The 1990 World Cup was hosted in Italy who had previously hosted the World Cup of 1934. 103 teams competed in qualifying to get to the finals, while Italy and Argentina were spared this task due to their status of hosts and holders respectively. Countries competing in their first world cup finals were; Costa Rica, Republic of Ireland and United Arab Emirates.

The format

The 24 competing teams were split into 6 groups of 4, with the teams in each group playing in a round robin format. After each team had played the others in their group once the two leading teams would be go through to the next round and would be joined by the next 4 teams with the best record in the group, provided they had finished third. This would make up the magic number of 16 which would enable a straight knock-out tournament to proceed with the winners progressing to the next round. If the score of the match was level after 90 minutes, a further half hour of extra time would be played. If at the end of extra time the scores were still level a penalty shoot-out would decide the winner.

To decide which of the third placed teams would proceed to the second round, the draw for the second round was mapped out before hand using descriptions such as, "Winner of Group A vs Best placed 3rd team out of groups B, C and D." Although this looked over-complicated the combinations were made in such a way to give no one group an advantage over any other.

The venues

Matches were held at 12 stadiums spread throughout Italy.

The results

First Round

	Group A						

Italy       1 0	Austria         (Rome)
USA         1 5	Czechoslovakia  (Florence)
Italy       1 0	USA             (Rome)
Austria     0 1	Czechoslovakia  (Florence)
Italy       2 0	Czechoslovakia  (Rome)
Austria     2 1  USA            (Florence)

Italy           3  3  0  0  4  0  6      
Czechoslovakia  3  2  0  1  6  3  4      
Austria         3  1  0  2  2  3  2 
USA             3  0  0  3  2  8  0  

Italy, with all the benefits of hosts were expected to do well. In the end they qualified fairly comfortably from their group, though it took a late goal from Sicilian substitute, Toto Schillaci to win their game against the defensive Austrians. Sill the Italians didn't look like a successful side until their last group match against Czechoslovakia where an injury to Gianluca Vialli gave Roberto Baggio the chance to start. Baggio immediately clicked into a partnership up-front with Baggio and won the game comfortably (although Czechoslovakia did have a legitimate goal wrongly ruled offside).

Austria and USA, after both losing their first two games had both been eliminated by the time they faced each other, with Austria winning the consolation match. USA had been fortunate to qualify for the finals, their path had been smoothed by the disqualification of Mexico after they had been fielding overage players in youth tournaments.

	Group B						

Argentina     0 1  Cameroon       (Milan)
Soviet Union  0 2  Romania        (Bari)
Argentina     2 0  Soviet Union   (Naples)
Cameroon      2 1  Romania        (Bari)
Argentina     1 1  Romania        (Naples)
Cameroon      0 4  Soviet Union   (Bari)

Cameroon       3  2  0  1  3  5  4      
Romania        3  1  1  1  4  3  3      
Argentina      3  1  1  1  3  2  3 
Soviet Union   3  1  0  2  4  4  2 

The opening match of the tournament Argentina-Cameroon produced one of the biggest shocks in world cup history, when the African team defeated the champions. Cameroon started well, and successfully subdued Diego Maradona with a sequence of on-going seem-fouls. Argentina looked a better team when Claudio Caniggia was brought on an half-time. Cameroon went down to ten men after Kana Biyik was sent off and the balance might have been expected to swing to the Argentinean. But a comedy of errors as Argentina tried to defend a simple free kick led to a header from striker Oman Biyik bouncing off goalkeeper Neri Pumpido's knee and into the goal. Cameroon had another man sent off for a foul on Caniggia before the end but held on for their win.

Cameroon's bubble didn't burst their. In their next match against Romania they won with two goals from Roger Milla, the 38 year old who would come on as substitute and bolster Cameroons attack in the second half of all their world cup games. Milla's goals would be celebrated with a little dance with the corner flag that would be imitated on football pitches the world over in the season to come. Argentina managed to recover from their unexpected setback by beating the Soviet Union. Just as in 1986, the hand of Maradona would have a part to play in the game, this time the great player would handle in his own penalty box, stopping a flicked-on corner but luckily for him the officials again saw nothing wrong.

Another incident in this game that altered the path of the competition was the leg break of Pumpido which would give a starting place to Sergio Goycoechea. A draw with Romania in their next game would give Argentina a place in the second round. The Soviet Union despite a four goal victory over a comatose Cameroon side with their eyes on the next game, were on their way home. The USSR would come to rue the missed chances at the start of the Romania game.

