1990 FIFA World Cup

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1990 FIFA World Cup
Coppa del Mondo Italia '90
1990 FIFA World Cup.svg
1990 FIFA World Cup official logo
Tournament details
Host countryItaly
Dates8 June – 8 July
Teams24 (from 5 confederations)
Venue(s)12 (in 12 host cities)
Final positions
Champions West Germany (3rd title)
Runners-up Argentina
Third place Italy
Fourth place England
Tournament statistics
Matches played52
Goals scored115 (2.21 per match)
Attendance2,516,215 (48,389 per match)
Top scorer(s)Italy Salvatore Schillaci (6 goals)
Best player(s)Italy Salvatore Schillaci
Best young playerSocialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Robert Prosinečki
Best goalkeeperArgentina Sergio Goycochea
Costa Rica Luis Gabelo Conejo
Fair play award England

The 1990 FIFA World Cup was the 14th FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial football tournament for men's senior national teams. It was held from 8 June to 8 July 1990 in Italy, the second country to host the event for a second time (the first being Mexico in 1986). Teams representing 116 national football associations entered and qualification began in April 1988. 22 teams qualified from this process, along with host nation Italy and defending champions Argentina.

The tournament was won by West Germany, for the third time. They beat Argentina 1–0 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, a rematch of the previous final four years earlier. Italy finished third and England fourth, after both lost their semi-finals in penalty shootouts. This was the last tournament to feature a team from West Germany, with the country being reunified with East Germany a few months later in October, as well as teams from the Eastern Bloc prior to the end of the Cold War in 1991, as the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia teams made last appearances. Costa Rica, Ireland and the UAE made their first appearances in the finals. As of 2018, this was the last time the UAE qualified for a FIFA World Cup finals. The official match ball was the Adidas Etrusco Unico.

The 1990 World Cup is widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups in terms of the games.[1][2][3][4] It generated an average 2.2 goals per game – a record low that still stands[5] – and a then-record 16 red cards, including the first ever dismissal in a final. The tournament also had a significant lasting influence on the game as a whole. In England, the team's success in this tournament led to the resurgence of the domestic top-flight, which had suffered from violence on the pitch and hooliganism by spectators throughout the 1980s.[6] It saw the introduction of the pre-match Fair Play Flag (then inscribed with "Fair Play Please") to encourage fair play. Overly defensive tactics led to the introduction of the back-pass rule in 1992 and three points for a win instead of two, both of which have encouraged attacking play, increasing spectator interest in the sport. The tournament also produced some of the World Cup's best remembered moments and stories, including the emergence of African nations, in addition to what has become the World Cup soundtrack: "Nessun dorma".[6]

The 1990 World Cup stands as one of the most watched events in television history, garnering an estimated 26.69 billion non-unique viewers over the course of the tournament.[7] This was the first World Cup to be officially recorded and transmitted in HDTV by the Italian broadcaster RAI in association with Japan's NHK.[8] The huge success of the broadcasting model has also had a lasting impact on the sport.[6] At the time it was the most watched World Cup in history in non-unique viewers, but was bettered by the 1994 and 2002 World Cups.[9]

Host selection[edit]

The vote to choose the hosts of the 1990 tournament was held on 19 May 1984 in Zürich, Switzerland. Here, the FIFA Executive Committee chose Italy ahead of the only rival bid, the USSR, by 11 votes to 5.[10] This awarding made Italy only the second nation to host two World Cup tournaments, after Mexico had also achieved this with their 1986 staging. Italy had previously had the event in 1934, where they had won their first championship.

Austria, England, France, Greece, West Germany and Yugoslavia also submitted initial applications for 31 July 1983 deadline.[11] A month later, only England, Greece, Italy and the Soviet Union remained in the hunt after the other contenders all withdrew.[12] All four bids were assessed by FIFA in late 1983, with the final decision over-running into 1984 due to the volume of paperwork involved.[13] In early 1984, England and Greece also withdrew, leading to a two-horse race in the final vote. The Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games, announced on the eve of the World Cup decision, was speculated to have been a major factor behind Italy winning the vote so decisively,[14] although this was denied by the FIFA President João Havelange.[10]


116 teams entered the 1990 World Cup, including Italy as host nation and Argentina as reigning World Cup champions, who were both granted automatic qualification. Thus, the remaining 22 finals places were divided among the continental confederations, with 114 initially entering the qualification competition. Due to rejected entries and withdrawals, 103 teams eventually participated in the qualifying stages.

