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The 1990 FIFA World Cup, the 14th staging of the World Cup, was held in Italymarker from 8 June to 8 July. Italy was chosen as the hosts by FIFAmarker on 19 May 1984, making it the second country to host the event twice. USSRmarker was the rival of Italymarker's candidacy to host the event. It was won by West Germany, who beat Argentina 1–0 in the final to win the World Cup for the third time.


Qualifying countries
Three teams qualified for the first time: Costa Rica, the Republic of Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. The United States also made it back to the World Cup after a 40-year absence. The draw for the finals took place on 9 December 1989 in Romemarker. Tenor Luciano Pavarotti performed at the event.



First round

The ball Etrusco Unico used in the tournament
The format of the 1990 competition remained the same as in 1986: 24 qualified teams were divided into six groups of four. The top two teams and four best third place finishers from the six groups advanced to the knockout stage.

The 1990 World Cup finals got off to a surprising start. In the first match, Cameroon soaked up pressure from Argentina for most of the first half. After a quarter of an hour's play in the second half, Cameroon's Andre Kana was sent off, and it seemed certain that the world champions would now take control. But six minutes later, the ten men took the lead. François Omam Biyik scored when he placed a perfect downward header past Argentine goalkeeper Nery Pumpido. Argentina pressed hard for an equaliser, and Cameroon were reduced to nine men when Benjamin Massing got the red card in the 89th minute – but the African team still held out for a shock 1–0 win. Then, when Cameroon faced Romania in their second game, Roger Milla took centre stage. His inclusion in Cameroon's squad had been controversial. He had been a favourite in the Cameroon team for years, but he was now 38 years old. He was only in Italy because of political intervention: Paul Biya, Cameroon's President, had insisted that Milla be included in the squad.

Against Argentina, Milla only appeared for the last ten minutes. But in the match with Romania, Cameroon coach Valeri Nepomniachi sent him on in the 58th minute, with the score still 0–0. It proved to be an inspired move. Milla scored with 15 minutes left, then added another with five minutes remaining, thus getting two opportunities to demonstrate his trademark hip-shaking goal celebration dance. Gavrila Balint scored for Romania, but it was too little too late. Cameroon held on to win 2–1. Surprisingly, they were beaten 4–0 in their last group game by a Soviet Union side desperately, and unsuccessfully, striving to stay in the tournament on goal difference. Despite the heavy defeat, Cameroon were through to the second round as group winners. Romania came second in Group B, and Argentina just scraped into the second round as one of the best third-placed teams.

Another surprise team emerged from Group C. Costa Rica beat Scotland 1–0 in their first match, held Brazil to another 1–0 scoreline in their second, then saw off Sweden 2–1 to claim a place in the second round. Brazil bore little resemblance to the free-flowing, free scoring Brazilian sides of earlier years, but they still took maximum points from the group. They began with a 2–1 win over Sweden, then beat both Costa Rica and Scotland 1–0. Scotland's 2–1 win over Sweden was not enough to save them from an early return home as one of the two lowest-ranked third-placed teams.

In the six Group F games, featuring the Netherlands, England, the Republic of Ireland and Egypt, no team managed to score more than once in a match. England beat Egypt 1–0, thanks to a 64th minute goal from Mark Wright – and that was enough to win the group.

There were more goals in Group D, but a lot of them were due to the defensive inadequacies of a United Arab Emirates team that lost 2–0 to Colombia, 5–1 to West Germany and 4–1 to Yugoslavia. All three of the UAE's first round opponents reached the last 16, with West Germany topping the group after an impressive 4–1 win over group runners-up Yugoslavia.

Italy won Group A with a 100 per cent record achieved via cautious football. They beat Austria and the United States 1–0, and Czechoslovakia 2–0. Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci, who had played only one international before the World Cup finals, came on as substitute in the 74th minute against Austria and scored Italy's winner four minutes later. Czechoslovakia defeated the USA 5–1 and claimed the runner-up spot in the group, while the USA's first appearance in a World Cup Finals since 1950 ended abruptly after three consecutive defeats. The winners of Group E were Spain, for who Michel hit a hat-trick as they beat South Korea 3–1. Belgium and Uruguay also reached the last 16 from the same group.

