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USA 1994

USA 1994

USA were chosen as host by FIFA to host the 15th edition of the FIFA World Cup in 1994. USA won the bid to host the World cup ahead of Brazil &  Morocco as FIFA hoped to increase the interest of Football as a sport in America. In fact one of the conditions imposed by FIFA on USA was the creation of a professional football league in the USA hence in 1996 the Major League Soccer was formed.

In Qualification Greece, Nigeria & Saudi Arabia qualified for the first time whilst Russia also made their first appearance as Russia since the USSR no longer existed and West & East Germany were no once again playing as a Unified Germany. No teams from Great Britain qualified and due to its success with Cameroon in the previous World Cup Africa were given another place totalling 3 nations. However then entire Zambian football team was tragically killed in a plane crash while travelling to play a qualifier against Senegal. The only survivor from the original team who did not travel with them on the doomed flight was Kalusha Bwalya.

The Official Mascot of the 1994 World Cup was “Striker” a dog wearing a red, white & blue  uniform like the American Flag.

The Official Match Ball used at the 1994 FIFA World Cup was known as the Adidas Questra.

Both Mcdonalds & Coca Cola, FIFA Partners at the World Cup, advertised their sponsorships of the World Cup by printing all participating nation’s flags on their take out bags and cans. This act outraged Saudi Arabian officials as their national flag bears Sacred Islamic Writing on it. The fact that their flag was being printed on disposable items meant that the Sacred Islamic writing was being disrespected.

The format of the 1994 World Cup remained the same as that in 86 & 90 with 6 Groups of 4 in the First Round of which the top 2 teams in each Group along with the 4 best placed 3rd teams qualify for the Knockout Phase. The only difference was that now 3 points were given for a win, instead of 2 points. This was changed by FIFA so as to create more attacking football. Another rule change to promote attacking football created by FIFA was the fact that back passes to goalkeepers were no longer allowed, i.e. goalkeeper could not catch the ball if a defender passed the ball to them using his foot.

Group A
The first game in Group A featured hosts USA vs Switzerland. This was the first ever match at the FIFA World Cup to take place indoors at the Pontiac Silverdome Stadium.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw. In the other game Colombia who were fancied dark horses to win the tournament were outclassed by Gheorghe Hagi’s Romania 3-1. In the 2nd round of matches Switzerland surprisingly thumped Romania 4-1 while USA beat Colombia 2-1 with Andres Escobar scoring an own goal. Although Colombia BEAT Switzerland 2-0 in their final game they were eliminated in the 1st Round. The expectations of their Colombian fans were high for the team at the World Cup and the fact that Colombia were fancied as one of the favourites for the tournament, especially after they thumped Argentina 5-0 in their final qualifying match to finish ahead of the Argentines. Escobar’s own goal in the 2-1 loss against USA led to one of the most shocking moments of the FIFA World Cup. Upon Escobar’s and Colombia’s early return home Andres Escobar was shot and killed at a bar on 2 July 1994. His death is attributed to his own goal against the USA as it is reported that the killer shouted “Goal” before he fired 12 bullets at Escobar.

Humberto Munoz Castro was found guilty and imprisoned for 11 years. He has not been released.
Romania beat USA 1-0 to top the Group with Switzerland finishing 2nd ahead of the USA on goal difference. USA as hosts qualified as one of the best 3rd place finishers.

Group B
Brazil as always are among the favourites at any FIFA World Cup. They began their campaign with a 2-0 victory over Russia thanks to goals from star striker Romario and Captain Rai (Photo).

Cameroon after their heroics in 1990 began their tournament with a 2-2 draw against the Swedes. Brazil continued to show their ambitions with a 3-0 victory over Cameroon with Romario once again among the scorers. The largest age difference between 2 players on the same team in a World Cup match was achieved by Cameroon in this game as Rigobert Song was just 18 years old while Roger Milla was 42 years old. Sweden beat Russia 3-1 thanks to 2 goals from Dahlin. In the final games Brazil and Sweden played out to a 1-1 draw resulting in Brazil qualifying top of the Group ahead of Sweden. The match between Russia and Cameroon was a record breaker. Russia ran riot over Cameroon with a 6-1 victory. Oleg Salenko (Photo) scored 5 goals which is still a World Cup record for most goals by 1 player in a single game. Roger Milla (Photo) became the oldest player ever to score at the FIFA World Cup at the age of 42 as he netted Cameroon’s only consolation goal. Salenko’s 5 goals along with his goal against Sweden would make him top scorer of the tournament with 6 goals. Russia however were eliminated in the 1st Round and Salenko would not be able to add to his tally.

