Italy 1990

2010-05-05 11:28
Host Country: Italy
Champions: West Germany    
Runners Up: Argentina

This was, in truth, a poor World Cup. It's a saying among Dutch football fans that poor quality tournaments are always won by the Germans and, while Dutch-German enmity ought to be borne in mind, this tournament went some way to proving their theory.

The 1990 FIFA World Cup, the 14th staging of the World Cup, was held in Italy from 8 June to 8 July. Italy was chosen as the hosts by FIFA on 19 May 1984, making it the second country to host the event twice. The Soviet Union was the rival of Italy's candidacy to host the event. It was won by West Germany, who beat Argentina 1–0 in the final to win the World Cup for the third time.

Three teams qualified for the first time: Costa Rica, the Republic of Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. The United States also made it back to the World Cup after a 40-year absence. Egypt qualified to this tournament after a much longer absence (56 years).

The format of the 1990 competition remained the same as in 1986: 24 qualified teams were divided into six groups of four. The top two teams and four best third place finishers from the six groups advanced to the knockout stage.

The 1990 World Cup finals got off to a surprising start. In the first match, Cameroon soaked up pressure from Argentina for most of the first half. After a quarter of an hour's play in the second half, Cameroon's Andre Kana was sent off, and it seemed certain that the world champions would now take control. But six minutes later, the ten men took the lead. François Omam Biyik scored when he placed a perfect downward header past Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido. Argentina pressed hard for an equaliser, and Cameroon were reduced to nine men when Benjamin Massing got the red card in the 89th minute – but the African team still held out for a shock 1–0 win. Then, when Cameroon faced Romania in their second game, Roger Milla took centre stage. His inclusion in Cameroon's squad had been controversial. He had been a favourite in the Cameroon team for years, but he was now 38 years old. He was only in Italy because of political intervention: Paul Biya, Cameroon's President, had insisted that Milla be included in the squad.

Against Argentina, Milla only appeared for the last ten minutes. But in the match with Romania, Cameroon coach Valeri Nepomniachi sent him on in the 58th minute, with the score still 0–0. It proved to be an inspired move. Milla scored with 15 minutes left, then added another with five minutes remaining, thus getting two opportunities to demonstrate his trademark hip-shaking goal celebration dance. Gavrila Balint scored for Romania, but it was too little too late. Cameroon held on to win 2–1. Surprisingly, they were beaten 4–0 in their last group game by a Soviet Union side desperately, and unsuccessfully, striving to stay in the tournament on goal difference. Despite the heavy defeat, Cameroon were through to the second round as group winners. Romania came second in Group B, and Argentina just scraped into the second round as one of the best third-placed teams.

The second round featured some intriguing fixtures. Two of the ties – Argentina vs Brazil and Italy vs Uruguay – pitted former champion countries against each other, and West Germany met the Netherlands in a rematch of the 1974 World Cup final. The all-South American game turned out to be a tight, edgy affair, won for Argentina by a goal from Claudio Caniggia with ten minutes remaining from a magical run of Diego Maradona through the Brazilian defense and an outstanding performance from their goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea, who also rode his luck in several Brazilian goal misses. A strong second half showing from Italy saw them beat Uruguay 2–0, thanks to another goal from Schillaci and one from Aldo Serena. The West Germany-Netherlands clash produced a repeat of the Euro 88 semifinal. The match turned ugly after 22 minutes when Rudi Völler and Frank Rijkaard, in an infamous moment, were dismissed after a bizarre spitting incident. Early in the second half, Jürgen Klinsmann put the West Germans ahead and Andreas Brehme added a second with eight minutes left. A Ronald Koeman penalty for the Netherlands in the 89th minute narrowed the score to 2–1 but that was close as the Dutch would come and West Germany went through.

The final between West Germany and Argentina, described by veteran football writer Brian Glanville as "probably the worst, most tedious, bad-tempered Final in the history of the World Cup", produced several football firsts. In the 65th minute, Argentina's Pedro Monzon was sent off for a foul on Klinsmann, becoming the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup final. It has been said that Klinsmann exaggerated his reaction to the foul, causing the referee to perhaps have been more severe with the punishment.

Team-mate Gustavo Dezotti received the second red card of the game with four minutes left after he hauled Jürgen Kohler to the ground during a stoppage in play. Shortly before Dezotti's departure, referee Edgardo Codesal Mendez of Mexico awarded a penalty to West Germany, from which Andreas Brehme scored the only goal of the game. In addition, Diego Maradona was seen arguing with Mendez about the dismissal of Dezotti, and on being waved away, Maradona pushed a linesman to the ground, resulting in him being shown a yellow card. The 1–0 scoreline provided another first: Argentina were the first team ever to take part in a World Cup final without scoring.

Notable Facts
Mexico was disqualified after the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación fielded an over-age player in a prior youth tournament.

Chile was disqualified after their goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked an injury due to a firework thrown from the stands in a match against Brazil, causing the match to be abandoned. Chile were also banned from qualifying in 1994.

The 1990 World Cup is widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups ever. It generated a record low goals-per-game average and then-record of 16 red cards were handed out. Most teams relied heavily on defensive play and hard tackling, as well as aggressive intimidation of the referee.

Golden Boot
Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci with 6 goals

Andreas Brehme scores the only goal of the game from the penalty spot. (AFP)
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