Thirteen places were contested by UEFA teams (Europe), two by CONMEBOL teams (South America), two by CAF teams (Africa), two by AFC teams (Asia), and two by CONCACAF teams (North and Central America and Caribbean). The remaining place was decided by a play-off between a CONMEBOL team and a team from the OFC (Oceania).

Both Mexico and Chile were disqualified during the qualification process, the former for fielding an overage player in a prior youth tournament,[15] the latter after goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked injury from a firework thrown from the stands in Chile's final qualifying match against Brazil, which caused the match to be abandoned. Chile was also banned from the 1994 qualifiers for this offence.

Three teams made their debuts, as this was the first World Cup to feature Costa Rica and the Republic of Ireland, and the only one to date to feature the United Arab Emirates.

Returning after long absences were Egypt, which appeared for the first time since 1934; the United States (which would not miss a World Cup again until 2018), which competed for the first time since 1950; Colombia, which appeared for the first time since 1962; Romania, which last appeared at the Finals in 1970; and Sweden and the Netherlands, both of which last qualified in 1978. Austria, Cameroon, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia also returned after missing the 1986 tournament.

Among the teams that failed to qualify were 1986 semi-finalist France (missing its first World Cup since 1974) and Poland (its first since 1970).

List of qualified teams[edit]

The following 24 teams qualified for the final tournament.


Twelve stadiums in twelve cities were selected to host matches at the 1990 World Cup. The Stadio San Nicola in Bari and Turin's Stadio delle Alpi were completely new venues opened for the World Cup. Of the twelve stadiums used, only four (San Siro, Luigi Ferraris, Comunale of Florence, and Renato Dall'Ara) had been used for the 1934 FIFA World Cup.

The remaining ten venues all underwent extensive programmes of improvements in preparation for the tournament, forcing many of the club tenants of the stadia to move to temporary homes. Additional seating and roofs were added to most stadia, with further redevelopments seeing running tracks removed and new pitches laid. Due to structural constraints, several of the existing stadia had to be virtually rebuilt to implement the changes required.

Like España '82, the group stage of this tournament was organized in such a way where specific groups only played in two cities close in proximity to each other. Group A only played in Rome and Florence (Hosts Italy played all but two competitive matches in Rome (their semi-final match was played in Napoli, and their third-place match in Bari), Group B played their matches in Naples and Bari (except for Argentina vs. Cameroon, which was the opening match of the tournament, played in Milan), Group C played their matches in Turin and Genoa, Group D played all their matches in Milan and Bologna, Group E played only in Udine and Verona, and Group F played on the island cities of Cagliari and Palermo. The cities that hosted the most World Cup matches were the two biggest cities in Italy: Rome and Milan, each hosting six matches, and Bari, Naples, and Turin each hosted five matches. Cagliari, Udine and Palermo were the only cities of the 12 selected that did not host any knockout round matches.

The England national team, at the British government's request, played all 3 of their group stage matches in Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. Hooliganism, rife in English football in the 1980s had spilled over onto the European continent when 39 mostly Italian Juventus supporters were killed and 600 were injured at the 1985 European Cup Final in Brussels while trying to flee from an attack by Liverpool supporters. This hooliganism had followed the English national team while they played friendlies on the European continent – the distrust of English fans was high enough that the English Football Association's reputation and even diplomatic relations between the UK and Italy were seen to be at risk if England played any group stage matches on the Italian mainland. Thanks largely to British Sports Minister Colin Moynihan's negative remarks about English fans weeks before the match, security around Cagliari during England's three matches there was heavy – in addition to 7,000 local police, the Carabinieri and special forces of the Italian military were also there patrolling the premises. The Italian authorities' presence proved to be justified as there were several riots during the time England were playing their matches in Cagliari, leading to a number of injuries, arrests and even deportations.[16][17]

Most of the construction cost in excess of their original estimates and total costs ended up being over £550 million (approximately $935 million). Rome's Stadio Olimpico which hosted the final was the most expensive project overall, while Udine's Stadio Friuli, the newest of the existing stadia (opened 14 years prior), cost the least to redevelop.