	Group C						

Brazil       2 1  Sweden        (Turin)
Costa Rica   1 0  Scotland      (Genova)
Brazil       1 0  Costa Rica    (Turin)
Sweden	     1 2  Scotland      (Genova)
Brazil	     1 0  Scotland      (Turin)
Sweden       1 2  Costa Rica    (Genova)

Brazil        3  3  0  0  4  1  6      
Costa Rica    3  2  0  1  2  3  4      
Scotland      3  1  0  2  2  3  2 
Sweden        3  0  0  3  3  6  0  

Football can be a cruel game. When you're young and carefree and never been hurt even wining the kick around in the park after school appears terribly important. So when the World Cup rolls into view it appears that the biggest set of games in the world ever are about to take place. The day Scotland lost to Costa Rica was a black day for me, and although I now realise that there are far more important things in life, this was my first experience of an empty heart.

As for the other events, Brazil won their first game over Sweden with two goals from Careca, but were made to work hard against the Costa Ricans, but eventually Brazil emerged victors in that match as well. Scotland, perversely beat Sweden, although none of their attackers yet managed a goal in open play. It would be this lack of bite upfront that would cost Scotland in their final game against Brazil. Affording the Brazilians too much respect Scotland played far too negatively and conceded a late goal that would eliminate them from the competition. Meanwhile Costa Rica showed their win over Scotland was no fluke by beating Sweden and taking second place in the group.

	Group D						

UAE           0 2  Colombia     (Bologna)
West Germany  4 1  Yugoslavia   (Milan)
Yugoslavia    1 0  Colombia     (Bologna)
West Germany  5 1  UAE          (Milan)
West Germany  1 1  Colombia     (Milan)
Yugoslavia    4 1  UAE          (Bologna)

West Germany   3  2  1  0 10  3  5      
Yugoslavia     3  2  0  1  6  5  4      
Colombia       3  1  1  1  3  2  3 
UAE            3  0  0  3  2 11  0 

West Germany were rampant in their opening game dismissing a good Yugoslav team with four goals, the best being a long drive form outside the penalty box by Lothar Matthaus. Colombia beat the UAE, who where playing in their first world cup with the Brazilian coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. This game was noticeable for the antics of the Colombian 'keeper Rene Higuita who would venture far up field and play the ball on the ground.

Yugoslavia beat Colombia in their second game, a close game, though Higuita saved a penalty to stop Yugoslavia winning by two. With West Germany already qualified, Colombia managed to earn the draw that would help them progress to the second round as one of the best third placed teams.

	Group E						

Belgium       2 0  South Korea    (Verona)
Uruguay       0 0  Spain          (Udine)
Belgium       3 1  Uruguay        (Verona)
South Korea   1 3  Spain          (Udine)
Belgium       1 2  Spain          (Verona)
South Korea   0 0  Uruguay        (Udine)

Spain          3  2  1  0  5  2  5      
Belgium        3  2  0  1  6  3  4      
Uruguay        3  1  1  1  2  3  3 
South Korea    3  0  0  3  1  6  0  

Group E went pretty much as would be expected. Typically, South Korea failed to win a match, while an aging Belgium team and an unremarkable Spanish side managed to progress along with Uruguay, who managed not to commit quite as many fouls as they had managed in 1986. Spain also managed to gain revenge for their elimination at the hands of the Belgians in Mexico, by recording a victory in their last game. The Spanish striker Michel scored a hat-trick in the victory over South Korea.

	Group F						

England       1 1  Ireland        (Cagliari)
Netherlands   1 1  Egypt          (Palermo)
England       0 0  Netherlands    (Cagliari)
Ireland	      0 0  Egypt          (Palermo)
Ireland	      1 1  Netherlands    (Palermo)
England       1 0  Egypt          (Cagliari)

England      3  1  2  0  2  1  4      
Ireland      3  0  3  0  2  2  3      
Netherlands  3  0  3  0  2  2  3 
Egypt        3  0  2  1  1  2  0 

Group F looked to have one of the most promising line-ups, in reality nothing much seemed to happen and earned the group the sobriquet 'group of boredom'. The first pair of matches were particularly dire, with England and Ireland playing out for a draw, while Hollands's from the 1988 European Championships seemed to have vanished, with Marco van Basten looking out of form, and the midfield lacking creativity. Egypt were the better side and deserved their draw.

The group matches were taking place on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily, supposably to prevent the English hooligans from causing mayhem on the mainland. Memories of Heysel were still fresh in Italy. The game between England and the Netherlands produced no goals, but England who played a sweeper system for the first time probably created the better chances. The most noticeable incident in the match was the substitution of England captain Bryan Robson, again his injuries would prevent him making an impact on the competition. Meanwhile Ireland who had mastered the long-ball game under the coaching of Jack Charlton played a further mind-numbing scoreless draw against the Egyptians who could not reproduce their previous from against the Dutch.

