Land of basketball, baseball, and American football, the United States succumbed to soccer, as they call the world’s most popular sport, and hosted the 1994 World Cup.
Doubts over how involved the population would get spread: the 1994 World Cup had the biggest crowd in the FIFA event’s history, 3,587,538 spectators, and other equally impressive figures. This victory made Brazil the first nation to win four World Cup titles.
1994 World Cup Facts And Records
Dates: June 17 – July 17, 1994
Final: Brazil – Italy 3-2 (penalties)
3rd place: Sweden – Bulgaria 4-0
Host cities: 9
Matches played: 52
Top scorers: Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Oleg Salenko (Russia) (6 goals)
The Americans saw no less than 141 goals, the best mark since 1982. During qualifiers, 147 teams fought for 24 spots. In addition, Cameroon player Roger Milla got another record: he became the oldest player to ever score a goal in a World Cup.
Milla was 42 years, one month, and eight days when he scored Cameroon’s only goal in their 6-1 defeat to Russia. That match also registered another record in World Cups: Russian player Oleg Salenko scored five goals in just one game.
The 1994 World Cup is also remembered because of two episodes. The first was Diego Maradona testing positive after a drug test.
He was caught on the anti-doping test, which detected ephedrine, a substance used to lose weight and a powerful stimulant.
Called up at the last minute to take part in Argentina’s play-off match against Australia during the qualifiers, Maradona managed to get in shape quickly, losing 13 kilos.
In the World Cup, he scored a goal against Greece and led his fellow Argentinians in their comeback against Nigeria. But, due to the anti-doping test, he was expelled from the 1994 World Cup tournament, despite claiming his innocence. And Argentina went home after losing to Gheorghe Hagi’s excellent Romania.
The second damaging episode was the death of Colombian defender Andrés Escobar. The player scored an own goal against the United States in the group stage of the 1994 World Cup.
The mistake resulted in Colombia losing 2-1 and being eliminated from the tournament. After returning home, Escobar was murdered in front of a nightclub in the city of Medellín.
Although the crime has never been cleared up, it was supposedly ordered by Colombian gamblers who lost a lot of money with the negative result.
World Cup 1994 Background
Three countries were interested in hosting the 15th World Cup in 1994.
Europe had its turn four years earlier, in 1990, so the following non-European countries placed a bid: Morocco, the United States, and Brazil.
The FIFA Executive Committee (Exco) announced on July 4, 1988, in Zurich that the United States won the bid with a little more than half of the votes.
The USA received ten votes, Morocco 7 votes, and Brazil only 2. The United States would therefore organize its first World Cup.
It was pretty surprising the United States was chosen to host the 15th World Cup since the sport football (or soccer as they call it) was not popular at all.
For the United States to host the 1994 World Cup, it had to meet one condition. This condition was that the United States had to create a professional football league.
FIFA hoped the sport would become more prevalent in the USA by allowing them to host the 1994 World Cup.
The sport has become more popular, and the professional football league was established in 1993. The league is called the Major League Soccer (MLS).
1994 Tournament Participants
A record of 147 countries tried to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. The United States, the host country, and Germany, the 1990 World Cup winner, qualified automatically.
Twelve places for Europe, excluding Germany, were allocated to the following countries: Romania, Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Spain, Bulgaria, Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, and Belgium.
Greece qualified for the first time. Norway qualified for the first time since 1938 and Switzerland for the first time since 1966.
West Germany and East Germany finally reunited in 1990; therefore, the German participant in the 1994 World Cup was called Germany again.
The only times Germany played as Germany in a World Cup were in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups.
The 1994 World Cup had country Russia as a participant as well. Due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia would never be referred to as the Soviet Union again.
This was the first World Cup where the country qualified as Russia.
Yugoslavia was suspended from international competition in 1992. This suspension was part of the United Nations sanctions against the country due to the Yugoslav Wars.
The suspension ended in 1994, but it was too late to qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
This is the first time since 1938 that no United Kingdom countries (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) participated.