Milan Rome Turin Naples
San Siro Stadio Olimpico Stadio delle Alpi Stadio San Paolo
45°28′40.89″N 9°7′27.14″E / 45.4780250°N 9.1242056°E / 45.4780250; 9.1242056 (San Siro) 41°56′1.99″N 12°27′17.23″E / 41.9338861°N 12.4547861°E / 41.9338861; 12.4547861 (Stadio Olimpico) 45°06′34.42″N 7°38′28.54″E / 45.1095611°N 7.6412611°E / 45.1095611; 7.6412611 (Stadio delle Alpi) 40°49′40.68″N 14°11′34.83″E / 40.8279667°N 14.1930083°E / 40.8279667; 14.1930083 (Stadio San Paolo)
Capacity: 74,559[18][19] Capacity: 73,603[18][19] Capacity: 62,628[18][19] Capacity: 59,978[18][19]
Stadio San Paolo (Napoli vs Club Brugge) - panoramio (4).jpg
Bari Florence
Stadio San Nicola Stadio Comunale
41°5′5.05″N 16°50′24.26″E / 41.0847361°N 16.8400722°E / 41.0847361; 16.8400722 (Stadio San Nicola) 43°46′50.96″N 11°16′56.13″E / 43.7808222°N 11.2822583°E / 43.7808222; 11.2822583 (Stadio Artemio Franchi)
Capacity: 51,426[18][19] Capacity: 38,971[18][19]
Soccer in Florence, Italy, 2007.jpg
Verona Udine
Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi Stadio Friuli
45°26′7.28″N 10°58′7.13″E / 45.4353556°N 10.9686472°E / 45.4353556; 10.9686472 (Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi) 46°4′53.77″N 13°12′0.49″E / 46.0816028°N 13.2001361°E / 46.0816028; 13.2001361 (Stadio Friuli)
Capacity: 35,950[18][19] Capacity: 35,713[18][19]
Italy - Verona - Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi.jpg Stadio "Friuli" - panoramio.jpg
Cagliari Bologna Palermo Genoa
Stadio Sant'Elia Stadio Renato Dall'Ara Stadio La Favorita Stadio Luigi Ferraris
39°11′57.82″N 9°8′5.83″E / 39.1993944°N 9.1349528°E / 39.1993944; 9.1349528 (Stadio Sant'Elia) 44°29′32.33″N 11°18′34.80″E / 44.4923139°N 11.3096667°E / 44.4923139; 11.3096667 (Stadio Renato Dall'Ara) 38°9′9.96″N 13°20′32.19″E / 38.1527667°N 13.3422750°E / 38.1527667; 13.3422750 (Stadio Renzo Barbera) 44°24′59.15″N 8°57′8.74″E / 44.4164306°N 8.9524278°E / 44.4164306; 8.9524278 (Stadio Luigi Ferraris)
Capacity: 35,238[18][19] Capacity: 34,520[18][19] Capacity: 33,288[18][19] Capacity: 31,823[18][19]
Stadio Dall'Ara 01-02-2020.jpg Stadio Luigi Ferraris di Genova.jpg


Squads for the 1990 World Cup consisted of 22 players, as for the previous tournament in 1986. Replacement of injured players was permitted during the tournament at FIFA's discretion. Two goalkeepers – Argentina's Ángel Comizzo and England's Dave Beasant – entered their respective squads during the tournament to replace injured players (Nery Pumpido and David Seaman).

Match officials[edit]

41 match officials from 34 countries were assigned to the tournament to serve as referees and assistant referees. Officials in italics were only used as assistants during the tournament. Referees dressed only in traditional black jerseys for the final time at a World Cup (a red change shirt was used for two Group C games in which Scotland wore their navy blue shirts).



The six seeded teams for the 1990 tournament were announced on 7 December 1989.[20] The seeds were then allocated to the six groups in order of their seeding rank (1st seed to Group A, 2nd seed to Group B, etc.).

The seeds were decided by FIFA, primarily based on the nations' performance in the 1986 World Cup, with the 1982 World Cup also considered as a secondary influence. Six of the final eight in 1986 had qualified for the 1990 tournament, the missing nations being Mexico (quarter-final in 1986) and France (third place). Italy – who were seeded first as hosts – had not reached the final eight in 1986 and this left FIFA needing to exclude one of the three (qualified) nations who were eliminated in the 1986 quarter-finals: Brazil, England or Spain.