Finally a win, England scraping past Egypt thanks to a header from the defender Mark Wright. Meanwhile the Dutch and Irish secured another goal, an early goal from Ruud Gullit cancelled out by the Niall Quinn, one of the few Irish players who had actually been brought up in the republic. The only way left to decide which side would take second place in groups was the drawing of lots, and fortune favoured the Irish.

Second Round

Cameroon 2 1 Colombia

Colombia had the chances to win this match, but failed to convert them, and were denied a stonewall penalty when Carlos Estrada was scythed down in the area. Goalless, the game went into extra time, where Roger Milla who had come in again as a substitute rose to the occasion. Milla scored in the first period of extra time, with a great left foot shot past keeper Rene Higuita.

Then a couple of minutes afterwards Higuita ventured upfield looking to push his team up the park. But Higuita took the ball to close to Milla, and was easily dispossessed. So Milla scored the easiest goal of the tournament, his only task to guide the ball into an empty net. This gaffe made Cameroon the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals of a world cup. Colombia managed to get a goal back just before the final whistle but it was too late for them to properly attempt a comeback.

Costa Rica 1 4 Czechoslovakia

Costa Rica had exceeded all expectations in getting into the second round but here the wheels dropped off. Perhaps if their first choice keeper Gabelo Conejo had not picked up an injury before this game they would have fared better. Conejo's replacement Hermidio Barrantes was vampiric in goal - he didn't like crosses. The Czech centre forward Tomas Skuhravy helped himself to a hat-trick. It was not a walk over though, Costa Rica managed to equalise after Shukravy's earlier opener, it was only as the second half began to drag on that the central Americans resistance crumbled.

Argentina 1 0 Brazil

A strong tie for the second round, and the result upset many with Brazil, typically the neutrals favourites being beaten by a scrappy unpleasant Argentina team. At the start of the game, Brazil seemed to be the only team in it, with a string of early chances. However they never took them and failed to capitalise by dedicating numbers to attack. In the second half Sergio Goycoechea pulled off a superb save from a Careca shot.

Diego Maradona, clearly not 100% fit and dropping in and out the game, won the match with a great run weaving through the Brazilian defence before slotting a pass through Claudio Cannigia who cleverly sucked in Taffarel before slotting the ball into the net. Brazil were out.

Netherlands 1 2 West Germany

A much anticipated game between two historic rivals. An extra spice was added to the game as it was to be played i the San Siro famous home to the 2 famous Milan clubs. Three German players played for Internazionale; - Lothar Matthaus, Jurgen Klinsmann and Andy Brehme, while three of the Dutch played for AC Milan;- Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard. The stage was ready, but would the game be a memorable?

It was a good game but not a great one, marred by the dual dismissal of Rijkaard and Voller after the former spat on the latter who then retaliated. Afterwards Rijkaard would claim he had been racially abused. Still after this it was an exciting match, won by a strike from Klinsmann who had an excellent match. He would later hit the woodwork, but the game was won with a lob from the full back Brehme. The Dutch got scant consolation from a late penalty from Ronald Koeman, they were out of the competition and Gullit and van Basten never got to unleash their full potential in the World Cup.

Ireland 0 0 Romania (5:4 penalties)

A dull game where nothing much of interest happened aside from a couple of shots from Georghe Hagi, but don't tell that to an Irishman. In a climatic penalty shootout, each side converted their first 4 penalties. But then the Romanian Daniel Timofte's attempt was saved by the Irish keeper Pat Bonner. It was down to David O'Leary, the veteran centre half and not a favourite of Jack Charlton, to put the Irish in the quarterfinals and O'Leary was up to the task. You could never say that Ireland's brand of football was pretty, but it seemed to be getting more effective.

Italy 2 0 Uruguay

Toto Schillaci had become a new hero for Italy, and he scored again in this game. Uruguay had taken a negative stance to the game, happy to defend in deep and wait, but in the second half Italy broke through with Schillaci the scorer. Uruguay's plan had been holed but they couldn't manage to switch to attack mode. In the last 10 minutes italy got a second goal, a header from the substitute Aldo Serena.

Spain 1 2 Yugoslavia

A close game which either team could have won. Spain hit the post twice through in the second half from a Martin Vasquez shot and a Emilio Butragueno header. But late in the second half it was Yugoslavia who drew first blood, with a touch of class from Dragon Stojkovic. Spain would not be defeated easily and fought back with a scrambled equaliser with Julio Salinas. So the game went onto extra time.