Second round and quarter-finals

The second round featured some intriguing fixtures. Two of the ties – Argentina vs Brazil and Italy vs Uruguay – pitted former champion countries against each other, and West Germany met the Netherlands in a rematch of the 1974 World Cup final. The all-South American game turned out to be a tight, edgy affair, won for Argentina by a goal from Claudio Caniggia with ten minutes remaining from a magical run of Diego Maradona through the Brazilian defense and an outstanding performance from their goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea, who also rode his luck in several Brazilian goal misses. A strong second half showing from Italy saw them beat Uruguay 2–0, thanks to another goal from Schillaci and one from Aldo Serena. The West Germany-Netherlands clash produced a repeat of the Euro 88 semifinal. The match turned ugly after 22 minutes when Rudi Völler and Frank Rijkaard, in an infamous moment, were dismissed after a bizarre spitting incident. Early in the second half, Jürgen Klinsmann put the West Germans ahead and Andreas Brehme added a second with eight minutes left. A Ronald Koeman penalty for the Netherlandsmarker in the 89th minute narrowed the score to 2–1 but that was close as the Dutch would come and West Germany went through.

Meanwhile, the heroics of Cameroon and Roger Milla continued. In Cameroon's game with Colombia, Milla was introduced in the 49th minute with the score still at 0–0. The scoreline stayed that way after 90 minutes, and after the first period of extra time. But then, as those around him tired, the veteran shone. Milla scored twice in four minutes in the second period of extra time. The second goal was a bit fortuitous as Colombian goalkeeper, Rene Higuita, well-known for his flamboyance and penchant to join his team's attack, was moving with his midfielders when he was dispossessed by Milla, who subsequently raced home to slot the ball into an empty net. Bernardo Redin reduced the deficit for Colombia with five minutes left, but the 'Indomitable Lions' held out to win 2–1. For the first time ever, an African team was in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.

The other first-round giant-killers fared less well. Costa Rica were comfortably beaten 4–1 by Czechoslovakia, for whom Tomas Skuhravy scored a hat-trick. Yugoslavia beat Spain 2–1 after extra time, with Dragan Stojkovic scoring both the Yugoslavs' goals. The Republic of Ireland's match with Romania remained goalless after extra time, and the Irish side won through 5–4 on penalties. David O'Leary converted the penalty that clinched Ireland's place in the quarter-finals. The Republic of Ireland thus achieved the remarkable feat of reaching the last eight in a World Cup finals tournament without actually winning a match outright. England were the final qualifier against a largely dominating Belgium, but with midfielder David Platt scoring the only goal in the final minute of extra-time.

Despite Cameroon's heroics earlier in the tournament, David Platt put England ahead in the 25th minute of their quarter-final fixture. At half-time, Milla was brought on, and the game was turned on its head in the space of five second half minutes. First, Cameroon were awarded a penalty, from which Emmanuel Kunde scored the equaliser. Then, in the 65th minute, Eugene Ekeke put Cameroon ahead. The African team came within eight minutes of reaching the semi-finals, but conceded a penalty, which Gary Lineker gratefully converted. Midway through extra time, England were awarded another penalty, and Lineker again scored from the spot. England were through to the semi-finals.

The Republic of Ireland's World Cup run was brought to an end by a single goal from Schillaci in the first half of their quarter-final with Italy. Another dull match saw West Germany beat Czechoslovakia with a 25th minute Lothar Matthäus penalty. Argentina and Yugoslavia played out a stalemate that stayed at 0–0 after extra time, despite the fact that Yugoslavia were reduced to ten men after half an hour when Refik Sabanadzovic, assigned with the task of marking Maradona, was sent off. Argentina reached the semi-finals after winning the penalty shoot-out 3–2. Tomislav Ivković achieved national fame by saving Maradona's kick and restoring parity to the penalty scoreline. Pedro Troglio then hit the post, and the World champions looked to be on their way out of the tournament until Sergio Goycochea rescued his side by stopping the Yugoslavs' final two penalty kicks.

