet they would have won it if they did??

    Are you ok? Seriously??


    Hey man, wind in your neck, you miss of the pojts I make. I say the problem was with the trainer, he is a taylor who picked Sinton, Cralton Palmer, Keith Curle instead of the players I mention.

    When El Tel, came in. He mixed these youthful playerr with your gasciogne and platts the older lads. Don't forget, gasgoicne was only 27 in USA and Platt was a man for a score in a major occasion.

    Shearer was have a great season, Le tisser would have shone. You'l never beat Dess walker

  • Comment number 58.

    I remember watching the final in a small tv room of a caravan park in Fife. My hero was Baggio and my brothers was Romario. Needless to say he had the last laugh. I was devastated. The room was packed and 99% of the people there wanted Brazil to win. As a 12 year old I thought the whole world was against me!

  • Comment number 59.

    I remember seeing amokachees goal vs greec and thinking Everton, my team had signed the next superstar, power, pace, skill and a rifle of a shot. Some of the skills AMo failed to display during 2 and a half years with everton

  • Comment number 60.

    Now we're talking. By '93 I'd become a fully fledged footbal fan which meant following a World Cup qualifying campaign for the first time(and subsequently being completely stunned that neither England nor Scotland qualified.

    By the time June '94 came around I was still living in Aberdeenshire but I was coming to the end of primary school and a move south of the border all the way down to London was imminent. There was no question of me and my friends not throwing in our lot with the Irish - I can't remember anyone even suggesting supporting anyone else.

    I can vaguely remember watching the opening ceremony(and have skipped all opening ceremonies since) and watching the opening Germany vs Bolivia game(Klinsmann hit the winner).

    Then came the first Ireland match against Italy. I didn't fancy Ireland's chances as I considered Serie A to be the ultimate football league at the time(and at the time I'd have probably been right). The match was a late nighter so was taped. I watched it the following morning first World Cup memory, Houghton lobbing Pagiluca. Absolutely amazing.

    I was at a school residential for the following week so the next match I can remember was ROI vs Mexico. Watched match over dinner, gutted the Irish lost though looking back, the heat must have been a bit mental.

    After that, well I remember watching Germany vs South Korea(remember being stunned at South Korea giving the Germans a match), Holland vs Belgium and Argentina vs Bulgaria(remember being dissapointed by the Argie performance then stunned by Maradona's drugs ban)

    ROI vs Norway was...frustrating. 0-0 and I was just begging the Irish to score. Still, they made it into the 2nd round in a match I didn't get to see due to a Scout camp. Mum taped the match but I didn't bother watching it as a couple of the guys at the camp had been listening to it on the radio and updating people on the score.

    I suppose now is a good time to mention the Brazil side that won the whole thing. Pre-tournament...well I knew of the legendary Pele but that had been 24 years ago and as I also knew that they'd had a weak performance last time aroud. Therefore I think the first match of theirs I watched was their quarter final vs Holland...which was beautiful and I couldn't help but laught at the rock the baby celebration which I didn't understand for a couple of years.

    I remember supporting Italy vs Spain and cheering as the commentator said "the Italians have dug themselves out of another hole". I remember supporting Germany vs Bulgaria and being stunned at how that played out...but Bulgaria's run that year elevated them and particularly Stoichkov into "big time" status for a few years in my mind at least.

    I remember watching Italy vs Bulgaria in the semis and being happy that the Serie A stars were in the World Cup final. Even now, I consider that side to be the best Azzuri team I ever saw at a World Cup. Maybe that's nostalgia talking but who cares?

    The Brazilians had also earned my respect though so I made myself a neutral for the final.

    By the time the final came around though, I was at a Scripture Union camp. Mum had taped the match but the SU camp was screening the game live anyway. I remember giving the live broadcast a miss as I didn't want to have wasted Mum's time. Still, I remember playing on the "Italy" team in the football match the camp played earlier that day and hearing the "Pagiluca has the luck of the devil" line from a small TV in a chippy somewhere in Berwick.

    I got home and watched the final in full.

    I don't remember the final being as bad as some claim but then again, it was my first World Cup final. I certainly didn't expect the match to require a penalty shootout though and I was stunned when Baggio skied it. Still I couldn't argue that Brazil didn't deserve the Cup.

