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1990 World Cup: Few Goals But Plenty Of Drama And Emotion

When the 1990 World Cup was again hosted in Italy, 56 years after the Azzurra’s first title, a lot had changed in the country and the world too.

If in 1934, winning the title under the watchful eyes of Dictator Benito Mussolini was practically a matter of life and death, the Italians were favorites in the 14th edition of the tournament.

Italia 1990 wordl cup logo on side of road


World Cup 1990 Facts

Dates: 8 June – 8 July 1990
1990 FIFA World Cup Final: West Germany – Argentina 1-0
3rd place: Italy – England 2-1
Teams: 24
Stadiums: 12
Host cities: 12
Matches played: 52
Goals: 115
Attendance: 2,393,031
Top scorer: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) 6 goals


World Cup 1990 Background

Many European countries were interested in hosting the 14th World Cup.

Austria, England, France, Greece, West Germany, Soviet Union, Italy, and Yugoslavia were all interested. However, most of them withdrew their bid before the vote started.

Only Italy and the Soviet Union remained. On the day of the vote on May 19, 1984, in Zurich, it was announced by the FIFA Executive Committee that Italy gained the most votes, a total of 11. The Soviet Union received 5 votes.

This meant Italy would host the 1990 World Cup. Italy would become the 2nd country to host a World Cup for the 2nd time after Mexico. The first time Italy hosted a World Cup was back in 1934, which was won by Italy.

italy at italia 90

1990 World Cup Participants

For the first time in World Cup history, fewer countries tried to qualify for the World Cup. A total of 116 countries entered the qualification matches. For the 1986 World Cup, there were 121 countries entered the qualification rounds.

Of the 24 teams participating in Italy 1990, Italy (host country) and Argentina (1986 World Cup winner) automatically qualified.

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13 places for Europe were allocated to the following countries: Czechoslovakia, Austria, Romania, Soviet Union, Scotland, Sweden, West Germany, Yugoslavia, Spain, Belgium, England, Republic of Ireland, and the Netherlands.

The Republic of Ireland qualified for the first time. Romania qualified for the first time since 1970. 2 places for South America were allocated to the following countries: Brazil and Uruguay.

1990 World Cup Draw

When the Final Draw for Italia ’90 was held in Rome at the Palazzo dello Sport, Italy mobilized an array of stars to support FIFA Secretary Joseph Blatter: opera tenor Luciano Pavarotti, movie legend Sophia Loren, Pelé, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, and Bobby Moore, among others.

With opera interspersed with rock (Gianna Nannini singing Un’estate italiana, the official World Cup song) and modern dance, this was the most ambitious draw show to date. Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Germany FR, Belgium, and England were seeded in the same manner as in Mexico: six groups of four.

goalkeeper hit by flare

Chile Disqualified

Chile was disqualified from the 1990 World Cup qualifications. The reason is pretty remarkable. During a qualification match against Brazil, Chilean keeper Roberto Rojas appeared to be injured due to fireworks.

A Brazilian fan named Rosemary de Mello was the one who threw the fireworks. The keeper and players refused to continue the match, claiming it was not safe.

After studying the match’s video footage, the fireworks did not touch the keeper at all. It appeared the keeper Roberto Rojas injured himself with a razor in order to stop the match.

Chile lost the qualification match against Brazil, which meant they would miss out on the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

FIFA awarded Brazil a 2–0 win and eliminated Chile from the 1990 World Cup qualifications. Keeper Roberto Rojas was initially banned for life, but this was lifted in 2001.

Republic of Ireland 1990

Mexico Disqualified

Mexico was also disqualified from the 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifications. The reason was the illegal use of at least 4 over-aged players in a FIFA international youth tournament.

2 places for North/Central America and the Caribbean were allocated to the following countries: the United States and Costa Rica, which qualified for the first time. The United States qualified for the first time since 1950.

2 places for Africa were allocated to the following countries: Egypt and Cameroon. Egypt qualified for the first time since 1934.

2 places for Asia were allocated to the following countries: South Korea and the United Arab Emirates, which qualified for the first time.

1 intercontinental play-off had to be played by 2 countries that didn’t qualify directly:

  • CONMEBOL country Colombia against OFC country Israel. Colombia won the play-off and qualified last minute for the 1990 World Cup. It was the first time since 1962 that Colombia qualified again for a World Cup.