Owing to their performance in 1982 but also to their overall World Cup record, Brazil were seeded third and not considered to drop out of the seedings. FIFA opted to seed England ahead of Spain. Spain had only been eliminated in 1986 on penalties, albeit by fourth-placed Belgium, while England had been defeated in 90 minutes by eventual winners Argentina; both countries had also reached the second stage in the 1982 event, playing in the same group in the second group stage with England ending up ahead of Spain, but Spain had also appeared in the 1978 event, while England had failed to qualify. FIFA President João Havelange had reportedly earlier stated that Spain would be seeded.[21]

Spanish officials believed the seeding was contrived to ensure England would be placed in Group F, the group to be held off the Italian mainland, in a bid to contain England's hooliganism problems. Their coach Luis Suárez said, "We feel we've been cheated...they wanted to seed England and to send it to Cagliari at all costs. So they invented this formula".[20] FIFA countered that "the formula was based on the teams' respective showings during the previous two World Cups. England merited the sixth position. This is in no way a concession to English hooliganism".[20]

Meanwhile, the Netherlands also had an argument that on grounds of recent footballing form, they should be seeded, as the winners of the 1988 European Championship, in which both Spain and England had been eliminated in the group stages, while Belgium (fourth in the 1986 World Cup after beating Spain, and thus seeded in 1990) had failed to even qualify: but this argument was countered by the fact that the Netherlands had themselves failed to qualify for both the 1982 and 1986 World Cups, which was considered the most important factor in the decision not to seed them.[22]

As it happened, the two teams considered the most unlucky not to be seeded, namely Spain and the Netherlands, were both drawn in groups against the two teams considered the weakest of the seeded nations, namely Belgium and England: and the arguments over the seeding positions fizzled out. England could be said to have justified their seeded position by narrowly winning their group ahead of the Republic of Ireland: while Spain seemed to have made their own point about being worth a seeded position, by defeating Belgium to top their own group, in doing so gaining a measure of revenge for the fact that it was Belgium who had eliminated them in 1986.

Seeds Pot 1[23] Pot 2[23] Pot 3[23]

 Italy (1st)
 Argentina (2nd)
 Brazil (3rd)
 West Germany (4th)
 Belgium (5th)
 England (6th)

 Costa Rica
 South Korea
 United Arab Emirates
 United States

 Republic of Ireland

 Soviet Union

Final draw[edit]

Ciao, a stick figure in the colours of the Italy Tricolore, was the mascot for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.

On 9 December 1989 the draw was conducted at the Palazzetto dello Sport in Rome, where the teams were drawn out from the three pots to be placed with the seeded teams in their predetermined groups. The only stipulation of the draw was that no group could feature two South American teams.[23] The ceremony was hosted by Italian television presenter Pippo Baudo, with Italian actress Sophia Loren and opera singer Luciano Pavarotti conducting the draw alongside FIFA general secretary Sepp Blatter.[24]

The draw show was FIFA's most ambitious yet with Pelé, Bobby Moore and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge appearing, as well as a performance of the Italian version of the tournament's official song "To Be Number One" by Giorgio Moroder, performed as "Un'estate italiana" by Edoardo Bennato and Gianna Nannini.[25]

The event also featured the official mascot of this World Cup, Ciao, a stick figure player with a football head and an Italian tricolor body that formed the word "ITALIA" when deconstructed and reconstructed.[26] Its name is a greeting in Italian.

Tournament review[edit]

The finals tournament began in Italy on 8 June and concluded on 8 July. 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, which eliminated the teams until a winner emerged. In total, 52 games were played.

Negative tactics[edit]

The tournament generated a record low goals-per-game average and a then-record of 16 red cards were handed out.[5] In the knockout stage, many teams played defensively for 120 minutes, with the intention of trying their luck in the penalty shoot-out, rather than risk going forward. Two exceptions were the eventual champions West Germany and hosts Italy, the only teams to win three of their four knockout matches in normal time. There were four penalty shoot-outs, a record subsequently equalled in the 2006, 2014 and 2018 tournaments. Eight matches went to extra time, a record equalled in the 2014 tournament.

Losing finalists Argentina were prime examples of this trend of cautious defensive play, choosing to do so because 3 of their best players were left off the squad due to injury. They scored only five goals in the entire tournament (a record low for a finalist). Argentina also became the first team to advance twice on penalty shoot-outs and the first team to fail to score and have a player sent off in a World Cup final.[1]

Largely as a result of this trend FIFA introduced the back-pass rule in time for the 1994 tournament to make it harder for teams to time-waste by repeatedly passing the ball back for their goalkeepers to pick up. Three, rather than two points would be awarded for victories at future tournaments to help further encourage attacking play.

