USA 94 – A tale of two missed penalties

(Posted on 20/06/18)

USA 94 is the epitome of football in the 90’s and the launchpad of the game in the world’s last remaining superpower to succumb to it.

 

For the first time, the FIFA World Cup was held outside of Europe or South America as the United States was given the chance to play host to the competition. Now the home of glitz and glamour had the opportunity to stage the worlds biggest show.

 

Over the years the finals had seen many shocks and was already had a firm reputation and global appeal following the last twenty years, but now was about to see nothing like it had before.

 

America is know for a few sports. American Football, Baseball, Basketball, Ice hockey but not at all at the time, football. Soccer as it’s known had everyone else turning their noses up at the US for their attitude and commitment to the sport. Whilst in the States, the game was seen as a child’s game. However, it was USA 94 where the foundations were set for it all to chance, over a decade before the likes of David Beckham put the wheels fully in motion.

 

It was at the tournament where we saw historic teams and even better shirts play their part. Team USA weren’t spectacular on the field, exiting in the round of 16 to Brazil. However, both home and away shirts have been huge favourites for fans worldwide for almost a quarter of a century. The stars and stripes designs are a must for any collector and sum up the campaign unlike any game could.

 

The opening ceremony started as it meant to go on, with the full on fireworks and dashing of ‘murica chucked in. Diana Ross’ missed penalty was a haunting prophecy only understood weeks later during the final.

 

On the way we saw stories of triumph and destruction, with Bulgaria the team of the tournament. After progressing through the group stage they met Germany – entering the World Cup unified with the East for the first time –in the Quarter Final. The Bulgarians had already seen off Mexico on penalties in the previous round but were expected to be dumped out in the final eight. After Matthaus scored from the spot on 47 minutes the Bulgarians could be forgiven for beginning to pack their bags, however, two goals in four minutes late on stunned Germany and the world and saw them through to the semi-final.

 

It topped the lot for surprise wins, after Ireland had already shocked Italy in the group stages. The Italians quickly dusted themselves off as Roberto Baggio dragged them to the final to face an efficient but hardly inspiring Brazil in Pasadena.

 

Brazil, wearing their traditional yellow and green shirts, manufactured by Umbro with a smart collar and green trim on the sleeves had hardly pulled up any trees even with a 17-year old Ronaldo in their side. Italy meanwhile in their watermarked Diadora design looked reslendant the entire summer. Forever remembered as being worn by the ‘divine ponytail’ Baggio the shirt certainly popularised watermarked designs and was also home to a new Azzuri badge.

 

The final was not fitting of the tournament, as a long drawn out 0-0 draw was played out and penalties loomed. As the shoot-out took place a decisive kick was to be taken by the man who’d single handily taken his team to the final. Baggio stepped up, and much like Diana Ross weeks before misfired his shot, but this time it was to hand a fourth world cup to Brazil.

 

Never has a runner-up been spoken about to much across history, they’d have to wait another 12 years for Italy to win their first and the world looked on in horror as the greatest summer of one of football’s best turned into one of horror, regret and despair.

 

Now, 24 years on US soccer has gone from USA 94 where they had no professional leagues, to three all competing for the best teams and players, although going to end their career, plying their trade in LA, New York or the rest of the USA. They loved it so much that they’re looking set to host once more in the 2020’s with a joint bid alongside Canada and Mexico.

 

Just who knows what effect they’ll have on world football in the coming years, but this World Cup was a huge beginning.

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