World Cup 1990 Group Draw

World Cup 1990 Groups

The format of the 1990 FIFA World Cup was exactly the same as the format previously used in the 1986 World Cup. There are 6 groups, A till F, with each group containing 4 teams. The last 2 group matches would be played simultaneously. This is the last World Cup where only 2 points were awarded to a win.

The first 2 teams of each group would advance to the Round of 16. From that moment on, each match would be a knockout match; who lost a match were immediately eliminated. Like Mexico ‘86, the 4 best third-place teams would also advance to the Round of 16.

In the Round of 16 the number 1 teams of the groups would play against the number 2 or 3 teams of other groups. A few number 2 teams would play against another number 2 teams but not against number 3 teams.

The 6 seed countries were England, Argentina, Brazil, West Germany, Belgium, and Italy. They were kept apart from each other and were placed in different groups.

The groups were as follows:

Group AGroup BGroup CGroup DGroup EGroup F
CzechoslovakiaCameroonBrazil West GermanySpain England
ItalyRomaniaCosta RicaYugoslaviaBelgiumRepublic of Ireland
United StatesSoviet UnionSwedenUnited Arab EmiratesSouth KoreaEgypt

Italy And 1990 World Cup

They staged the 1990 World Cup in 12 host cities, renovated ten stadiums, built two considerable arenas in Turin and Bari, and prepared to become the first country to win the World Cup tournament with the home fans behind them four times.

But the mission would prove rather complicated. All previous World Cup finals winners had qualified for the tournament: Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, West Germany, England, and Italy.

Uruguay was but a pale shade of the Olympic Celeste. Great doubts hovered over Brazil: how would Sebastião Lazaroni’s team fare in their first World Cup without the brilliant generation of Zico, Falcão, and Sócrates?


1990 world cup logo

Argentina still had the brilliant Maradona. In addition to Gary Lineker, the top scorer in 1986, England also had Paul Gascoigne, who was on top form.

Germany boasted Franz Beckebauer as their manager and had Lothar Matthäys, Jürgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme amongst their ranks.

However, despite the great line-ups, the 1990 World Cup had the lowest goal average in history: only 2.21 per game.

biggest upsets in world cup history cameroon beating argentina

World Cup 1990 Stadiums

12 stadiums were used in 12 host cities. 2 stadiums were built especially for the 1990 World Cup: Stadio San Nicola in Bari and Stadio delle Alpi in Turin. The other stadiums have been renovated in order to meet FIFA’s requirements.

Of the 8 stadiums used back in the 1934 World Cup hosted in Italy, only 4 were used again in the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The stadiums in Milan, Genoa, Florence, and Bologna hosted matches of both World Cups. The 1934 Final and 1990 Final were both held in different stadiums in Rome.

The 1934 Final was held in the already replaced Stadio Nazionale PNF and the 1990 Final was held in Stadio Olimpico.

The following 12 cities and 12 stadiums were used in Italy:

Stadio Olimpico

Location: Rome
Opened: 1937
Capacity: 72,698
Matches: 6
Status: It is the 2nd biggest stadium in Italy, is rebuilt for the World Cup, and the inside was restyled in 2008

San Siro In Italy

Stadio San Siro

Location: Milan
Opened: 1926
Capacity: 85,700
Matches: 6
Status: It is named Stadio Giuseppe Meazza and is the biggest stadium in Italy.

Stadio San Paolo

Location: Naples
Opened: 1959
Capacity: 74,000
Matches: 5
Status: It is a multi-purpose stadium, and there were plans to name it after Diego Maradona stadium, which was not allowed

Salvatore Schillaci

Stadio delle Alpi

Location: Turin
Opened: 1990
Capacity: 68,000
Matches: 5
Status: Is demolished in 2009 and replaced with the Juventus Stadium.