Emergence of Cameroon[edit]

Cameroon reached the quarter-finals, where they were narrowly defeated by England.[1] They opened the tournament with a shock victory over reigning champions Argentina, before topping the group ahead of them, Romania and European Championship runners-up the Soviet Union. Their success was fired by the goals of Roger Milla, a 38-year-old forward who came out of international retirement to join the national squad at the last moment after a personal request from Cameroonian President Paul Biya. Milla's four goals and flamboyant goal celebrations made him one of the tournament's biggest stars as well as taking Cameroon to the last eight.[1] Most of Cameroon's squad was made up of players who played in France's premier football league, Ligue 1- French is one of the officially spoken languages in Cameroon, it being a former French territory. In reaching this stage, they had gone further than any African nation had ever managed in a World Cup before; a feat only equalled twice since (by Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010). Their success was African football's biggest yet on the world stage and FIFA subsequently decided to allocate the CAF qualifying zone an additional place for the next World Cup tournament.

All-champion final four[edit]

Despite the performances of nations such as Cameroon, Colombia, Ireland, Romania and Costa Rica, the semi-finalists consisted of Argentina, England, Italy and West Germany, all previous World Cup winners, with eight previous titles between them. After the 1970 tournament, this is only the second time in the history of the World Cup this has occurred. The teams which finished first, second and third had also contested both the two previous World Cup Finals between themselves.

Group stage[edit]

All times are Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)

In the following tables:

  • Pld = total games played
  • W = total games won
  • D = total games drawn (tied)
  • L = total games lost
  • GF = total goals scored (goals for)
  • GA = total goals conceded (goals against)
  • GD = goal difference (GF−GA)
  • Pts = total points accumulated

The Group stage saw the twenty-four teams divided into six groups of four teams. Each group was a round-robin of six games, where each team played one match against each of the other teams in the same group. Teams were awarded two points for a win, one point for a draw and none for a defeat. The teams coming first and second in each group qualified for the Round of 16. The four best third-placed teams would also advance to the next stage.

Typical of a World Cup staged in Europe, the matches all started at either 5:00 or 9:00 in the evening; this allowed for the games to avoid being played in the heat of an Italian summer, which would soar past 86F (30C) all over Italy.

If teams were level on points, they were ranked on the following criteria in order:

  1. Greatest total goal difference in the three group matches
  2. Greatest number of goals scored in the three group matches
  3. Most points earned in matches against other teams in the tie
  4. Greatest goal difference in matches against other teams in the tie
  5. Greatest number of goals scored in matches against other teams in the tie
  6. Drawing of lots

Group A[edit]

Hosts Italy won Group A with a 100 percent record. They beat Austria 1–0 thanks to substitute Salvatore 'Totò' Schillaci, who had played only one international before but would become a star during the tournament. A second 1–0 victory followed against a United States team already thumped 5–1 by Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovakians ended runners-up in the group, while the USA's first appearance in a World Cup Finals since 1950 ended with three consecutive defeats.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1  Italy (H) 3 3 0 0 4 0 +4 6 Advance to knockout stage
2  Czechoslovakia 3 2 0 1 6 3 +3 4
3  Austria 3 1 0 2 2 3 −1 2
4  United States 3 0 0 3 2 8 −6 0
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Group stage tiebreakers
(H) Host
9 June 1990
Italy  1–0  Austria Stadio Olimpico, Rome
10 June 1990
United States  1–5  Czechoslovakia Stadio Comunale, Florence
14 June 1990
Italy  1–0  United States Stadio Olimpico, Rome
15 June 1990
Austria  0–1  Czechoslovakia Stadio Comunale, Florence
19 June 1990
Italy  2–0  Czechoslovakia Stadio Olimpico, Rome
Austria  2–1  United States Stadio Comunale, Florence

Group B[edit]