    Was USA '94 "my" World Cup. Not sure, but I'll always remember it with a smile, though not as big a smile as I'll always remember Euro 96, which is very much "my" tournament.

  • Comment number 61.

    My overriding memory of USA94 isn't the football or even the novelty of watching live football at midnight, but watching Skinner and Baddiels take on it on Fantasy Football (when it was on BBC2 Friday nights) Classic in from the boozer telly.

    As for the football itself, you can't beat Aldos rant at the 4th official, pure theatre.

  • Comment number 62.

    I remember this World cup for a missed opportunity for Africa. Nigeria had won the African Cup in January and were playing some brilliant football. They made it to the last 16, only to loose concentration with a few minutes to go and that was that. I also remember Rashidi Yekini scoring his first World cup goal and chanting or screaming in the opposing goal (not sure if he was pacifying some gods or something :-)).

    Anyway, here's hoping Nigeria can improve their game before this worldcup and match their 94 performance or even go 1 better.

  • Comment number 63.

    haha poster 57. I agree you are deluded! Doesnt matter who the players were. Taylor tried turning gary pallister into a left-back against Norway and despite the best efforts of Platt, Gascoigne and Ian wright, england slumped. Yes some players wouldve been at their peak but it wasn`t to be. A first 11 of Woods, pearce, walker, adams, jones, gascoigne, ince, barnes, platt, shearer & wright looked good on paper but tactically were inept! If only Clough had been in charge! Oh well. In a way i think it was nice England werent there as it avoided the stress of the inevitable knock-out! ala Euro 2008

  • Comment number 64.

    A few near-random memories -

    That stupid Brazilian "cradling the baby" celebration - no one ever cradled a baby like that!

    The Italian back 4 - surely the best defence ever to take a football field.

    The weird grass mowing patterns.

    France not qualifying because of a goal scored against them 7 seconds from the end of the qualifiers in front of their home crowd (I was there!).

    Costacurta getting a yellow and being suspended from the final. He just rolled up his sleeves and got on with it - no hysterical crying fit like Gascoigne 4 years earlier. The Italian stiff upper lip, the English emotionally incontinent - stereotypes turned inside out!

    A very good Brazilian team winning a final which I watched in the main square in Turin. The tension was unbearable, and the agony afterwards heart-breaking.

    The unbelievable, coach-driven awfulness of England. How on earth did he get a job as an "expert" summariser on 5 Live? The first 10 seconds of England's qualifier against San Marino - even for an Englishman that was the funniest thing I've ever seen in the game.

    Sorry if this is too personal, but memories of WCs are very personal I think.

  • Comment number 65.

    In 1994 I attended the only World Cup game I have ever been to. From a man in a bar who claimed he just couldn't go, but probably a tout, I bought a ticket for Saudi Arabia v Belgium in Washington. It was the lowest attendance of the tournament, the game was a little dull for 89/90ths of it, but I was delighted to witness one of the best goals in world cup history by Saeed Al Owarian. And the Saudi supporters were amazing.

  • Comment number 66.

    One of the most boring Brazil squads and the same kind of squad coming to FIFA 2010 at South Africa under the then Captain Dunga.

    I hope this time the results are not the same.

    Go Europe Go . .

  • Comment number 67.

    I've seem world cups dating back to '78 and '94 WAS AVERAGE AT BEST! Nothing to do with England not qualifying (we usually bore everyone to death). A few good games but that was it. Romania and a drugged up Maradona were good to watch but it just seemed a very tactical world cup.

    In order my favourites (that I've seen) are:


  • Comment number 68.

    To the blinkered Italian.

    Houghton's fluke? It was a decent enough chip. Keeper off the line and a nice bouncing ball chipped straight in.

    Anyway I hated this world cup.
    It was too hot to play footbal. Has anybody tried walking in Florida when it gets up past 100 or 110. Tommy Coyne had to be taken to hospital with dehyrdation after one game. The venues were too spread out in a disinterested country. Stupid jobsworth yanks who didn't understand the game. Shit like the stretcher and the water rule. Rubbish tv pictures for 1994 thanks to the states use of NTSC. Football wasn't great either.

  • Comment number 69.