Stadio San Nicola

Location: Bari
Opened: 1990
Capacity: 56,000
Matches: 5
Status: It is a multi-use all-seater stadium which is sometimes called a spaceship

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Stadio Artemio Franchi

Location: Florence
Opened: 1931
Capacity: 41,000
Matches: 4
Status: It sas also called Stadio Comunale and underwent renovations for the World Cup

Stadio Renato Dall’Ara

Location: Bologna
Opened: 1927
Capacity: 39,000
Matches: 4
Status: It was named Stadio Littoriale and is a multi-purpose stadium

Stadio Friuli

Location: Udine
Opened: 1976
Capacity: 38,000
Matches: 3
Status: It is a multi-purpose stadium and is currently being renovated till 2014

Stadio La Favorita

Stadio La Favorita

Location: Palermo
Opened: 1932
Capacity: 36,000
Matches: 3
Status: It is named Stadio Renzo Barbera and was redeveloped in 1943, 1984, and 1989 for the World Cup

Stadio Luigi Ferraris

Location: Genoa
Opened: 1911
Capacity: 36,000
Matches: 4
Status: It is known as the Marassi and is 1 of the oldest stadiums still in use for football

Stadio Sant_Elia

Stadio Sant’Elia

Location: Cagliari
Opened: 1970
Capacity: 40,000
Matches: 3
Status: Underwent major changes and restructuring for the World Cup and is currently closed down for reconstruction.

Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi

Location: Verona
Opened: 1963
Capacity: 42,000
Matches: 4
Status: It was inaugurated as a state-of-the-art venue and was renovated extensively in 1989

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Defensive Soccer Tournament

The tournament ended up validating a defensive style of playing, with a lot of marking and little boldness on behalf of the teams. However, the team that stood out the most in relation to this rule was Cameroon, the tournament’s surprise.

Led by the charismatic Roger Milla, the contagious Cameroonians started to make history with a 1-0 victory over Argentina in their first match.

Then, they beat Romania and qualified first in their group, beating Colombia in the round of 16. The first ever African team to reach the quarter-finals, Cameroon had to say farewell to the dream when England beat them in extra time.

gary lineker world cup 1990

1990 World Cup Tears

The English made it to the 1990 FIFA World Cup semi-final for the first time since 1966 and have never managed to get as far since. Indeed, in 1990 their chance of winning their second title was real.

The English team had outstanding players like Gary Lineker, David Platt, Ian Wright, and veteran goalkeeper Peter Shilton. In addition to Paul Gascoigne, of course.

paul gascoigne tears

The forward, a controversial and irascible figure, turned into an icon of the English disappointment. In the semi-final against Germany, Gascoigne picked up a yellow card, which suspended him for the 1986 World Cup final if England got through.

Aware of this, Gascoigne burst into tears on the pitch. One of the images that have stuck in people’s minds the most was when Lineker told the English bench that his teammate was obviously shaken. But, coincidence or not, England ended up eliminated on penalties.

The other 1990 World Cup semi-final was by no means dull. Hosts Italy would face Argentina in Naples, a city that idolized Diego Maradona.

diego maradona pleading not to get a red card

Dieguito had taken Napoli to levels never dreamt before by their fanatic fans. Always a controversial figure, the Argentine number 10 called upon people from Naples to support Argentina, alleging that the North of Italy had historically disdained the South.

Maradona’s appeal did manage to divide the Italians, who saw Argentina win on penalties and get through to the final.

The final in Rome was a rematch of the previous four years earlier. The winner would match Brazil and Italy in the number of world titles.

german players celebrating winning the world cup 1990

1990 World Cup Final

Again they encountered each other in a World Cup Final: Argentina and West Germany. West Germany entered the Final for the 6th time and Argentina for the 4th time.

Argentina had Maradona, who had practically won the World Cup in 1986 single-handedly and were the reigning World Cup champions. But Germany wanted revenge. And it came from Andreas Brehme’s feet.

Aside from the 1986 World Cup Final, both teams played against each other in the 1958 and 1966 World Cups. West Germany won the 1958 match, but the 1966 match ended in a draw.

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For the first time in history, the finalists of a previous World Cup made it again to the Final of the next World Cup. The 1990 Final would, unfortunately, not be as epic as the 1986 Final. Due to safe and defensive play, only 1 goal was scored in this Final.

Argentina was pretty lucky to reach the Final. Goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea contributed highly to this. With only 1 match won and a surprising loss against Cameroon, they reached the knockout stage. Before reaching the Final, they had to win 2 penalty shootouts against Yugoslavia and Italy.

Argentina, however, entered the Final with several players injured and booked. West Germany won all matches except for the match against Colombia in the first round, which ended in a draw. In the Semi-Final, West Germany had to win a penalty shootout against England.

maradona taking on west germany in 1990 world cup final

Sluggish Game

On the 8th of July, in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, the Final was played with an attendance of 69,029. The Final was not considered a spectacular one.