Stojkovic did not wait long. He scored with a great free-kick 2 minutes into extra time, bending his kick round the wall and beating goalkeeper Andoni Zubizarreta. A great goal, Spain could find no reply this time and for the umpteenth time went out before their time.

Belgium 0 1 England

This match went on for a long time with no goals, which is not to say it was a dull game. They were chances at both ends, with Enzo Scifo hitting the post, while John Barnes had a goal chalked off for offside, it was hard to see who was the offending player.

But for all this neither side could manage the breakthrough and as extra time came it seemed inevitable that the match would drift into penalties. But with a minute left to go, England won a freekick just inside the Belgian half. Paul Gascoigne took the kick and drifted the ball in to the penalty box, where substitute David Platt connected with an overhead volley which flew into the Belgian goal. So lucky England, they managed to avoid an encounter with the shoot-out, although it was a device they had no reason to fear, for now.

Quarter Finals

Argentina 0 0 Yugoslavia (3:2 penalties)

Neither team could score, in this game played on a hot, hot day. Yugoslavia's chances took a blow when Refik Sabandzovic was sent off in the first half after collecting two bookings. But even with the numerical advantage Argentina did not attack, and Maradona and Caniggia both had quiet games. If Argentina would not attack then neither could the Yugoslavs respond, mindful of their weakened defence. So a stalemate that led to a penalty shoot-out.

Even now both sides struggled to find the net. Maradona had his penalty saved, while Pedro Troglio sent his wide. Dragan Stojkovic hit the bar, and Goycoechea claimed the glory with two saves in a row from Dragoljub Brnovic and Faruk Hadzibegic, to push Argentina into a place in the final four.

Ireland 0 1 Italy

Ireland had reached the quarter-finals, without even winning a game. They could not resist the Italians though. Again Ireland created few chances, their best a header from Niall Quinn. But Italy were a better side than Romania, but it took another goal from Schilacci, pouncing after Bonner had made a save from Roberto Donadoni. Schiacci had the ball in the net again, but it was declared offside. Italy failed to secure the tie but their slender lead was enough, Ireland had not the attacking options to cause many problems.

Czechoslovakia 0 1 West Germany

West Germany won this one with a penalty won ny Jurgen Klinsmann and converted by Lothar Matthaus. The Germans always looked the dominant team and had more chances. Czech hopes died when the Slovakian Lubomir Moravcik was sent off with 20 minutes to go for a spot of dissent, kicking his boot into the air with displeasure. Now West Germany sat back as they cruised into the semi-finals.

Cameroon 2 3 England

England started off playing a sweeper system again, but the defence never looked settled. Nevertheless a header from David Platt gave them the lead coming into half time. In the second half Roger Milla was brought on and he would case more confusion between the three English centre halves. England had claims for a penalty denied after Platt was brought down in the area, minutes later Cameroon were awarded one after Paul Gascoigne fouled Milla. The defender Emmanuel Kunde equalised. Soon afterwards Cameroon had taken the lead with Milla on target again.

The English coach Bobby Robson finally got the message and changed to a flat back four, bringing on the midfielder Trevor Steven for Terry Butcher. With the defence sorted out, Milla's threat was reduced, and when Gary Lineker was knocked over in the penalty box, England were given the penalty and Lineker himself scored. England had a narrow escape and could look forward to extra time.

It was now England's match to lose, with the England midfield dominant. A throughball from Gascoigne put Lineker one-on-one with the Cameroon keeper Thomas N'Kono, and Lineker was fouled again, and again scored the penalty. Cameroon were out and although could not complain about the validity of the penalties they conceded, England were very fortunate to have progressed again.

Semi Finals

Argentina 1 1 Italy (4:3 penalties)

Italy should have won this game, that they lost was down to strange decisions by the Italian coach, Azeglio Vicini and an error from the 'keeper Walter Zenga. The big shock was the breaking up of the Schillaci-Baggio partnership, with Gianluca Vialli being restored to the team in place of Baggio. Still, Schillaci scored in the 18th minute, again picking up the scraps in the box, this time after Goycoechea had blocked a header from Vialli.

But this Argentina team looked a stronger than the side that faced Yugoslavia, Maradona in particular was much more involved this time, perhaps playing at the homeground of his club Napoli inspired him. Still the game went on, Italy could not increase their lead, and they lost control of the centre of the park, Argentina out-numbering them in midfield due to Italy's extra man in defence. And so in the second half, Julio Olarticoechea escaped down the left wing and put in a cross. Zenga appeared to be able to collect, but he inexplicably missed the ball and Claudio Caniggia headed the equaliser. Only now was Baggio introduced to the game, but the game would go into extra time. Despite his vital contribution Caniggia would now miss the final should Argentina get there, by handling the ball he earned a yellow card and a suspension. Olarticoechea would also miss out due to a second yellow.