    Well if we're going to talk about "what ifs"...that alternate-reality '94 England squad would have been very competitive...had Terry Venables been gaffer. Looking back, those players only really returned to international form after Taylor got booted and he took over(history repeated itself in the early days of the Capello era in '08).

    Fact is though, if we'd have qualified, Taylor would have remained gaffer and looking back and seeing even older interviews with him, he was clearly a moron. Even under Venables I'm not sure we would have lifted the trophy(we certainly didn't in Euro 96). Under Taylor definately not.

    Case closed.

  • Comment number 70.

    A bit harsh in the original article to draw attention to the fact that the penalty miss is the one moment of his career which Baggio is most famous for. It's probably true, but if it wasn't for him they would have been knocked out in the last 16, then he won them the QF and SF too! He was possibly the player of the tournament - certainly one of the top 5. And what about Italy 1998, where he had the guts to put away a late game-saving penalty despite his previosu miss while the Chilean defender was mouthing off at him from a few yards away.

    Comments about Mcgrath and one saying he made Babb look good are not how I remember it. I remember consistently classy and flawless defending from Babb that made him Ireland's best player of the tournament by a distance. My team of the tournament was: 1 Campos (Mexico) 2 Dino Baggio (Ita) 3 Babb (Irl) 4 Lalas (USA) 5 Maldini (Ita) 6 Dunga (Bra) 7 Hagi (Rom) 8 Letchkov (Bul) 9 Romario (Bra) 10 Baggio (Ita) 11 Kennet Andersson (Swe).

    I really enjoyed this world cup and thought it was up there with 1990 as the best (1990 was my first). Teams like Romania, Bulgaria, Nigeria and Sweden lit up the tournament. However I remember Martin O'Neill saying: any of the 16 teams left in can win it and Alan Hansen said, OK, I'll take Argentina, Brazil, Italy and Germany and you have the other 12...Hansen was proved right by the two participants in the final.

    Really interesting in the article to see Kennet Andersson's comments about Sweden's strength in depth and injuries perhaps even costing them the title... I don't quite agree as I think Brazil were the best team overall, but it's an interesting viewpoint.

  • Comment number 71.

    @23 How about the 32 teams that did qualify for starters????????

  • Comment number 72.

    I remember USA 94 as being better than expected - Yes the final was a bore but I thought some of the games were excellent Brazil v Holland, Argentina v Romaina, Ireland v Italy etc. It was an improvement over the worst world cup I have seen in Italia 90.

  • Comment number 73.

    By the way regarding my team of the tournament above I should just point out (before anyone comments on player's wrong position or the odd formation) that this is really more about the best players of the tournament than a realistic formation. In particular, I know that Dino Baggio was a midfielder and that Phil Babb was a centre half in the tournament. However they were able to play full back so I've put them there because to my mind there weren't any particularly outstanding full backs at this tournament.

  • Comment number 74.

    This was my first World Cup, however I was only 5 years old and all I really remember was the buzz around the country at the time, I remember a lot of barbecues and parties for the games that we had that year. I don't recall a single thing about the games although people talk about Houghton's goal and McGrath's performance to this day. My lasting memory of this World Cup was a drunken friend of my Dad's blaming my 5-year old self for the defeat to Holland because I wasn't wearing my jersey that day! Needless to say it scarred me and I wear my jerseys on gameday ever since haha.

  • Comment number 75.

    Not my favourite World Cup (cos England weren't in it) but getting to watch matches at 2am was GREAT! Some fantastic football on show here,too with Argentina and Romania as the stand-outs for me

  • Comment number 76.

    Ah yes World Cup 94, that Houghton celebration just never gets old! You have to watch the clip of Aldridge going bananas at the official, it's quite simply hilarious. I find it quite stupid that I cannot watch the clip of Ray Houghton scoring, it's "Not available In My Area".... I don't think they have to worry about licenses there, after all I am Irish.

  • Comment number 77.

    Chris, i don't think you've given Baggio the credit he deserves. He singled handedly dragged Italy through the knock-out phase and into the final by scoring 5 goals in the tournament... including brilliant strikes against Spain and Bulgaria. Also, people forget that he sustained a hamstring injury before the final which on any other occasion would have kept him out of the team, but he played and this certainly affected his performance in what was a poor final. He was probably the best player in the tournament along with Hristo Stoichkov who i'm surprise you didn't mention.