Argentina focused more on defense rather than attack. A memorable moment happened in the 65th minute. In this minute, the first player in World Cup history was sent off in a Final. Argentinian Pedro Monzón had the unfortunate honor of setting this record.

He was sent off due to a foul on German player Jürgen Klinsmann. Jürgen later admitted he dived purposely in order for Pedro Monzón to be sent off.

Only in the 2nd half, the only goal of the World Cup final was scored, which was a penalty. The referee awarded West Germany a penalty due to a foul by Roberto Sensini on Rudi Völler. It was German player Andreas Brehme who successfully shot the penalty (85′).

Matthaeus At Italia 1990

1990 World Cup Winner

Later in the 2nd half, Argentina had to play with only 9 players. Player Gustavo Dezotti became the 2nd player to receive a red card (2 yellow cards) in a World Cup Final.

West Germany finally won its 3rd World Cup trophy and became equal to Brazil and Italy. Captain Lothar Matthäus lifted the trophy and went into the history books as the leader and playmaker of the 1990 FIFA World Cupfinals.

This is because West Germany played more Finals than both countries. As a player and manager, Franz Beckenbauer equaled Mario Zagallo’s record as the only man to have won a World Cup. He is the first person, though, to have won a World Cup as a captain and as a trainer.

three time world cup winners

World Cup 1990 Memorable Matches

Italy – Czechoslovakia 2-0

Stadio Olimpico, Rome – Attendance: 73,303

Italy was the only Group A country to have won every match during the group stage.

Their last opponent was Czechoslovakia which played their last World Cup. Salvatore Schillaci showed an excellent performance despite the fact that before the World Cup, he played only 1 international match. Schillaci scored the first goal of the match after 9 minutes of play, and Roberto Baggio the 2nd goal after an excellent solo in the 2nd half.

Czechoslovakia lost but advanced together with Italy in Group A. The USA, which didn’t play a World Cup for 40 years, lost every group match.

Argentina – Cameroon 0-1

Argentina – Cameroon 0-1

San Siro, Milan – Attendance: 73,780

The was the 1990 World Cup opening match. Argentina looked pretty relaxed before kick-off since it was expected Cameroon to lose this match. After all, Argentina won the previous World Cup. But the match ended with a surprising result: Cameroon won despite playing with 10 players for the last 30 minutes of the match.

Striker François Omam-Biyik was the hero of Cameroon. A funny fact is that Francois, his brother André Kana-Biyik was the player who received the red card. Another player from Cameroon, Benjamin Massing, received his 2nd yellow card in the last minutes of the Group B match after a brutal tackle on Claudio Caniggia.

But with 9 men against 11, Argentina still couldn’t score. Argentina still managed to advance with Romania. The goal difference for both countries was the same, so Romania took 2nd place in Group B since they scored more goals than Argentina. Cameroon topped the group and advanced, although they lost with 0-4 to the Soviet Union.

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Brazil – Costa Rica 1-0

Stadio Delle Alpi, Turin – Attendance: 58,007

Costa Rica played their first World Cup in 1990. Their 2nd match was against Brazil. It took 82 minutes before the first, and the last goal was scored by Brazil. Müller was the goalscorer.

He also scored the winning goal in the last group match against Scotland. Brazil won every match in the group stage and would meet their rival Argentina in the Round of 16. Although Costa Rica lost, they did beat Sweden and Scotland. They advanced from the Group C group stage to the next round.

Rene Higuita colombia goalkeeper catching the ball in front of jurgen klinsman

West Germany – Colombia 1-1

San Siro, Milan – Attendance: 72,510

This was the last World Cup where West Germany played as West Germany. They would play as a unified Germany again from the next World Cup. The most group goals were scored in Group D.

The United Arab Emirates, which was playing their only World Cup, lost every match. They did manage to score 1 goal in the match against Yugoslavia. West Germany and Colombia ended up advancing to the 2nd round from Group D. Colombia lost the match against Yugoslavia but managed to draw against West Germany.

German midfielder Pierre Littbarski scored a late goal in the 89th minute. But Colombia miraculously scored 4 minutes later in injury time! Colombia ended in 3rd place and advanced. Freddy Rincón was the goalscorer. Colombia did end up with fewer points than Yugoslavia, who advanced as well.