Semi-finals, the third-place match, and the final

The first semi-final featured the host nation, Italy, and the world champion, Argentina. 'Toto' Schillaci scored yet again to put Italy ahead in the 17th minute, but Claudio Caniggia equalised midway through the second half. There were no more goals in the 90 minutes or in extra time, but there was a sending-off: Ricardo Giusti of Argentina was shown the red card in the 13th minute of extra time. Argentina went through on penalties, winning the shoot-out 4–3.

The semi-final between West Germany and England was goalless at half-time. Then, in the 60th minute, a free kick from Andreas Brehme was deflected by Paul Parker, resulting in a goal. But then, with 10 minutes left, Gary Lineker equalised for England, forcing extra-time. In the 99th minute, England's Paul Gascoigne received his second yellow card of the competition and the English player, in perhaps the most iconic moment of the tournament, openly wept at the realization that he would not be allowed to play in the final if England were to advance. Extra-time ended without any scoring and the game went to penalty kicks, where West Germany won their third straight World Cup shoot-out, 4–3. This game was to be re-enacted almost 20 years later on 26 July 2009 as the Sir Bobby Robson Trophy match, in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation

Italy and England played an uninspiring game for third place, with Roberto Baggio and Schillaci scoring to give the hosts a 2–1 win and the bronze medal.

The final between West Germany and Argentina, described by veteran football writer Brian Glanville as "probably the worst, most tedious, bad-tempered Final in the history of the World Cup", produced several football firsts. In the 65th minute, Argentina's Pedro Monzon was sent off for a foul on Klinsmann, becoming the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup final. It has been said that Klinsmann exaggerated his reaction to the foul, causing the referee to perhaps have been more severe with the punishment. Team-mate Gustavo Dezotti received the second red card of the game with four minutes left after he hauled Jürgen Kohler to the ground during a stoppage in play. Shortly before Dezotti's departure, referee Edgardo Codesal Mendez of Mexico awarded a penalty to West Germany, from which Andreas Brehme scored the only goal of the game. In addition, Diego Maradona was seen arguing with Mendez about the dismissal of Dezotti, and on being waved away, Maradona pushed a linesman to the ground, resulting in him being shown a yellow card. The 1–0 scoreline provided another first: Argentina were the first team ever to take part in a World Cup final without scoring.

With its third title (and three second place finishes) West Germany became the most successful World Cup nation for four years, until Brazil won their fourth title in 1994. West German team manager Franz Beckenbauer became the second footballer, after Mário Zagallo of Brazil, to win the World Cup as a player (in 1974) and as team manager. In doing so, Beckenbauer also became the first captain of a winning team to later manage a winning squad. Italy's Salvatore Schillaci won both the Golden Boot as the tournament's top goalscorer, with six goals, and the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.

The 1990 World Cup is widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups ever. It generated a record low goals-per-game average and then-record of 16 red cards were handed out. Most teams relied heavily on defensive play and hard tackling, as well as aggressive intimidation of the referee. In the knockout stage, many teams would "play it safe" for 120 minutes and try their luck in the penalty shoot-out, rather than risk going forward. Ireland and Argentina were prime examples of this trend of cautious defensive play; the Irish made it to the quarter-finals after scoring just twice in five games and drawing all their matches until their defeat to Italy. Argentina, meanwhile, scored only five times en route to the final. Cameroon were one of the few teams to choose an attacking style. Eventual champions West Germany also concentrated on offense-oriented play, but they too became more defensive as the tournament progressed.