Cameroon defeated reigning champions Argentina. Despite ending the match with only nine men, the African team held on for a shock 1–0 win, with contrasting fortunes for the Biyik brothers: François Omam scoring the winning goal, shortly after seeing Andre Kana sent off for a serious foul. In their second game the introduction of Roger Milla was the catalyst for a 2–1 win over Romania, Milla scoring twice from the bench (making him the oldest goalscorer in the tournament). With progression assured, Cameroon slumped to a 4–0 defeat in their final group game to the Soviet Union (in what would be their last World Cup due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union), who were striving to stay in the tournament on goal difference after successive 2–0 defeats. Argentina lost their veteran goalkeeper, Nery Pumpido, to a broken leg during their victory over the USSR: his replacement, Sergio Goycochea, proved to be one of the stars of their tournament. In the final match, a 1–1 draw between Romania and Argentina sent both through, equal on points and on goal difference but Romania having the advantage on goals scored: Romania were thus second, Argentina qualified as one of the best third-placed teams.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1  Cameroon 3 2 0 1 3 5 −2 4 Advance to knockout stage
2  Romania 3 1 1 1 4 3 +1 3
3  Argentina 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
4  Soviet Union 3 1 0 2 4 4 0 2
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Group stage tiebreakers
8 June 1990
Argentina  0–1  Cameroon San Siro, Milan
9 June 1990
Soviet Union  0–2  Romania Stadio San Nicola, Bari
13 June 1990
Argentina  2–0  Soviet Union Stadio San Paolo, Naples
14 June 1990
Cameroon  2–1  Romania Stadio San Nicola, Bari
18 June 1990
Argentina  1–1  Romania Stadio San Paolo, Naples
Cameroon  0–4  Soviet Union Stadio San Nicola, Bari

Group C[edit]

Costa Rica beat Scotland 1–0 in their first match, lost 1–0 to Brazil in their second, then saw off Sweden 2–1 to claim a place in the second round. Brazil 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.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1  Brazil 3 3 0 0 4 1 +3 6 Advance to knockout stage
2  Costa Rica 3 2 0 1 3 2 +1 4
3  Scotland 3 1 0 2 2 3 −1 2
4  Sweden 3 0 0 3 3 6 −3 0
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Group stage tiebreakers
10 June 1990
Brazil  2–1  Sweden Stadio delle Alpi, Turin
11 June 1990
Costa Rica  1–0  Scotland Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
16 June 1990
Brazil  1–0  Costa Rica Stadio delle Alpi, Turin
Sweden  1–2  Scotland Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa
20 June 1990
Brazil  1–0  Scotland Stadio delle Alpi, Turin
Sweden  1–2  Costa Rica Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genoa

Group D[edit]

Group D featured the most goals of all the groups, most due to two large wins of West Germany and defensive inadequacies of a United Arab Emirates team that lost 2–0 to Colombia, 5–1 to West Germany and 4–1 to Yugoslavia. The West Germans topped the group after a 4–1 opening victory over group runners-up Yugoslavia.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1  West Germany 3 2 1 0 10 3 +7 5 Advance to knockout stage
2  Yugoslavia 3 2 0 1 6 5 +1 4
3  Colombia 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
4  United Arab Emirates 3 0 0 3 2 11 −9 0
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Group stage tiebreakers
9 June 1990
United Arab Emirates  0–2  Colombia Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna
10 June 1990
West Germany  4–1  Yugoslavia San Siro, Milan
14 June 1990
Yugoslavia  1–0  Colombia Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna
15 June 1990
West Germany  5–1  United Arab Emirates San Siro, Milan
19 June 1990
West Germany  1–1  Colombia San Siro, Milan
Yugoslavia  4–1  United Arab Emirates Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Bologna

Group E[edit]

The winners of Group E were Spain, for whom Míchel hit a hat-trick as they beat South Korea 3–1 in an unbeaten group campaign. Belgium won their first two games against South Korea and Uruguay to ensure their progress; Uruguay's advance to the second round came with an injury time winner against South Korea to edge them through as the weakest of the third-placed sides to remain in the tournament.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1  Spain 3 2 1 0 5 2 +3 5 Advance to knockout stage
2  Belgium 3 2 0 1 6 3 +3 4
3  Uruguay 3 1 1 1 2 3 −1 3
4  South Korea 3 0 0 3 1 6 −5 0
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Group stage tiebreakers
12 June 1990
Belgium  2–0  South Korea Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, Verona
13 June 1990
Uruguay  0–0  Spain Stadio Friuli, Udine
17 June 1990
Belgium  3–1  Uruguay Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, Verona
South Korea  1–3  Spain Stadio Friuli, Udine
21 June 1990
Belgium  1–2  Spain Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, Verona
South Korea  0–1  Uruguay Stadio Friuli, Udine