  • Comment number 78.

    The one thing I remember about the 1994 World Cup is how accessible the Irish team were. In Orlando, over a series of three or four nights I helped Ronnie Whelan get a plastered John Aldridge into a taxi. Denis Irwin decided he liked my hat and took it from me. Roy Keane was Roy Keane - aloof from the others, but nice enough once he found out I was from Cork. I had a great conversation with Denis Bergkamp, who had Paul McGrath as his man of the tournament. He said his performance against Italy was the best he'd seen from a footballer.
    Oh- and Jack Charlton puked all over the bathroom, just before I got in there.
    The world cup being in the USA may have lacked the intensity that a more football-loving nation would have. But it also meant that the players were more anonymous, and more likely to get out and about. I met them so many times in that two weeks, it became routine. Great memories.

  • Comment number 79.

    Also, this was the first World Cup after the formation of the PremierLeague in England, so was the last World Cup where these players were "larger than life" so to speak, as we'd see a lot more of them on our tvs regularly after this tournament, not just every four years

  • Comment number 80.

    This was a World Cup for the World! It brought football to the biggest stage possible and made people stand up and be counted (except England). All England fans from my generation rate 1990 as the best world cup, but that is only because England managed to reach the semi-finals and remember golden moments for them and them alone. 1994 wasnt the best world cup but it was better than 1990 for the all the right reasons.

    Yes the final was dire, but so was 1990. Does anybody really remember the 1990 final? I bet everybody recalls Baggio's miss though. The USA staged what was a difficult event for them and produced the MLS out of it, which is although not the best league, does have a standard that could compete in years to come. I personally wish for the states to get the World Cup again and show what excellent organisation they have.

    There were moments of brilliance in '94. Hagi, Stoichkov, Bergkamp, Baggio, Hougton. Moments of madness, Maradona, Baggio, Charlton/Aldridge.

    A new standard was breached and a benchmark for every WC afterwards. Most have surpurpassed, but without World Cup '94 and the mascot Striker, the World Cup would not be what it is today!

    All the best to all the teams who are competing in South Africa '06. Except maybe one or two!!

  • Comment number 81.

    I too was in the middle of my A-Levels. I hope the new Education Secretary does something about this; it is very unreasonable to have A-levels (and GCSE's!) during World Cups or Euro's.

    I think on paper England had a talented pool of players; the remains of 90 combined with the teamm that would do well at Euro 96; but tactically they were dire and that is from a Villa fan (so I actually like Graham Taylor; but yes he messed up there w/ England). Like most others rooted for Ireland, but the comical John Aldridge moment and that little chap (Was he Jack's number 2) pretty much spelt the end for them too.

    BUT not only was the World Cup on during A-levels but also that period right after A-levels when you have a bunch of time on your hands and the pubs are your new favourite destination!! So good times

    Loved this tournament; thought the stadia were immense, colourful and full. The sun just shone. America can hold any big event and it is successful (maybe Atlanta Olympics aside??); it is one of their biggest strengths.

    I remember a great game between South Korea and Spain and that weaving run by the Saudi Arabian player (I'm not Rainman, I cannot remember names too well, I am also not doing the cheating by looking on wikipedia; This is what my head remembers!)and a dazzling Sweden, Bulgaria, Nigeria and to an extent Romania. How good was Stoichkov and Hagi?? Actually I'll tell you how good Hagi was; I went to the barbers and took a picture of him in and said I want that hairstyle!!! OK, so not my greatest moment but he had that effect on me (Hagi; not the barber!!!)

    For the latter stages I was in Spain.
    My favourite game had to be that Bulgaria/Germany game. We were still feeling a little annoyed about Italia 90 as a country and we as 4 18 year old lads, were a little aggreived with the Germans getting the best spots by the pool every morning (usually the towels were out before we had even got in from the night before; I'll leave out the skinny dipping with welsh girls; this is a family site!), so we were watching this game while getting ready before heading out for the night. It was also our mates 18th B'day so the beverages were going down fast. When the second goal went in we instinctively ran out onto the balcony, sprayed beer and champagne everywhere and generally acted like morons!! To make things better the next morning (or night? 4am, what is that?) on our way in from an all you can eat/drink thing arranged by Airtours!! (when will these travel people learn?) we walked by the pool and threw every single towel in there!!!