Group C
Defending Champions Germany began the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Bolivia in a dull opening game. Spain who led South Korea 2-0 were stunned in the last 5 minutes as the Koreans snatched 2 late goals to draw with the Spaniards. Germany and Spain played to a 1-1 draw. In the final round of games both Germany and Spain won to finish 1st and 2nd while Korea and Bolivia were eliminated. Germany who were leading the Koreans 3-0 were almost stunned as the Koreans fought back to make the score 3-2. Jurgen Klinsman scored in every game of the opening round including 2 against the Koreans.

Group D
Diego Maradona and Argentina were on fire in their opening game as they blasted Greece 4-0. Batistuta scored a hatrick and Maradona added another. His goal celebration was something special. However Maradona’s tournament was short lived as he was found guilty of using Ephedrine, a banned performance enhancing substance, and was suspended and sent home.

African Giants Nigeria were brilliant against Bulgaria and won 3-0. However in Maradona’s last game at the FIFA World Cup before he was suspended he assisted Argentina to a 2-1 victory over Nigeria with Cannigia scoring both goals. Bulgaria recovered from their loss against Nigeria to thump Greece 4-0 with Hristo Stoichkov scoring twice from the penalty spot. Argentina rocked by Maradona’s doping scandal were beaten by Bulgaria 2-0 and Nigeria beat Greece 2-0. This resulted in Nigeria, Bulgaria & Argentina all finishing on 6 points. Nigeria finished 1st, Bulgaria 2nd and Argentina 3rd separated by Goal Difference.

Group E
Republic of Ireland gained revenge for their 1-0 loss to Italy 4 years earlier by beating the Italians by the same scoreline. Norway also beat Mexico 1-0. In the 2nd Round of Games Italy bounced back to beat Norway 1-0 even though goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca was sent off after just 20 minutes with the game still at 0-0. Mexico beat Ireland 2-1. In the final round of games Italy and Mexico played to a 1-1 draw while Norway and Ireland played to a goalless draw. This meant that for the time ever in FIFA World Cup history all 4 Teams in the Group finished with the same amount of points. Furthermore all 4 teams had an equal even Goal Difference. Mexico topped the Group thanks to most goals scored being 3 while Norway finished last because of only 1 goal scored. Ireland and Italy who had scored 2 goals and conceded 2 goals each were separated by the fact that Ireland finished 2nd ahead of Italy as a result of the beating Italy in the opening game.

Group F
Belgium as the seeds for the Group beat Morocco 1-0 in their opening game while the highly fancied Dutch beat Saudi Arabia 2-1 in their opening game. Belgium then went on to beat the Netherlands 1-0 while Saudi Arabia beat Morocco 2-1. In the final round of games Saeed Al-Owairan scored one of the Greatest Goals of the FIFA World Cup in Saudia Arabia’s 1-0 win over Belgium to ensure Saudi Arabia qualified for the next Round.


Netherlands beat Morocco 2-1 in their final game. Netherlands, Belgium and Saudi Arabia all finished with 6 points and a Goal Difference of +1. However Netherlands topped the Group as both them and Saudi Arabia had scored 4 goals and Netherlands had beat Saudi Arabia. Belgium finished 3rd as they scored less goals then the other 2 teams.

Round 2 (Last 16)
In the 2nd Round Germany beat Frankie Van der Elst’s Belgium 3-2 with Rudi Voller scoring twice and Klinsman once again finding the net. Belgium Keeper Michel Preud’homme became the first ever Goalkeeper to win the Lev Yashin Award as the best goalkeeper of the tournament.

Spain beat Switzerland 3-0 while Saudi Arabia lost 3-1 to Sweden. Netherlands beat the Republic of Ireland 2-0 while Brazil with new captain Dunga, after Rai had been dropped due to his poor performances, scraped through against host USA 1-0 thanks to a Bebeto goal. Leonardo was sent off during the match. USA’s achievement in the tournament was a success considering them not being a footballing nation. Their narrow loss to the Mighty Brazil was by no means a disgrace for the USA. The likes of Cobi Jones, Lalas & Balboa had done enough to let the world recognise USA as a football nation. If Brazil just managed to scrape through against USA, Italy were on the brink of elimination as they were 1-0 down and playing with 10 men, as Gianfranco Zola who came on as a sub for Italy after 65 minutes was sent off a few minutes later, and with just 2 minutes remaining Roberto Baggio equalised. Zola one of Italy’s well known strikers perhaps had one of the shortest World Cup careers ever coming on for just under 10 minutes and being sent off. What makes the red card worst was that it was Zola’s birthday. The unlucky Nigerians lost out to Italy in extra time as Baggio scored his 2nd from the penalty spot.