In extra time, both teams were to fearful of the consequences of conceding a goal to commit to all-out attacks. Argentina, especially after being reduced to 10 men due to the sending off of Ricardo Giusti, seemed to settle for the vagaries of a shoot-out, which is what they got.

Again Goycoechea was the hero, this time diving to his left to save penalties from Roberto Donadoni and Aldo Serena. Argentina scored with each of their attempts, to reach the final and have a chance of retaining their crown. Italy, as hosts bitterly accepted it would not be their year.

England 1 1 West Germany (3:4 penalties)

So to that great grudge match England against (West) Germany. It was a close, entertaining game, England again used a sweeper, although this time Terry Butcher took up this role. In the first half England had the better of the game without producing many chances let alone goal, while the Germans just looked weary. Luckily the game livened up just after half-time, when an Andy Brehme was set up from a freekick by Thomas Hassler and his shot was deflected by Paul Parker, and the ball looped over the top of veteran 'keeper Peter Shilton and into the goal. This meant England had to respond, and so again the sweeper experiment was dropped for an extra midfielder - Trevor Steven again. However when England did score the goal was due more to clumsy German defending then any creative spark, but plaudits should be given to Gary Lineker for another cool finish when he was granted the freedom of the West Germany penalty area.

So extra time, but unlike the previous semi-final both teams sought a winner. Klaus Augenthaler hit the post for the Germans, Chris Waddle did likewise for England. While this going on the exuberant young midfielder Paul Gascoigne was booked for a clumsy challenge on Thomas Berthold. As Gascoigne realised he would miss the world cup final, should England qualify, he burst into tears. If this action was not derisory enough, we would later be told that it was this moment that was responsible for football being labelled 'fashionable' in the UK throughout the 90s. So neither team scored so penalties would decide the second finalist too.

West Germany scored all their penalties. Stuart Pearce's attempt was saved by Bodo Illgner, and so Chris Waddle and to score to keep English hopes alive but he ballooned the ball over the top of the crossbar.

Third Place Match

England 1 2 Italy

Not much to note, asides Schillaci's sixth goal to secure the golden boot.


Argentina 0 1 West Germany

Argentina: Sergio Goycoechea, Juan Simon, Jose Serrizuela, Oscar Ruggeri (Pedro Monzon), Pedro Troglio, Roberto Sensini, Jorge Burruchaga (Gabriel Calderon), Jose Basualdo, Nestor Lorenzo, Gustavo Dezotti, Diego Maradona

West Germany: Bodo Illgner, Klaus Augenthaler, Thomas Berthold (Stefan Reuter), Jurgen Kohler, Guido Buchwald, Andy Brehme, Thomas Hassler, Lothar Matthaus, Pierre Littbarski, Jurgen Klinsmann, Rudi Voller

The final, a repeat of 1986, was a big disappointment. Argentina were, limited by suspensions, not least the absence of Caniggia and also the lack of fitness of Maradona. West Germany would have the best of the first half, with umpteen half-chances being received by Rudi Voller, he couldn't convert any of them, though to be fair both him and Klinsmann were tightly marked throughout. Argentina created little of interest.

The second half went as the first, becoming an increasing lifeless and dull game. West Germany had a strong claim for a penalty turned down after Augenthaler was tripped, Argentina's negativity only increased after Pedro Monzon made history be being the first man to be sent off in a world cup final. Monzon could not complain, he had committed a terrible foul on Klinsmann. The game dragged on, and it began to look that extra time would require to be endured as well.

Then Rudi Voller went down in the box, under a supposed challenge from Roberto Sensini. A soft penalty, the Argentinians protested vehemently, but Brehme kept his nerve and slotted the kick away, just out of the reach of the diving Goycoechea. A couple of minutes later Gustavo Dezotti grabbed Jurgen Kohler round the throat after he was prevented from reaching a ball speeding out of play, Dezotti went to join Monzon, and Argentina had to play out the final with 9 players.

West Germany had won their third world cup to equal the record held by Brazil and Italy, and although not popular winners, they were infinitely preferable to an Argentina victory in 1990.

Top Scorers

6 - Toto Schilacci (Italy)

5 - Tomas Skuhravy (Czechoslovakia)

4 - Gary Lineker (England), Lothar Matthaus (West Germany), Michel (Spain), Roger Milla (Cameroon)

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