    I apologize!!!!! I love Germany, Germans are very funny people; we were just in a moment. We were young, we were free (kept our teeth nice and clean!)I'm alos very much NOT and never have been a football hooligan.

    The final was watched at a bar whereby the owner eventually would just leave the bottles of liquor on the table for us (Admittedly it was pathetic stuff like Malibu haha!! but we were still learing what is least likely to be thrown up after a night of booze!!) and the whole place was rooting for Brazil, including a proper hardcore Derby fan who DID look the part of the hooligan. The one table supporting Italy were bombarded with abuse all the way through (Trust me this can not be confused in any way with "Banter").

    Here, in 2010 is a sentence I don't think I would have written in say late 1993 or early 94

    "Well done America for putting on a great world cup and well done to FIFA for bringing in rules to make up for the absolutely (Kieron) dire Italia 90"

    Nice article

  • Comment number 82.

    Nice to see the moderation is moving at a swift pace this afternoon.

    Dear oh dear.

  • Comment number 83.

    I remember as an 8 year old playing on the field and an older boy running out shouting that Germany had been beaten by Bulgaria.

    We were all cheering, having Scottish and Irish parents I'm not sure why I was so pleased that Germany had been knocked out at such a young age! I guess it must have been in my blood...

  • Comment number 84.

    I was a little too young for 82 (although do remember being relegated to the Black and white telly by my mom in the spare room to watch some games with my Dad)so USA 94 would rank here in my world cups (from a football excitement point)

    1. 1986, 2. 1994, 3. 2002, 4. 2006, 5. 1998, 6. 1990

  • Comment number 85.

    One of the worst world cups ever! The final was a blight on the name of football. Sorry but football and America don't mix - didn't then and doesn't now.

    It was a travesty that England didn't qualify for that one - it was the one time we probably had a good chance of winning it.

    We haven't a snowball's chance in hell this year.

  • Comment number 86.

    Actually my most vivid memory of 94 was Maradonna's screaming face pushed into a camera at the side of the pitch and then him being send home in disgrace - sort of sums up the whole thing for me.

  • Comment number 87.

    Unlike most people here, it seems, I hold USA '94 in very high regard indeed. It holds a special place in my heart.

    And why?

    Because it is what got me into football! True story.

    Aged 10, for seome reason I had never been into football at all before the World Cup of 1994. I remember watching Italy vs. Ireland with my dad. It was to be the first football match I ever watched from start to finish. We were supporting Ireland, in the absence of England in the WC of course. I remember really enjoying the game, watching a few more games, and from then on being hooked on football!

    Bulgaria beating the Germans against all odds.
    The making and breaking of a hero - Roberto Baggio.
    The Irish victory over Italy.
    The unexpectedly awesome Romania-Sweden quarter final.
    THAT Saudi Arabia goal.
    The flair of the Brazilians, and Romario in particular.
    The many excellent Stoichkov goals.

    Happy memories.

  • Comment number 88.

    FUWG: On what grounds did we have a better chance of winning the '94 World Cup(even assuming we had qualified) than we do this time around. If we had qualified in '94 we would have gone there under the managership of Graham Taylor(Venables wouldn't have been given the opportunity to manage the Three Lions), who Fabio spits on in terms of managierial skill.

    We had some good quality players in '94 but as I said earlier, I'm not sure we could have won that tournament even if we had qualified with Venables as manager. It would have probably been a repeat of the semi finals in '90 at best.

    Same I suspect this time around, Spain and Brazil are just too good for us to beat.

  • Comment number 89.

  • Comment number 90.

    Brazil lacked any creativity in the midfield, which was formed by 3 Defensive mids plus a "worker" (Zinho). Rai (PSG), the one player capable of providing that (creativity) lost his place after a couple of horrible performances in the first stage (the system also did not help him).

    However, people downplay the importance of Romario in that Brazilian side. Yes, Bebeto was important too, but quite frankly, you could potentially replace Bebeto (some said Edmundo was better then -- concur barring his attitude IMO) and still have about the same attacking power.

    It wasn't just about the number of goals, Romario was also the playmaker of that team.

  • Comment number 91.