South Korea – Spain 1-3

Stadio Friuli, Udine – Attendance: 32,733

South Korea lost every group match in the 1990 World Cup. Their biggest defeat was against Spain. They did score 1 goal in the group stage, which was in this match.

The first goal of the match was a goal by Spanish midfielder Míchel. South Korean Hwangbo Kwan equalized with a powerful free kick. Míchel didn’t meet his objective yet, so 2 more goals were scored by him. A hat-trick ended South Korea’s World Cup adventure officially.

Spain, including Belgium and Uruguay, advanced from Group E. Uruguay was lucky to advance since a goal by Daniel Fonseca in the last minute of their last group match against South Korea saved them from being eliminated.


England – Republic of Ireland 1-1

Stadio Sant’Elia, Cagliari – Attendance: 35,238

Every country in the 1990 FIFA World Cup Group F didn’t manage to score more than 1 goal in each match. Every match in the group stage ended in a draw except 1: the match between England and Egypt that ended in 1-0.

England against the Republic of Ireland was a unique match. Many Irish players were born in England. Ireland qualified for the first time in World Cup history and met their neighbor in their first World Cup match.

English striker Gary Lineker scored the first goal 8 minutes after kick-off. The equalizer scored by Kevin Sheedy only happened around 15 minutes before the end of the match.

Both countries advanced together with the Netherlands. A unique fact was that the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands had the same amount of points, goal difference, and scored goals!

The winner of the match Netherlands against the Republic of Ireland would, in this case, decide the group position, but this match ended in a 1-1 draw! This meant for the first and only time. Lots needed to be drawn to determine who would finish in 2nd and 3rd place. The Netherlands ended up in 3rd place.

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Cameroon – Colombia 2-1

Stadio San Paolo, Naples – Attendance: 50,026

Neither Cameroon nor Colombia had made it to the Quarter-Finals before. So no matter which course the match would take, it would be memorable.

Roger Milla entered the match as a substitute in the 2nd half. No goals were scored in the first 90 minutes and extra time had to be played.

It took 15 minutes before the goals were scored one by one. Roger Milla scored both goals for Cameroon. He celebrated both goals with a dance, which he performed for the first time in the group match against Romania. His 2nd goal of this match started with a mistake by Colombian goalkeeper Rene Higuita.

Higuita is known for his risky behavior. This time it didn’t end well. Roger Milla took the ball from him and scored into the empty net. Colombian midfielder Bernardo Redín scored 5 minutes before the final whistle, but this wasn’t enough. Cameroon became the first African country to reach the Quarter-Final with a special thanks to Roger Milla.

Brazil – Argentina 0-1

Brazil – Argentina 0-1

Stadio Delle Alpi, Turin – Attendance: 61,381

Again the Battle of the South Americans! This is the only World Cup match so far between Brazil and Argentina that is won by Argentina.

For 80 minutes, the score could go either way, but Argentinian forward Claudio Caniggia ended the stress. Diego Maradona broke into the Brazilian defense and passed the ball to Caniggia. He passed Brazilian goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel and scored. Brazil exited the World Cup after the Round of 16, which was pretty quick for Brazil.

So far, both haven’t encountered each other in a World Cup again.

West Germany – Netherlands 2-1

San Siro, Milan – Attendance: 74,559

Another classic encounter: rivals West Germany against the Netherlands. This was the perfect chance for the Netherlands to revenge themselves against West Germany.

They won the 1974 World Cup Final instead of the Netherlands. But unfortunately for the Dutch, another defeat had to be accepted. Jürgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme scored the 2 goals for West Germany.

Ronald Koeman scored a penalty in the 89th minute, but there was no more time for an equalizer. A memorable disgraceful moment in this match happened in the first half. Dutch defender Frank Rijkaard spat at Rudi Voller twice out of frustration. Both players were sent off due to the high level of complaints.

Rudi Voller however, would return later in the tournament. West Germany eliminated the Dutch once more and advanced to the Quarter-Finals.

bonner making a save for ireland

Republic of Ireland – Romania 0-0 (5-4)

Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa – Attendance: 31,818

The Republic of Ireland advanced without having won any matches at the 1990 World Cup. After a total of 120 minutes, the score was 0-0. The penalty shootout had to decide who would advance to the Quarter-Finals.