The official mascot of this World Cup was Ciao, a stick figure player with a football head and an Italian tricolor body. Its name is an Italian greeting. This World Cup saw The Three Tenors begin their tradition of performing on the eve of the final.


Romemarker Milanmarker Naplesmarker Turinmarker
Stadio Olimpicomarker Stadio Giuseppe Meazzamarker Stadio San Paolomarker Stadio delle Alpimarker
Capacity: 86,000 Capacity: 85,700 Capacity: 74,000 Capacity: 68,000
Barimarker Veronamarker
Stadio San Nicolamarker Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodimarker
Capacity: 56,000 Capacity: 42,000
Florencemarker Cagliarimarker
Stadio Artemio Franchi Stadio Sant'Eliamarker
Capacity: 41,000 Capacity: 40,000
Bolognamarker Udinemarker Palermomarker Genoamarker
Stadio Renato Dall'Aramarker Stadio Friulimarker Stadio La Favoritamarker Stadio Luigi Ferrarismarker
Capacity: 39,000 Capacity: 38,000 Capacity: 36,000 Capacity: 36,000

Match officials




North and Central America

South America


For a list of all squads that appeared in the final tournament, see 1990 FIFA World Cup squads.


First round

All kick-off times local (CEST/UTC+2)

Group A

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 3 0 0 4 0 +4 6
3 2 0 1 6 3 +3 4
3 1 0 2 2 3 -1 2
3 0 0 3 2 8 -6 0

Group B

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 2 0 1 3 5 -2 4
3 1 1 1 4 3 +1 3
3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
3 1 0 2 4 4 0 2

Group C

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 3 0 0 4 1 +3 6
3 2 0 1 3 2 +1 4
3 1 0 2 2 3 -1 2
3 0 0 3 3 6 -3 0

Group D

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 2 1 0 10 3 +7 5
3 2 0 1 6 5 +1 4
3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
3 0 0 3 2 11 -9 0

Group E

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 2 1 0 5 2 +3 5
3 2 0 1 6 3 +3 4
3 1 1 1 2 3 -1 3
3 0 0 3 1 6 -5 0

Group F

Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
3 1 2 0 2 1 +1 4
3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3
3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3
3 0 2 1 1 2 -1 2

Note: Republic of Ireland awarded second place by drawing of lots

Third place qualifiers for round of 16

Group Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
B 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
D 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
F 3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3
E 3 1 1 1 2 3 -1 3
A 3 1 0 2 2 3 -1 2
C 3 1 0 2 2 3 -1 2

Knockout stage

Round of 16



Third place match



Golden Shoe winner: Golden Ball winner: FIFA Fair Play Trophy
Salvatore Schillaci Salvatore Schillaci

All-star team

Goalkeeper Defenders Midfielders Forwards
 Sergio Goycochea
 Andreas Brehme
Jules Onana
Franco Baresi
 Diego Maradona
Lothar Matthäus
Roberto Donadoni
Paul Gascoigne
 Salvatore Schillaci
Roger Milla
Tomáš Skuhravý


6 goals

5 goals

4 goals

3 goals

2 goals

1 goal

  • There were no own goals scored in the tournament.


  • The 1990 tournament had the lowest goals-per-match average of all World Cups. There were 115 goals, an average of 2.21 goals per match, and, taking account of extra time matches, 4920 minutes of play – which means 1 goal every 42.7 minutes, or only 2.1 goals for every 90 minutes.
  • The 1990 tournament was the second to feature an all-world champion final four.
  • The Republic of Ireland reached the quarter-finals despite scoring only 2 goals. They also did not win a single match outright – they drew their three group matches, then advanced over Romania on penalty kicks after a goalless draw in the round of 16, and then lost to Italy in the quarter-finals.
  • For the second World Cup in succession Uruguay squeezed through to the knockout stage as fourth-best third-placed team, thanks to an injury-time goal in their final group game against South Korea.
  • World Cup Italia '90 was the official licensed videogame product.
  • Diego Maradona reportedly confirmed in 2005 a rumour that the water a member of the Argentinian staff offered to Brazilian midfielder Branco in the round of 16 Brazil vs Argentina match contained a tranquilizer.
  • The official theme song, "Un'estate italiana" ("Notti magiche"), was produced by Giorgio Moroder and performed by Edoardo Bennato and Gianna Nannini.
  • The World Cup is featured in the films Good Bye Lenin! and Heimat 3
  • After Sergio Goycochea had saved 4 penalties earlier in the tournament, Franz Beckenbauer decided to use Andreas Brehme instead of Lothar Matthäus as a penalty shooter in the final. Brehme scored the decisive goal by using his "wrong" (right) foot.