    Try telling that to the millions of Hispanics in the US who go daft on it! Tons of the kids play it as well and I think you are so wide of the mark when you say the the US and football 'don't mix'. They do and its always been popular among the hispanics and among lots of the British and European ex-pats! My American nephews always want their 'soccer' strips for birthdays and x-mas: Celtic, Arsenal and Scotland strips being the most popular. Tried to cure them of Arsenal though!!

  • Comment number 92.

    Haji and Stoichkov were awesome. Lechkov's goal against Germany was wonderful. I had never heard of these players before and it was great to see them. I was at university at the time and spent most of the time playing a drinking game in which everyone had to choose a name of a player. When the commentator mentioned a player's name, the person that had chosen that player had to drink two fingers worth of their beer. My mate who chose Baggio in the Italy games was kind of stupid and was very drunk by half-time. There were many great games, like Holland v Brazil, though of course the final was poor. As an Englishman, I found it difficult to get behind a nation (Republic of Ireland) that would never get behind my own but to beat Italy was some achievement. In terms of exciting games etc, I think this was a much better tournament than Italia 1990, but with England not being there was something missing. I also think that it was a shame Maradona was kicked out the tournament. He was such an awsesome player in the '86 world cup and if he could play anything like that in '94 then it would have been great. It seemed like he was gettin back to form but then ....

  • Comment number 93.

    Great World Cup!!!

    I was living in Bulgaria at the time and what a summer it has been! Guys, you can't slate the tournament just because England were not there.
    Romania - Argentina and Bulgaria - Germany the best games any day!
    I was pleased to read people remember so many moments.
    It was the last good world cup for me, sorry.

  • Comment number 94.

    It was the world cup i thought the Argentine "wonderkid" Ariel Ortega would take Maradona's mantle and whilst he was exquisite on many occasions he failed to live up my expectations after this tournament.

    It was an OK tournament!

  • Comment number 95.

    I was there at the final in the Rose Bowl. It was a lovely day, sunny -and I still have my final ticket and souvenir Brazilian colour bandana to this day.

    However, the final was just the worst, the very worst. It was actually a relief when it was all over. In retrospect, I wish I'd sold my tickets!

    I did attend some group games at Foxboro, Massachusetts. Bolivia vs South Korea wasn't so good, but Argentina vs Nigeria was a good one. I do remember the rabid Argentinian fans dancing with Maradona cardboard cut outs. Worth it if only to say I saw Maradona in the flesh.

  • Comment number 96.

    When you think we are officially ranked number 8, and the bookies have us joint 2nd favourites with Brazil, and we didnt quality for '94, and its not THAT long ago, even more shocking with EURO 2008.

  • Comment number 97.

    Enjoyed USA 94 fully understanding the game and even some of the issues.

    This is a great series, getting me right in the mood for Africa 2010.


  • Comment number 98.

    I was at a few of the games, esp in L.A.
    The funniest thing at the Arg. - Rom. game was a crowd of Brits waving Red Ensign flgs to wind up the Argies! (12 years after the Falklands War!)

  • Comment number 99.

    I remember watching the end of the USA-Brazil match, with the American players looking forlorn after losing a close match. I was a kid then, and remember thinking something along the lines of "How dare they look so unhappy? They aren't good enough to lick Brazil's bootlaces - they should be happy they kept them down to 1-0."

    Years have passed since then, and I have far more respect for the American football team now - respect that would be even higher if their team players and coaches didn't keep referring to the sport as 'soccer'.

    One wonders how much more developed the US team would be now if FIFA had given the 1986 World Cup to the USA instead of Mexico after Colombia pulled out of hosting it. If the USA had hosted it, the NASL wouldn't have collapsed, and there wouldn't have been a generation lost due to the lack of a top flight pro football league in the USA.

    On a different note, anyone remember Group E, where Mexico, Ireland, Italy and Norway all finished on four points and zero goal difference? I thought that was pretty fun - possibly since I didnt watch any matches from the group and only saw the table afterwards.

  • Comment number 100.

    bit surpised you nver mentioned the biggest story at this point, the arrest of OJ simpson. I seem to recall that he was arrested on the day of the italy v ireland match. If i remember rightly at half time, i flicked it over and happened to see the infamous car chase live, always remember seeing that, it was the first time i'd seen a major unexpected event live like that, the next one was of course sept 11.


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