In 1990 both teams hadn’t yet reached a World Cup Quarter-Final, so a memorable moment was about to happen for sure.

Kevin Sheedy, Ray Houghton, Andy Townsend, Tony Cascarino, and David O’Leary scored the 5 penalties successfully for Ireland.

Gheorghe Hagi, Dănuț Lupu, Iosif Rotariu and Ioan Lupescu scored for Romania. But Daniel Timofte missed the last penalty.

Therefore Republic Ireland advanced, which is not bad for a team playing its first World Cup. Romania would have more luck in the next World Cup.

argentina 1990 squad

Yugoslavia – Argentina 0-0 (2-3)

Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence – Attendance: 38,971

The score after 120 minutes was 0-0. Argentina couldn’t score despite Yugoslavia playing with 10 players for 90 minutes. The 2nd penalty shootout had to be taken.

Argentina was lucky Yugoslavia performed the penalty shootout poorly. Only Robert Prosinečki and Dejan Savićević scored their penalty. Dragan Stojković, Dragoljub Brnović and Faruk Hadžibegić missed. José Serrizuela, Jorge Burruchaga and Gustavo Dezotti scored for Argentina.

2 players missed their penalty: Diego Maradona and Pedro Troglio. Nevertheless, Argentina won the penalty shootout by having scored 1 more penalty successfully. Yugoslavia was eliminated and played their last World Cup as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

England – Cameroon 3-2

England – Cameroon 3-2

Stadio San Paolo, Naples – attendance: 55,205

The most exciting 1990 FIFA World Cup Quarter Final match was this match. This is the only Quarter-Final where more than 1 goal was scored. It started with English midfielder David Platt who scored the only goal of the first half. In the 2nd half, Cameroon defender Emmanuel Kundé scored a penalty resulting in a 1-1 draw. Four minutes later Eugène Ekéké scored the 1-2 for Cameroon.

For a while, it seemed Cameroon would cause another amazing achievement in World Cup history by advancing to the Semi-Final. But 7 minutes before the end, England was awarded a penalty. Gary Lineker took the penalty and scored. After 90 minutes, the score was 2-2, resulting in extra time.

Cameroon wasn’t lucky. England was awarded another penalty which Gary Lineker successfully scored again. Cameroon wasn’t able to find the equalizer. The match ended, and the amazing Cameroon adventure was over. England reached the Semi-Final for the first time since the 1966 World Cup.

italy at italia 90

Italy – Argentina 1-1 (3-4)

Stadio San Paolo, Naples – Attendance: 59,978

Italian ‘Totò’ Schillaci played an amazing tournament. He scored in every match except for the group match against the USA. Also, in this match, he scored the first goal.

But Claudio Caniggia saved Argentina by scoring the equalizer in the 2nd half. Extra time didn’t result in any goals, so Argentina had to take their 2nd penalty shootout. Franco Baresi, Roberto Baggio and Luigi De Agostini scored their penalties for Italy. Roberto Donadoni and Aldo Serena missed, which eventually would result in elimination.

All 4 Argentinian players José Serrizuela, Jorge Burruchaga, Julio Olarticoechea and Diego Maradona were able to score. The 5th penalty wasn’t taken since Argentina was already the winner. Argentinian goalkeeper Sergio Goyocochea became the hero of the match.

This was the first time Italy took a World Cup penalty shootout and lost, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last time. Italy played and won the match for third place against England. Schillaci scored his final goal of the World Cup in that match and ended up being the 1990 World Cup top scorer with 6 goals.

West Germany – England 1-1 (4-3)

West Germany – England 1-1 (4-3)

Stadio delle Alpi, Turin – Attendance: 62,628

For the first time and last time so far, both semi finals was decided by a penalty shootout. The match between West Germany and England was goalless in the first half. Andreas Brehme scored first for Germany and 20 minutes later Gary Lineker for the England national team.

Paul Gascoigne had an emotional breakdown when receiving the yellow card in extra time. An iconic moment this was. He had already received a yellow card in the Round of 16 match against Belgium, so Gascoigne would miss the upcoming Final. But England never advanced to the Final.

They failed at the penalty shootout. German players Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthäus, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Olaf Thon scored their penalties. But Gary Lineker, Peter Beardsley, and David Platt were the only penalty takers who scored successfully for England. Stuart Pearce and Chris Waddle missed.