  • For the first time, a drawing of lots was used to decide group positions, as the Republic of Ireland and Netherlands finished with identical records in Group F. Ireland won the draw and finished second, while the Netherlands finished third. Both teams made it to the next round as the Netherlands were one of the four best third-placed teams.
  • This was the first World Cup in which two European teams were defeated by a Central American squad: Costa Rica, who beat Scotland 1–0, and Sweden 2–1.
  • The final alone had several firsts:
    • For the first time a team reached three World Cup finals in a row: West Germany had already lost the finals in 1982 and 1986. This feat was later repeated by Brazil in 1994, 1998 and 2002 with better results (winning 2 out of 3).
    • It was the first rematch of a preceding final: The two countries had met in the 1986 FIFA World Cup final with Argentina the victors.
    • Pedro Monzón of Argentina became the first player to be sent off in a World Cup final. Teammate Gustavo Dezotti was also sent off.
    • For the first time, the losing team did not score a goal: Germany won by a penalty, almost saved by Sergio Goycochea, scored in the 85th minute by Andreas Brehme after a disputed foul on Rudi Völler. As such, West Germany's Bodo Illgner became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet in a World Cup final. The subsequent three World Cup finals (1994, 1998, 2002) would also see the losers not score.


  • This would be the last World Cup in which goalkeepers were allowed to pick up direct backpasses from teammates. The backpass rule was in use from the 1994 tournament in order to make it harder for teams to time-waste, having been introduced on 1 July 1992.
  • This was the last World Cup in which the countries of three teams existed as political entities: Czechoslovakiamarker split into the Czech Republicmarker and Slovakiamarker in 1993 (although they continued to play as one country when failing to qualify for the 1994 tournament), Yugoslaviamarker dissolved into the nations Croatiamarker, Sloveniamarker, Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, Macedoniamarker, Serbiamarker and Montenegromarker (the latter two were Federal Republic of Yugoslaviamarker until 2002, and Serbia and Montenegro 2003–2006), and the USSRmarker, which split into Russiamarker and fourteen smaller states with the fall of the Communist regime, although eleven of the former Soviet states fielded a CIS team in the 1992 UEFA European Football Championship.
  • This was also the last time World Cup finals matches awarded two points for a win during the group stage. The poor attacking play of sides prompted FIFA to introduce three points for a win for the 1994 tournament, to encourage attacking play.
  • In disciplinary matters, for the last time players were suspended for one match if accumulating two yellow cards throughout the tournament. Starting from 1994, yellow cards accumulated in the group stage were wiped clean after its completion, and players start with a clean slate at the start of the knockout stage. For example, had the new system been in place, Argentina's Claudio Caniggia would not have been suspended for the final.
  • This was the last World Cup in which referees primarily wore the traditional black jerseys: starting from 1994, referees can choose other colours to avoid a clash with the two competing teams. This has been followed since 1994, although black has been provided as an option since 1998 (in practice however, a second-choice red jersey already existed for the 1990 finals: this was worn in the two matches where Scotland wore their traditional navy blue).
  • This was also the last World Cup in which players only had their number printed in the back of their jersey. Players would have their names above the numbers on their jerseys, and smaller numbers duplicated on the front of their jerseys, from 1994.

External links

References and footnotes

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