Three places for South America were allocated to the following countries: Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia. Bolivia qualified for the first time since 1950.
Chile’s suspension from the 1990 World Cup continued and, therefore, could not qualify for the 1994 World Cup.
Three places were allocated to Africa due to the performance of Cameroon, which reached the Quarter Finals in the 1990 World Cup.
As a result, the three places were allocated to the following countries: Cameroon, Nigeria, and Morocco. Nigeria qualified for the first time.
Two places for Asia were allocated to South Korea and Saudi Arabia. As a result, Saudi Arabia qualified for the first time.
One place for North/Central America and the Caribbean, excluding the United States, was allocated to the country Mexico.
One country would qualify by winning an intercontinental play-off. For the first time, two intercontinental play-offs had to be played by countries that didn’t qualify directly.
The winner of the play-off CONCACAF country Canada against OFC country Australia would play against CONMEBOL country Argentina.
Australia won the first play-off but lost to Argentina in the 2nd play-off. Since Argentina won the 2nd play-off, they qualified last minute for the 1994 World Cup.
World Cup 1994 Groups
The formats of the two previous World Cups were used again in USA 1994.
There were six groups, each containing four teams. 2 teams per group would advance to Round 16.
In addition to the two teams, the four best third-place teams would also advance to the Round of 16.
From that stage on, whoever lost a match would be eliminated immediately. There was one change, though, when it came to the format.
Instead of the 2 points which were always rewarded to the winner of a group match, there were now 3 points to be gained after a game was won.
FIFA introduced this change to encourage attacking football after many teams adopted a defensive playing style in the 1990 World Cup.
The 1994 World Cup is the last World Cup where the four best third-place teams would also advance to the Round of 16.
For the last time, a few number 1 teams of the groups would play against the number 3 teams of other groups.
This would also be the last World Cup to contain 24 countries.
The number of participants would again increase to 32 countries in World Cup France 1998.
The six seed countries were the United States, Germany, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, and Italy.
The groups were as follows:
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D||Group E||Group F|
|Switzerland||Sweden||Spain||Bulgaria||Republic of Ireland||Saudi Arabia|
|United States||Russia||South Korea||Argentina||Italy||Belgium|
Stadiums Of The USA World Cup
Nine stadiums have been used in 9 host cities across the USA.
One of the reasons why the attendance record of the 1994 World Cup is not yet beaten is due to the large capacity the nine stadiums had in comparison with the stadiums in European and South American countries.
There was so much space for so many people. All nine stadiums had a capacity of at least 53,000 people.
There was something unique, though, about one stadium. Of all stadiums, the Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit was the only indoor stadium used to host 1994 World Cup matches.
Therefore for the first time in FIFA World Cup history, several World Cup matches were played indoors.
The following nine cities and nine stadiums were used in the USA:
Location: Los Angeles
Status: It is an athletic stadium and is the largest stadium in the USA that hosts football matches
Status: It is named Silverdome and is an indoor stadium. It was temporarily closed in 2006 and was reopened in 2010
Location: San Francisco
Status: It is an outdoor athletic stadium and was demolished and rebuilt in 2005
Location: New York
Status: It was demolished in 2010 and is replaced by the MetLife Stadium.
Status: It is named the Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, and inside improvements were made from 1999 to 2002
Status: It is an American football stadium and was reopened in 2003 after an extensive interior renovation
Status: Is known initially as Fair Park Stadium, and renovations occurred in 2008
Status: It was demolished in 2002 and is replaced by a shopping center.
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium
Status: It is commonly known as the RFK stadium
1994 World Cup Surprises
Even before the first kick-off on American pitches, some traditional teams had already failed to book their place at the party.
Euro winners in 1992, Denmark did not qualify, and neither did England and France.
In the group stage of the 1994 World Cup, more surprises. Colombia, which had the best generation of players in the country’s history – Rene Higuita, Valderrama, Aristizabal, Rincon, and Asprilla, for example – was eliminated in the group stage, losing to Romania and United States.