West Germany didn’t take the 5th penalty since England missed too many. England was eliminated, and like Italy, more bad penalty shootout experiences would come their way in future World Cups. West Germany advanced to the 1990 World Cup Final with the same opponent as in the 1986 World Cup.

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Brazil And The Dunga Era

Copa America winners in 1989, Brazil had good players in their squad – to mention a few: Romário, Bebeto, Careca, Renato Gaúcho, Mozer, Aldair, Ricardo Gomes, Mauro Galvão and Taffarel.

Even so, the team managed by Sebastião Lazaroni did not inspire much trust in fans. The coach opted for the 3-5-2 formation during the 1990 World Cup, and Brazil played defensively for the first time in history.

1990 world cup results

The result was a spiritless exhibition. Brazil had to work hard to get through the group stage. Despite winning the three matches, they were all close: 2-1 against Sweden, 1-0 against Costa Rica, and 1-0 against Scotland.

In the round of 16, they would face Argentina, which had embarrassed itself in the group stage by losing to Cameroon but had Maradona.

dunga brazil captain

Diego The South American Champion

And indeed, the fatal blow came from Maradona’s feet. Brazil dominated the match and created a lot of opportunities. But 10 minutes from time, Maradona sprinted with the ball, went past Brazilian markers, and found Claudio Caniggia free on the left. With only the keeper to beat, the striker did not waste his chance.

Brazil tried to draw the match to no avail, and the early elimination meant the country’s worse performance in a World Cup since 1966, which would stain a whole generation.

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Those days of spiritless football, focusing on defense, became known as the ‘Dunga Era,’ referring to the tough, disciplined holding midfielder who would yet redeem himself.

Regarding the quality of the games, the 1990 World Cup is considered one of the poorest. It did not help with 16 red cards, which was a World Cup record at this time.

franz beckenbauer

FIFA World Cup 1990 Mascot

The Italy 1990 mascot was pretty different compared to the previous World Cup mascots. The character did not relate to the host country this time. Only the colors and the name of the mascot did. It was no person or a food-related character. The mascot is a simple stick figure who goes by the name Ciao.

Ciao is Italian for both hello and bye. Looking closely, you can see sticks showing the letters ‘Italy’, representing the football player.

Ciao contains the 1970 World Cup Telstar football just like many other mascots, but this time it represents the head. The body contains the Italian tricolore colors green, white and red. Ciao is the only World Cup mascot that doesn’t have any eyes.

Together with the 2002 World Cup mascot, Ciao is the only fantasy character introduced by FIFA. In a 2008 FIFA.com poll, Ciao took 4th place with 14.85% of the most popular World Cup mascot of the last 5 World Cups before South Africa 2010 (1990 – 2006).

1990 World Cup Song

1990 World Cup Song

Since the host country of the 1990 World Cup is Italy, an Italian song was introduced as the 1990 FIFA World Cup song. The name is Un’estate Italiana (To Be Number One) and is performed by Italian singer-songwriters Edoardo Bennato and Gianna Nannini. Famous Italian record producer Giorgio Moroder was responsible for the production.

This passionate song was a huge success in several European countries and was the best-selling single in Italy between January and September 1990. Therefore the song is considered as one of the best World Cup songs.

In Italy, the song is also known as Notti Magiche or Magical Nights. Edoardo Bennato and Gianna Nannini performed Un’estate Italiana (To Be Number One) during the opening ceremony in Milan before the Argentina – Cameroon match.

 1990 FIFA World Cup Records

  • Three countries qualified for the first time: Costa Rica, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.
  • Italy is the 2nd country to host a World Cup twice.
  • The World Cup winning team West Germany is the 3rd country to win a World Cup 3 times after Brazil and Italy.
  • West Germany became the first country to play 3 consecutive World Cup Finals tournament (1982, 1986, 1990).
  • West Germany became the most successful World Cup nation with 3 World cup wins and 6 Finals, but this was temporary since Brazil won their 4th World Cup in USA ’94.

