World Cup 1990: Match Highlights And Fond Memories Of Italia 90 [VIDEO]

In the late 1980s, the chances of seeing live televised soccer were few and far between, even as I grew up in the UK. You’d get the odd cup match on the BBC and a few league games on a Sunday afternoon on ITV’s The Match with Elton Welsby, but that was about it. However when the World Cup rolled around in 1990, it was glorious — not least because it meant hours of live soccer on TV at noon and night, featuring players I had only seen in magazines.

The opening game on a Friday afternoon between Argentina and Cameroon produced a huge shock. The holders from South America lost 1-0 to an Omam-Biyick header, this despite the Africans having two players sent off. The tournament was under way with a bang.

Other highlights of the group stage were Scotland’s shocking loss to Costa Rica, the 5-1 thrashing of the United States by Czechoslovakia (although the US later performed admirably in a narrow loss to the hosts Italy), West Germany’s ten goals from the likes of Klinsmann and Matthaus, and of course the shockingly tight Group F featuring England, Ireland, Holland and Egypt. Of six group matches, five were draws – including England versus Ireland on a rainy night in Cagliari. In truth a drab game, it remains memorable for the Irish as this was their first ever World Cup game – and winger Kevin Sheedy’s equalizer would ensure he would never have to buy himself a pint on Irish soil ever again.

The second round of games kicked off with surprise package Cameroon knocking out Colombia, a game never to be forgotten for goalie Rene Higuita’s antics that led to a goal by veteran striker Roger Milla and the subsequent corner-flag shimmy. Milla scored four goals in Italy, making his mark on the world stage at the age of 38.

A non-vintage version of Brazil were knocked out by Maradona’s Argentina who had recovered to qualify, while West Germany’s win over Holland sticks in my mind for Dutchman’s Frank Rijkaard spitting into Rudi Voller’s mullet. Hosts Italy beat Uruguay 2-1 including a goal from Toto Schillaci, a previously unheralded striker who would go on to win the tournament’s Golden Boot. More dazzling though was the form of Roberto Baggio. Nicknamed the ‘Devine Ponytail,’ he tortured defenses with incredible close control and zig-zag dribbling.

Czechoslovakia’s superior technical ability was on show in a 4-1 win against Costa Rica, while Spain fell to Yugoslavia. Dragan Stojkovic the star of that game.

Meanwhile both England and Ireland progressed, ramping up home interest to fever pitch. David O’Leary’s penalty shoot-out winner was enough to see Jack Charlton’s team through, while Bobby Robson’s England had David Platt to thank for a late extra time winner against Belgium. Emerging for England was Tottenham’s Paul Gascoigne, a mercurial talent whose promise was never quite fulfilled.

England went on to beat a spirited Cameroon in the quarter finals, needing two Gary Lineker penalties to progress after extra time.

It was the end of the road for Ireland’s adventure at the hands of Italy, while Argentina and West Germany battled through games against Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia respectively. Argentina squeaked through a penalty shoot-out despite missing twice. Maradona himself was off-target.

It was at the quarter final stage when, as a young fan, I realized now the games were running out and the fun would soon be over. Still, the feeling was tempered by the knowledge that at the business end of such tournaments, heavyweight encounters lie ahead.

In 1990, the semi-final line-up was Italy versus Argentina and West Germany against England. At the time it was hard to imagine two greater games. If fairytales do come true though, they didn’t seem to here. In Naples, the dreams of the home nation Italy were crushed by Argentina in a shoot-out win, Maradona converting this time around. England’s hopes of a first final since 1966 were not to be fulfilled. England lost to West Germany on penalties, Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missing from 12 yards to go down in infamy.

In 1986 West Germany played Argentina in the World Cup Final in Mexico. Four years later, the same two teams contested the final in Rome. The match is not one remembered fondly, except of course by Germans, as an Andreas Brehme penalty was enough to take the trophy in a 1-0 win.

That bad tempered game closed a tournament generally now accepted to be one of the poorest in history. Indeed I remember the words of my dad who claimed he had “seen better matches on park pitches.” None of that takes away from the magic of Italia ’90 for me. As a 12-year soccer fan witnessing wall-to-wall TV coverage, it’s impossible to say how much I enjoyed even the most mediocre of games.

As this year’s World Cup in Brazil gets ever closer, I’m reminded of those games in Italy. And although I’m not 12 anymore, I get excited all over again.

17 thoughts on “World Cup 1990: Match Highlights And Fond Memories Of Italia 90 [VIDEO]”

  1. My first exposure to the World Cup was 1982. PBS had a show every weekday during the tournament that showed a match condensed to 60 minutes. Sometimes it was from the same day and sometimes it was from the previous day.

    The first live match I saw was on ESPN as they showed both the West Germany v France and Italy v Poland semis. ABC Wide World of Sports showed the final (though I can’t remember if it was live).

  2. World Cup in the 1980’s was on the Mexican channel. The final was on ABC. Soccer has come a long way in the States from reading the scores in the Sunday paper.

  3. The 1990 WC was actually shown live on TNT of all networks. They took commercial breaks before every goal-kick and ended up missing Italy’s goal against Ireland in the quarterfinals.

      1. “It’s the World Cup live on TNT!” –Ernie Johnson.