Saudi Arabia managed to qualify for the competition’s knockout stage. After beating Morocco 2-1, the Saudis beat Belgium. Striker Saeed Owairan became a hero after dribbling several players and scoring one of 1994 World Cup history’s best goals.
The Saudi dream would, however, end in the round of 16, when they lost 3-1 to Sweden.
For the first time, a victory was worth three points. Italy struggled to qualify. They lost their first match 1-0 to Ireland. Then, a narrow win over Norway and a draw against Mexico.
They only qualified as they were one of the four best third places. But the Azzurra had Roberto Baggio. And he saved them in the round of 16 against Nigeria.
He scored two goals, one in extra time. Then, he got on the scoresheet in the 1994 World Cup quarter-final against Spain.
Then, it was Bulgaria in the semi-final. The Bulgarians had Hristo Stoichkov. At the height of his career, he was the top scorer of the 1994 World Cup, together with Salenko from Russia, with six goals.
One of them scored against Italy. But Roberto Baggio scored another two and put the Italians in the final.
In their five previous World Cup finals, Bulgaria had never won a game. Their fourth place finish was a surprise.
Under coach Dimitar Penev, Bulgaria surprised many soccer fans. Bulgaria had never even won a game at the World Cup finals prior to this tournament.
Ranked 29th leading into the 1994 FIFA World Cup, they defeated the reigning World Cup winning side Germany in the quarter-finals while on their journey to the 3rd place play-off.
Four World Cup Titles
Brazil arrived in the USA somewhat discredited. They had struggled to qualify. Finally, Brazil manager Carlos Alberto Parreira gave in to national pressure and called up Romario for the last qualifier match against Uruguay. Result: 2-0 Brazil, with an outstanding performance by Romario that lead to four World Cup titles.
Then, he would prove definitively that the people were right.
The team put together by Parreira was considered too defensive. Players like Mauro Silva and Mazinho were much criticized without mentioning Dunga.
1994 World Cup Results (Knockout Stages)
The holding midfielder was remembered as an icon of Brazil’s failure in the 1990 World Cup, a period known as the ‘Dunga Era.’ But he bounced back in 1994.
Brazil did not have a lot of difficulty in the group stage, despite captain Raí (considered their leading player at the time) having played so poorly that he ended up on the bench.
Dunga stepped in as captain. In the first knockout stage match, they faced the hosts. Brazil was the outright favorite to win the match, but it was a challenging game; victory came 20 minutes from when Bebeto scored the winning goal.
1994 World Cup Quarter Final
In the World Cup 1994 quarter-final, the most exciting match. Brazil had to play the Netherlands, with players like Dennis Bergkamp, Frank Rijkaard, and Marc Overmars.
At the beginning of the second half, they scored twice, with Bebeto’s famous celebration, pretending to carry a baby, in homage to his son who had just been born.
Then the Dutch equalized with Dennis Bergkamp and Aron Winter. It was then that left-back Branco, also the target of criticism, was fouled outside the box, took the ball, and prepared to take the free kick.
His venomous curled shot almost scratched Romário’s back and still hit the bottom of the goalpost before going into the back of the net: 3-2.
In the 1994 World Cup semi-final, another struggle, this time against Sweden. Again, the match remained goalless until the 80th minute.
Romário leaped behind Sweden’s tall defenders when extra-time seemed inevitable and headed the ball into the net. The goal put Brazil through to the World Cup final for the first time in 24 years. Their opponents were Italy, runners-up in 1970.
The Grudge Match
After five successive World Cup Finals containing Argentina or West Germany, or both, the 1994 World Cup Final consisted of different countries.
Brazil and Italy played the World Cup Final before and even played against each other in the 1970 World Cup Final. The Brazilian team, including Pele, won that 1970 Final with a 4-1 score.
