Expert Football > World Football > World Cup > USA 1994XV World Cup Championship
In an attempt to stimulate interest in "soccer" FIFA chose the United States as a stage for the largest sporting event in the world. The 1994 World Cup was held outside of Europe or South America for the very first time in its history. Hosting the World Cup was seen as a good marketing move for the future birth of Major League Soccer. The results were below expectation. Surveys taken just weeks before the tournament showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans had no clue that the USA was hosting the cup and most did not even plan to watch it.
Top Manager: Carlos Alberto Parreira
Romania finished on top of this group led by their gifted playmaker George Hagi. Similarly, USA advanced under the wing of Serbian strategist Bora Milutinovic. Four years earlier, Bora had taken Costa Rica to their very first World Cup appearance. The United States earned a spot for the next round by defeating Colombia, who committed a silly own goal which gave the Americans a 2-1 victory. Andres Escobar, the Columbian who committed the own goal was shot in the street, soon after returning to his homeland. Supposedly, Escobar was approached in front of a nightclub by an unsatisfied football better. After a short exchange of words, the gunman fired repeatedly, killing him on the spot.
Brazil and Sweden shared the top two spots of Group B. The Brazilians came out with a surprisingly new style based on efficiency. Although a lot of showmanship was contained, their phenomenal striker Romario got a lot of attention for his supreme skill and elegant technique. Cameroon, the sensation at World Cup 1990, could not produce again and finished with a disastrous 6-1 loss against Russia.
The defending World Champion, Germany got through this group in their typical manner of cautious consistency. Spain followed them with 5 points. Both teams did barely as much as it was needed to advance.
Former finalist Argentina were looking to extend their success from the previous two World Cups. Alas, their star Diego Maradona got suspended right after Argentina's victory over Nigeria as he failed a doping test. Bulgaria capitalized on this and managed to advance regardless of losing to Nigeria in their first match. The sensational comeback of the Bulgarian squad, especially the work rate of Stoichkov and Balakov, was more than Greece and Argentina could handle. At that time the South Americans were also trying to recover from Maradona's suspension.
Group E, was the most even in term of points in the championship. This is not surprising, considering that it was originally designated as the "Group of Death." Mexico got the top spot due to their goal differential of 3 scored goals. Ireland and Italy also pulled through.
Saudi Arabia was the most tenacious team in this group. Not only did they score their first goal in World Cup history, they also finished second. Holland and Belgium did what was expected from them and advanced as well. From the Dutch, Bergkamp and Overmars produced a few moments of excitement although their team primarily concerned with safe efficiency.
The second round of the cup, brought few shocks. Most notable was Argentina's elimination by the tough squad of Romania. As mentioned before, Maradona's suspension had an enormous effect on the Argentine squad while the Romanians played on top of their game. Brazil defeated the US with a narrow 1-0 victory. The close result was mainly due to a superb performance by the American goalkeeping. Sweden put an end to Saudi Arabia's 15 minutes of fame. Similarly, Spain blew away Switzerland with a classic 3-0 victory. Germany continued their march over Belgium (3-2) who complained of being ripped off with an overlooked penalty. Jurgen Klinsmann solidified himself as a centre figure in the German team, scoring his fifth goal of the tournament. With little flair, Holland defeated the Irish 2-0. Bulgaria also managed to sneak to the next round with a victory over talented Mexico. The game finished in a 1-1 draw with an explosive goal from Hristo Stoichkov. The Bulgarians prevailed in the penalty shootout.
Conversely to the previous round, the quarterfinals produced far more exciting football. Former champion Germany were sent home by newcomer Bulgaria who up to this tournament had never won a World Cup match. In a tremendous battle, the Bulgarians enforced their creative play and brought Jurgen Klinsmann and his teammates to tears. In another dramatic clash, Brazil defeated Holland 3-2. Resolution came late in the even game from a free kick which the Brazilian converted for the final 3-2. Spain were beaten by Italy thanks to Roberto Baggio's decisive goalscoring. Suspicious refereeing might have also favored Italy in the match. Romania and Sweden produced another thriller, which was eventually decided by a penalty shootout. Unfortunately for Romania, Ravelli, the Swedish keeper had a good field day.
When Italy and Bulgaria met, it was a clash of two very different teams. Hristo Stoichkov of Bulgaria was leading a relatively green squad whereas Roberto Baggio was backed by number of street smart veterans. With Baresi and Maldini at the back, the Italians easily enforced their tempo. With two early goals by Baggio, Italy were ready to put the game away. Bulgaria appealed for injust refereeing, but the final result remains: 2-1. Brazil also put away their opponent through caution. Dangerous Sweden had not reached the semifinal by chance. Romario showed his stuff by producing the lone goal in the match. It was all that Brazil needed.
The concept of a 3-rd place match is somewhat peculiar, for it does not exist in other soccer tournaments. To further complicate matters, both semi-finalists are awarded with Bronze medals. Sweden, deservedly won 3-rd place, mainly because Bulgaria came out prepared for a friendly encounter.
The 1994 World Cup final was probably the least interesting game of the entire tournament. Both sides were very cautious throughout their previous matches and they knew that was the reason why they got so far. Naturally, they applied the same principles at the final. On one side were Mario Zagalo and Parreira who insisted that their team plays defensively, and on the other were Italy, a team that were traditionally known for closing down their opposition. The result of that mix provided little excitement for the fans and the game eventually came down to a penalty shootout. Ironically, Baggio, the man who dragged Italy to the final missed the final penalty costing his nation a World Cup title. He will forever be remembered in the eyes of fans as "the guy who missed a penalty" rather than for his talents and superb skill.