 Bulgaria and Mexico played out to a 1-1 draw. In the penalty shootout Mexico missed their first three penalties allowing the Bulgarians to advance to the Quarterfinals. Argentina without Maradona had to face a Romanian team led by their star player Gheorghe Hagi who’s nickname was “The Maradona of the Carpathians (Photo)”. It was this “Maradona” who scored Romania’s 3rd goal in their 3-2 victory over Argentina who seemed to miss the leadership and skill of Maradona since he was expelled. The likes of Batistuta, Redondo, Ortega &  Co on paper seem to be a good enough Argentina side to overcome Romania but the loss of Maradona was definitely felt as Argentina failed to win without him.


In the quarterfinals Italy beat Spain 2-1 with 2 goals from Baggio, 1 from Dino and 1 from Roberto. Romania &  Sweden played out to a 2-2 draw after extra time. In the penalty shoot out Sweden missed their first penalty but Petrescu and Belodedici missed for Romania. The Netherlands vs Brazil quarterfinal was perhaps the best match of the tournament. The Dutch was the likes of Rijkaard, Koeman, Bergkamp and the in form Overmars against the Brazilians of Romario, Bebeto, Jorginho, Dunga & Branco. The half time score was 0-0 but in the 2nd half Romario gave Brazil the lead before Bergkamp equalised. Bebeto then restored Brazil’s lead and produced a unique goal celebration where he stood near the touchline imitating cradling a baby to mark the birth of his son. Aaron Winter equalised again for the Dutch. Branco then scored the winner to take Brazil to the semi’s.

Bulgaria and Hristo Stoichkov (Photo) were superb form in upsetting the Germans. Although Matthaus gave Germany the lead, Stoichkov, Balakov &  Letchkov however gave Bulgaria a victory to treasure forever. Bulgaria who had never ever won a game before the 1994 World Cup were now in the semi-finals.

Surprise package Bulgaria met the Italians in the semis. Once again it was Roberto Baggio “The Divine Ponytail” who was Italy’s star as he scored 2 goals in the 1st half to give Italy a place in the final.


Hristo Stoichkov managed to pull a goal back for Bulgaria and so score his 6th goal of the tournament and become joint top score
r along with Oleg Salenko of Russia.

In a tense match between Sweden & Brazil Romario scored the only goal to set up a dream final between Brazil & Italy.

Third Place Playoff
Bulgaria had already surpassed their nation’s expectation of them by reaching the semi-finals. Hristo Stoichkov the star striker had scored 6 goals and was joint top scorer of the tournament. Sweden ran riot over Bulgaria in the 3rd place playoff by thumping them 4-0. Thomas Brolin, Dahlin, Larsson & Co had finished 3rd at the 1994 World Cup.

Brazil with the likes of Jorginho, Bebeto, Romario, Leonardo & Dunga were looking to win their 4th title. However Italy with their star player Roberto Baggio and the likes of Maldini, Baresi & Donadoni were also hoping to win their 4th title. This would make either 1 of them the leader in World Cup wins like back in 1970 when both were playing to become the 1st team to win 3 titles and keep the Jules Rimet Trophy forever. The final took place at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

The match was very tense and nervous as neither team wanted to be the first to concede a goal. Even though FIFA had created a rule preventing Back Passes the match ended goalless with perhaps Roberto Baggio coming the closest to score. This was the first and only ever final to not produce a goal after extra time as well as the first ever final to be decided by the dreaded penalty shoot out.

In the shootout Italy’s Baresi & Brazil’s Marcio Santos both missed the 1st penalties. Albertini & Evani of Italy as well as Romario & Branco of Brazil then converted their kicks. Massaro then missed for Italy while captain Dunga of Brazil converted his. Up steps Roberto Baggio to take his kick knowing that if he misses Italy lose the final. The designated penalty taker for Italy ballooned his kick over the crossbar and Brazil had become World Champions for the 4th time. This penalty miss by Baggio is perhaps the most well remembered and publicised penalty shoot out miss of all time.

Brazil’s star striking partnership of Bebeto & Romario were sensational throughout the tournament and Romario was rewarded with the Golden Ball as the Best Player of the Tournament. Other notable contributions was that of Roberto Baggio undoubtedly Italy’s star player, Hristo Stoickov Bulgaria’s superb Striker as well as Gheorghe Hagi of Romania.

The Brazilian football team dedicated this World Cup victory to Ayrton Senna, The Brazilian Formula 1 Champion who had died tragically in an accident 2 month prior to the World Cup.

The newly crowned World Champions Brazil were also given the award as the most entertaining team of the World Cup, a new award initiated by FIFA at the 1994 World Cup. Romario, Bebeto & Co entertained the fans of the World Cup with their attacking approach to the game bringing back the memories of the Brazil of Old.

The World Cup in USA was definitely a success even though “Soccer” was not a popular sport in the States. The Average Attendance and Crowds for Tournament was and still is a record today with an average of 69 000 spectators per game.


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