Aside the 1970 World Cup Final, both teams encountered each other in the 1938, 1978, and 1982 World Cup. Italy defeated Brazil in 1938 and 1982. Brazil won in 1978.
On the 17th of July 1994, the Final was played in Rose Bowl, Los Angeles, with an attendance of 94,194. On one side, Romario de Souza Faria. On the other, Roberto Baggio. Brazil still had terrible memories of the ‘Sarriá Stadium Tragedy” in 1982.
The Italians were also after their fourth title and had not forgotten that Brazil had won rather convincingly the last time both teams met in a final.
Both teams were very cautious, and there were few goal opportunities. The scoreboard remained goalless until the end of extra time. For the first time in history, the world title would be decided on penalties.
Both Brazilian Marcio Santos and Italian Franco Baresi missed the first penalty. Romario and Branco scored their penalties for Brazil. Demetrio Albertini and Alberigo Evani scored for Italy. Daniele Massaro, however, missed for Italy, but Dunga scored for Brazil.
What no one expected happened when Roberto Baggio went up to take his penalty. Italy’s World Cup hopes relied on the forward to score his penalty.
The player responsible for carrying the not-so-brilliant Azzurra on his back ended up a villain when he sent his shot over the bar.
Brazil was the 1994 World Cup winner and the first nation to win the FIFA World Cup four times. Dunga had redeemed himself and could lift the trophy. But the World Cup belonged to Romario.
1994 FIFA World Cup Group Winners
Romania, Brazil, Germany, Nigeria, Mexico, Netherlands, Argentina,
First Semi Final
Italy 2 – Bulgaria 1
Second Semi Final
Brazil 1 – Sweden 0
Third Place Playoff
Sweden 4 – Bulgaria 0
Final Positions And Champions
Champions – Brazil
Runners Up – Italy
Third Place – Sweden
Fourth Place – Bulgaria
Fifth Place – Germany
Sixth Place – Romania
Seventh Place – Netherlands
Eighth Place – Spain
Ninth Place – Nigeria
Tenth Place – Argentina
Eleventh Place – Belgium
Twelfth Place – Saudi Arabia
Thirteen Place – Mexico
Fourteen Place – United States
Fifteen Place – Switzerland
Sixteen Place – Republic Of Ireland
1994 World Cup History And Fun Facts
- During Russia’s group stage win over Cameroon, Oleg Salenko became the first player to score five goals in a World Cup finals game.
- In honor of their late countryman and Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian national team dedicated the title to him.
- It was the first goalless World Cup final in history.
- Having played in the 1982, 1986, and 1990 World Cups and leading Argentina to the 1986 World Cup title and 1990 World Cup finals, Diego Maradona’s World Cup career ended at this tournament.
- Erwin Sanchez scored Bolivia’s first World Cup goal in a 3–1 loss to Spain despite finishing last in the group. During their previous World Cup appearances in 1930 and 1950, Bolivia never scored a goal.
- To encourage attacking play, FIFA introduced three rule changes for this tournament: three points instead of two for a win in a group stage match, relaxed offside rules, and a ban on picking up back-passes to goalkeepers. Goals increased from 2.21 per game in 1990 to 2.73 per game in 1994
- Reigning world champions West Germany were united with the East and represented a unified Germany in the 1994 FIFA World Cup.
- After victories over Bulgaria and Greece, Nigeria emerged as group winners after a very impressive World Cup debut despite their narrow loss to Argentina.
- In this World Cup, Striker was the official mascot, an adorable dog dressed in red, white, and blue.
- Nine cities across the country hosted the USA’s World Cup debut. At least 53,000 people could be accommodated in all stadiums.
- England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since World War II. As well as France, Uruguay, Denmark, and Paraguay, other notable absentees were Poland, Portugal, and Hungary.
- Colombian player Andres Escobar was a tragic figure of the tournament. In the group stage match against the United States, he scored an own goal that eliminated Colombia. Escobar was shot to death outside a bar in a Medellín suburb only 10 days later, apparently in retaliation for his own goal.
