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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: March 3, 3:29 PM UK
World Cup 1990

John Brewin and Martin Williamson

Winners: West Germany
Teams: 24
Teams in qualifiers: 116
Notable absentees: Denmark, France, Portugal
Surprises: Costa Rica, Republic of Ireland, UAE
Golden Boot: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) -- 6
Stats: A total of 115 goals were scored (2.21 per match), which was the lowest goals-per-match ratio in World Cup history; West Germany (15) scored the most
Format: Six groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to a knockout round of 16, plus four best third-place finishers
Number of matches: 52

Innovations
• Lots were used to separate teams with identical records in the group stage

Controversies
• The referee added an unwarranted eight minutes of first-half injury time to the semifinal between Italy and Argentina because he forgot to check his watch
• Argentina's Pedro Monzon became the first player to be sent off in a World Cup final -- followed 22 minutes later by teammate Gustavo Dezotti

Trivia
• Nigeria's 23-year-old Samuel Okwaraji died of heart failure during the qualifier between Angola and Nigeria
• Mexico were banned from participating in the tournament after being found guilty of deliberately fielding overage players in an under-20 event
• Cameroon became the first African team to reach the last eight
• Republic of Ireland reached the last eight without winning a match (other than on penalties), scoring just two goals in the process
• Argentina were the first team in a World Cup final not to score
• West Germany's Franz Beckenbauer became the first man to win the World Cup as a captain (1974) and coach
• Roger Milla's goals for Cameroon against Colombia in the second round made him the oldest player ever to score in the World Cup finals, at 38 years and 20 days. He beat his own record four years later
• World Cup Italia 90 was the first officially licensed tournament PC game


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 most definitely added weight to the notion.

West Germany, soon to become plain old Germany after reunification, hit the ground running in the group stages with a 4-1 thrashing of Yugoslavia and a 5-1 thumping of the United Arab Emirates. Lothar Matthaeus had been released from his marking role of 1986 and was leading the attacking charge. He grabbed three goals in those first two games, setting out his stall for a tournament of immense personal achievement.

Holders Argentina were not the side of 1986, with Diego Maradona carrying a knee injury and his colleagues, with the exception of Claudio Caniggia, not up to the standards of the previous tournament. In an amazing opening game, African football arrived on the world stage when Cameroon defeated the holders with a goal from Francois Omam-Biyik. Despite having two men sent off for some disgraceful tackling, Cameroon held on.

Argentina eventually qualified in third place from their group behind Cameroon and Romania, a skin-of-the-teeth approach that would continue through the tournament.

The other surprise packages were Costa Rica, who had come second in their group behind Brazil after wins over Scotland and Sweden.

Of the other favourites, hosts Italy looked strong. However, converting the vast number of chances they created was a problem. Enter Salvatore Toto Schillaci, a late addition to the squad who burst onto the scene with a winner against Austria and another against the Czechs. The other goal against Czechoslovakia was a tremendous solo run by Roberto Baggio, the new prince of Italian football.

European champions Netherlands, meanwhile, had succumbed to their old folly of in-fighting and only just squeezed into the second round behind England and Republic of Ireland. In the knockout stages, the Germans took their revenge on the Dutch for defeat in the Euro 88 semifinals with a 2-1 win. The game became infamous for a disgraceful spitting incident between Frank Rijkaard and Rudi Voeller.

Brazil, too, perished in the second round. Against Argentina, they dominated possession, hitting the woodwork on a number of occasions, before Maradona awoke from his torpor. A weaving run was followed by a perfect through-ball to Caniggia, who did the rest to kill off the Brazilians.

Cameroon continued their amazing run with a 2-1 defeat of Colombia, thanks in no small part to the comedic keeping of Rene Higuita, whose suicidal attempt to dribble round Roger Milla resulted in the veteran striker's second goal.

Similar romance was provided by the Republic of Ireland, playing in their first finals, and knocking out Romania in a thrilling penalty shootout in Genoa. Never pretty to watch, Jack Charlton's side won friends with their unstinting work ethic. After a trip to meet the Pope in Rome, their tournament was ended by the hosts and a goal by Schillaci. West Germany progressed after beating Czechoslovakia through a Matthaeus penalty.

England spoilt the Cameroon party with an extra-time win despite twice being behind. Argentina's ugly roadshow continued with a penalty shootout win over Yugoslavia, for whom Dragan Stojkovic and Robert Prosinecki had dazzled all tournament. Despite missing a penalty himself, Maradona would face the hosts in his adopted hometown of Naples.

It went down to the dreaded spot-kicks again. Schillaci had put the Italians ahead but Caniggia equalised. A rough-house approach from Argentina prevented the Italians' passing moves and, though Ricardo Giusti was dismissed early in extra-time, it was back to the lottery of penalties -- a lottery the Argentinians were now used to. Maradona converted after Milan's Roberto Donadoni had missed and then Aldo Serena missed, too. Tears were shed as the Azzurri went out.

The other semifinal in Turin is a game of English legend where, in keeping with much of football history, it went to penalties and the Germans won. Brave England, who had improved steadily all through the tournament, finished fourth after losing to Italy in the third-place playoff.

The final, perhaps uniquely, saw West Germany as the peoples' favourites to win. Argentina had alienated most neutrals with their foul play, theatrical diving and constant hounding of the referee. Maradona was a leading culprit and the footballing demi-god of 1986 had been replaced by a moaning, complaining prima donna.

In the worst final yet, the Germans triumphed when, in an apt fashion, Andreas Brehme converted an 85th-minute penalty after a foul on Rudi Voeller. Argentina had been looking to play for penalties once again having had Pedro Monzon sent off for a foul on Klinsmann, earning infamy as the first ever player to be dismissed in a final.

The game collapsed into farce as the Argentinian players surrounded the referee. Gustavo Dezotti followed Monzon down the tunnel in the dying seconds and the Germans had their revenge for Mexico. Maradona's tears of joy from four years earlier were replaced by tears of self-pity.

The crowning achievements, though, had been those of Matthaeus, who lifted the trophy, and coach Franz Beckenbauer, who became the first player to both captain and coach a World Cup-winning side.


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