        “One citizen with lots of Citizens. Fat citizen. Thin citizen. Now that’s some citizen!” –Citizens watch commercial.

        “The bill’s twice as big as usual.” “Because honey, you ate twice as much!” “Tums, tu-tum-tums.” –Tums commercial.

        “Italians lust after anything american.” –Old Spice commercial.

        “They’re dancing in the streets of west central Africa!” –Announcer after Cameroon went up 2-1 vs England.

        First World Cup for me, too (I kind of watched the ’86 final). I was 15. My dad pulled me out of the last day of school in Camp Lejeune, NC to watch the June 5 opener. (I was born in Argentina, to US military and American mother.)

        For the Argentina/Italy semi, we were in an on-base hotel (“hostess house”) as my dad was retiring and we were moving out. With Italy up 1-0, my family went to our friends’ house to watch the rest of the game. I couldn’t stand the prospect of being around others with Argentina losing, so I stayed at the hotel alone. Happiest soccer day of my life watching Argentina win it!

        We were in podunk Indiana for the final, at my dad’s cousin’s house. I had to watch the game on Univision (my first exposure to home satellite TV). Worst soccer day of my life. I still think that penalty was a load of bull.

    1. Agreed. Except for the final game for me. Probably mostly for sentimental reasons, but no other WC has had that magic. I guess when you grown up, that stuff mostly dies.

      I’l tell you though, the USA goal versus Algeria in South Africa–I still get chills (and even a tear or two sometimes) when I watch that one. You watch the 5 minutes leading up to the goal, then the goal–what a rush. I guess there are glimmers of that magic still.

  4. In hindsight, other than England’s surprise performance and the emergence of Cameroon, a very disappointing World Cup. Too many dull defensive games.

    That said, it was great to be English for those few weeks. We struggled through the group. It only came alive with Platts last minute goal against Belgium. The nail biter against Cameroon followed by the heroic defeat to Germany,.

    I was a student back then, just sat my finals. Always remember Des Lynam introduce the Germany game with the words, “good evening. There are just three teams left in this years World Cup finals. Argentina, Germany,…….and England”. Straight into Nessun Dorma.

    Nobody on the streets. Everyone in front of a TV. Great times.

    1. Agreed. Very defensive. A lot of teams were really disappointing: Holland, Soviet Union, Sweden and Scotland, Belgium, Spain and Brazil.

  5. One of the worst World Cup I’ve seen in my lifetime. To top it off, the refs handed the match to England after Cameroon played them off the park.

    1. Cameroon played well, no doubt, but they were both clear penalties that saw England through. For Lineker to put them away under intense pressure just shows what a great player he was.

  6. Well said Smokey. The final was a shambles that matched the overall defensive mood of the tournament.

    England, Columbia, and Cameroon were entertaining, so were Klinsman, Caniggia, Baggio, Schillici and Roger Milla. Maradona did have a moment of brilliance against Brazil, with that pass to Caniggia.

    TNT’s coverage was spotty, between the commercials and explaining what a corner kick is. I ended up watching it mostly on Univision. My brother and I taped most of it.

    Fox, before they were right wing loons, had a Saturday night reporting show – a poor man’s 60 mins. They did a segment on the spectre of British hooliganism invading Italia ’90 and God forbid USA ’94, thank god for Ron Atkinson I guess.

    1. Things gave obviously come a long way over in terms coverage since 1990. ESPN last time out reached a level that I had only ever seen on the BBC. I can’t wait for June, it’s going to be awesome as they say over here.

    2. But TNT covered it at least. Well, not all the games. Not even all the 2nd round games if I remember correctly.

      The other part of the final that was shambles was the PK call. I still get mad thinking about it (not that I’m biased or anything).

      And Maradona, BTW, also put in the free kick that Caniggia headed in versus Italy.

      Also, everyone criticized Argentina for their ugly defensive tactics. But, come on, they had the best player in the world out there getting slaughtered by the other team. Their offensive brilliance was hacked and fouled out of the games, so what were they supposed to do?

  7. For me it will always be my favorite WC, followed by 1982 and 1986. The WC hadn’t had the same magic since. Yes the scoring average at Italia 90 was the lowest ever, but there was a great atmosphere and a ton of drama. You can’t say it’s the worst WC now, not after the jokes that were 02, 06 and 10. Those suggest the WC has run its course as a really viable product. Italia 90 was the last of the old style cups where empty stands were commonplace and teams really were products of their nations, when foreigners still weren’t as common in any given league. There’s just something about Italia 90 that always makes it the best for me. In New Zealand in 1990 you could only see it on SKY Tv in Auckland, meaning only one city had access to live coverage. Therefore I missed most of it. Pretty pathetic.

  8. Personally I have a lot of very fond memories of the 1990 World Cup, but most of them were off-the-pitch memories. I was in the UK at the time to soak up England’s incredible run, the beautiful hot weather that summer and New Order being all of the radio and television.

    There were memorable games, but if you weren’t an England supporter, I can imagine it would have been a tougher tournament to love. But I certainly enjoyed it.

  9. It was indeed, if you were an England supporter, the very essence of English Football was on trail because of Heysel and the rise of the more technical Serie A.

    It’s amazing the scrutiny Peter Shilton got for being 40 back then. Few would blink an eye at a top notch keeper playing at that age these days. Sports fitness has come a long way.

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