- The United States staged a hugely successful tournament, with an average attendance of nearly 70,000.
- The most yellow cautions and red cards in one match was Mexico vs Bulgaria (10 yellow cards and 2 red cards).
- FIFA experimented with the style of referee and linesman jerseys, abandoning the traditional black. To avoid a clash of colors between the two competing teams, they could choose from burgundy, yellow, or silver shirts.
- Questra match ball was named after the USA’s ‘quest for the stars’ and features space-themed decorations to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission (the first human to step on the moon).
- Questra match ball was manufactured from 5 different materials with a final durable but flexible outer layer made from polyurethane, resulting in the ball becoming softer to touch and ball control improvement.
- The first time an indoor stadium was used in a World Cup (Pontiac Silverdome in Detroit).
- East and West Germany reunited again and participated as Germany for the first time since 1938.
- This is the last FIFA World Cup with only 24 participants.
- A 24-year gap existed between Cameroon player Roger Milla and his teammate Robert Song.
- First-time team jerseys had team numbers on the center front and the player’s name on the back.
- First-time match officials could choose colored jerseys (burgundy, yellow or white) aside from black.
- After reviewing the Round of 16 match between Italy and Spain, FIFA suspended Italian player Mauro Tassotti for eight games for viciously elbowing Luís Enrique, which the referee overlooked.
- Nigerian winger Finidi George celebrated his goal against Greece uniquely by running to the corner flag, crawling down, and imitating a urinating dog.
- First time Russia participated since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
- The first time 3 points were awarded for a group match win instead of only 2 points.
- The first time the back pass rule was used to encourage attacking play, the keeper couldn’t touch the ball with their hands when a team player passed it intentionally.
- Cameroon player Roger Milla then, at 42, is the oldest player to have played in a FIFA World Cup.
Roger Milla was 42 years and 39 days old when he scored his only tournament goal against Russia, meaning he is also the oldest player to have scored in a World Cup.
- Italian goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca is the first goalkeeper in World Cup history to be sent off (suspended for two matches) in the group match against Norway for stopping the ball outside the keeper area.
- Cameroon player Robert Song became the youngest player at 17 to receive a red card.
- Group match USA against Switzerland in the Pontiac Silverdome stadium was the first to be played indoors in World Cup history.
- Greece became the 4th and last country to play all three goalkeepers in the FIFA World Cup.
- Bulgaria has played 17 straight World Cup matches without winning: 6 ties and 11 losses from 1962 till 1994.
FIFA World Cup 1994 Awards
Golden Ball: Romário (Brazil)
Silver Ball: Roberto Baggio (Italy)
Bronze Ball: Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria)
Golden Boot: Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria), Oleg Salenko (Russia) (6 goals)
Silver Boot: Jürgen Klinsmann (Germany), Kennet Andersson (Sweden), Roberto Baggio (Italy), Romário (Brazil) (5 goals)
Bronze Boot: Gabriel Batistuta (Argentina), Florin Răducioiu (Romania), Martin Dahlin (Sweden) (4 goals)
Best Young Player Award: Marc Overmars (21 years old) (Netherlands)
FIFA Fair Play Trophy: Brazil
Yashin Award: Michel Preud’homme (Belgium)
Most Entertaining Team: Brazil
1994 FIFA World Cup All-Star Team
Romania and Bulgaria players were included in an All-Star Team for the first and last time. Sweden made its final appearance as well in an All-Star Team so far. Italian player Paolo Maldini is included for the 2nd time and Brazilian player Dunga will be included again in the next one.
- Michel Preud’homme (Belgium)
- Jorginho (Brazil)
- Marcio Santos (Brazil)
- Paolo Maldini (Italy)
- Dunga (Brazil)
- Krasimir Balakov (Bulgaria)
- Gheorghe Hagi (Romania)
- Tomas Brolin (Sweden)
- Romario (Brazil)
- Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria)
- Roberto Baggio (Italy)
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!