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  • Argentinian Pedro Monzón is the first player to be sent off in a World Cup Final.
  • Argentina is the first country not to have scored in a WC Final.
  • Argentina is the only country that advanced twice on penalty shootouts in the same World Cup.
  • This was the first time a European (UEFA) country has beaten a non-European country in a World Cup Final.
  • The 1990 tournament has the lowest goals-per-match average of just 2.21.
  • The first and last time, both Semi-Finals were decided with a penalty shootout.
  • Cameroon is the first African country to have reached the Quarter-Finals.
  • Italian goalkeeper Walter Zenga holds the record for the most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal in World Cup history. No goals were scored for 517 minutes (almost 6 matches) until Argentina player Claudio Caniggia scored in the 67th minute of the Semi-Final.
  • The Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands had the exact same amount of points, goal difference, and goals in their group, which meant for the first and last time so far in World Cup history, lots needed to be drawn for the 2nd and 3rd place.
  • The Republic of Ireland is the 2nd country in World Cup history to have reached the Quarter-Finals without winning any matches (Ireland defeated Romania due to the penalty shootout in Round 16).
  • Cameroon became the only country in history to top their group with a negative goal difference, two 1-0 wins against a 4-0 loss against the Soviet Union.
  • Czechoslovakia player Tomáš Skuhravý scored a hat-rick only with his head against Costa Rica (4-1). This would happen only once more in World Cup history, where in 2002 German Miroslav Klose scored 3 times with the head against Saudi Arabia (8-0)

Did You Know

  • The 1990 World Cup Final contained the same countries as in the 1986 World Cup, but this time with West Germany as the winner.
  • Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and West Germany would never play a World Cup again since all 3 nations ceased to exist.
  • Last time Yugoslavia played as Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
  • Last tournament which included a divided side of Germany (West Germany) since East and West Germany would be united again later in 1990.
  • 1986 World Cup champion Argentina lost their first match (against Cameroon), which also occurred in the 1982 and 1978 World Cup champions (against Belgium).
  • Italian Salvatore Schillaci scored 6 of his 7 career international goals, which resulted in winning the Golden Boot.
  • Last tournament where only 2 points were awarded to a win.
  • Many teams played ‘safe’ and preferred to take their chances in the penalty shootout rather than to take major risks going forward.
  • The 1990 World Cup final was the first to be officially recorded and transmitted in HDTV (By Italian broadcaster RAI).
  • Cameroon player Roger Milla celebrated his goals in a unique rhythmic manner, making way for many other unique celebrations to come after the 1990 edition.
  • Brazilian star player Romario got seriously injured 3 months before the 1990 World Cup and therefore only played 66 minutes in total (in the group match against Scotland).
  • The Adidas Etrusco Unico match ball featured motifs of Etruscan lion heads referring to the ancient Italian civilization of the Etruscans.

italian national football team at 1990 world cup

1990 FIFA World Cup Awards

Golden Ball: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy)
Silver Ball: Lothar Matthaus (West Germany)
Bronze Ball: Diego Maradona (Argentina)
Golden Boot: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) (6 goals)
Silver Boot: Tomas Skuhravy (Czechoslovakia) (5 goals)
Bronze Boot: Roger Milla (Cameroon), Michel (Spain), Lothar Matthaus (West Germany), Gary Lineker (England) (4 goals)
Best Young Player Award: Robert Prosinecki (21 years old) (Yugoslavia)
FIFA Fair Play Trophy: England National Team

Costa Rica goalkeeper Gabelo Conejo tripping Brazilian striker in world cup
Costa Rica goalkeeper Gabelo Conejo

1990 FIFA World Cup  All-Star Team

Like the 1974 FIFA All-Star Team, this Team consists of 12 players instead of 11. For the first time, 2 keepers were included. Costa Rica and Cameroon players made their first appearance. Cameroon is the first African country to have been included in an All-Star Team.

Yugoslavia, which was only included before in 1930, was for the last time included. Argentinian player Diego Maradona is included for the 2nd time, and Italian great Paolo Maldini would be included again in the next All-Star Team.


  • Sergio Goycochea (Argentina)
  • Luis Gabelo Conejo (Costa Rica)


  • Andreas Brehme (West Germany)
  • Paolo Maldini (Italy)
  • Franco Baresi (Italy)


  • Diego Maradona (Argentina)
  • Lothar Matthaus (West Germany)
  • Dragan Stojkovic (Yugoslavia)
  • Paul Gascoigne (England)
Jurgen Klinsmann celebrating a goal
German Striker Jurgen Klinsmann


  • Salvatore Schillaci (Italy)
  • Roger Milla (Cameroon)
  • Jurgen Klinsmann (West Germany)

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