Group F[edit]

Group F featured the Netherlands, England, the Republic of Ireland and Egypt. In the six group games, no team managed to score more than once in a match. England beat Egypt 1–0, the only match with a decisive result, and that was enough to win the group. England took the lead with an early goal for Lineker against Ireland, but Sheedy's late equalizer secured a draw. The Netherlands drew with Egypt: they had taken a 1–0 lead, but Egypt equalised with a penalty by Abdelghani. England then drew 0–0 with the Netherlands; a goal from a free-kick by Pearce was disallowed. For the second World Cup in succession, however, England lost their captain Bryan Robson to an injury which put him out of the tournament, just over halfway through their second match. Ireland missed a number of scoring opportunities in the second half of the other 0–0 draw against Egypt.[27] After the first four matches all four teams had equal records with two draws, one goal for and one goal against. England's victory over Egypt, thanks to a 58th-minute goal from Mark Wright, put them top of the group: in the other match, Gullit gave the Netherlands the lead against Ireland, but Niall Quinn scored a second-half equalizer and the two teams finished in second and third, still with identical records. Both teams qualified but they had to draw lots to place the teams in second and third place.

Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1  England 3 1 2 0 2 1 +1 4 Advance to knockout stage
2  Republic of Ireland 3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3[a]
3  Netherlands 3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3[a]
4  Egypt 3 0 2 1 1 2 −1 2
Source: FIFA
Rules for classification: Group stage tiebreakers
  1. ^ a b The Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands finished with identical records. With both teams assured of progressing, they were split by the drawing of lots to determine second and third place.
11 June 1990
England  1–1  Republic of Ireland Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari
12 June 1990
Netherlands  1–1  Egypt Stadio La Favorita, Palermo
16 June 1990
England  0–0  Netherlands Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari
17 June 1990
Republic of Ireland  0–0  Egypt Stadio La Favorita, Palermo
21 June 1990
England  1–0  Egypt Stadio Sant'Elia, Cagliari
Republic of Ireland  1–1  Netherlands Stadio La Favorita, Palermo

Ranking of third-placed teams[edit]

Pos Grp Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Qualification
1 B  Argentina 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3 Advance to knockout stage
2 D  Colombia 3 1 1 1 3 2 +1 3
3 F  Netherlands 3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3
4 E  Uruguay 3 1 1 1 2 3 −1 3
5 A  Austria 3 1 0 2 2 3 −1 2
6 C  Scotland 3 1 0 2 2 3 −1 2
Source: FIFA

Ireland won the drawing of lots against the Netherlands for second place in Group F: the Netherlands were the only third-placed team not to have won any matches - or lost any: they progressed with three draws (3 points).

Knockout stage[edit]

The knockout stage involved the 16 teams that qualified from the group stage of the tournament. There were four rounds of matches, with each round eliminating half of the teams entering that round. The successive rounds were: round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals, final. There was also a play-off to decide third/fourth place. For each game in the knockout stage, any draw at 90 minutes was followed by 30 minutes of extra time; if scores were still level there would be a penalty shoot-out (five penalties each, if neither team already had a decisive advantage, and more if necessary) to determine who progressed to the next round. Scores after extra time are indicated by (aet) and penalty shoot-outs are indicated by (p).

Round of 16Quarter-finalsSemi-finalsFinal
24 June – Turin
30 June – Florence
 Argentina (p)0 (3)
26 June – Verona
 Yugoslavia0 (2)
3 July – Naples
 Yugoslavia (aet)2
 Argentina (p)1 (4)
25 June – Genoa
 Italy1 (3)
 Republic of Ireland (p)0 (5)
30 June – Rome
 Romania0 (4)
 Republic of Ireland0
25 June – Rome
8 July – Rome
23 June – Bari
 West Germany1
1 July – Milan
 Costa Rica1
24 June – Milan
 West Germany1
 West Germany2
4 July – Turin
 West Germany (p)1 (4)
23 June – Naples
 England1 (3) Third place
 Cameroon (aet)2
1 July – Naples7 July – Bari
 Cameroon 2 Italy2
26 June – Bologna
 England (aet)3  England1
 England (aet)1

All times listed are local (UTC+2)

Round of 16[edit]

Two of the ties – Brazil vs Argentina 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 was won for Argentina by a goal from Claudio Caniggia with 10 minutes remaining after a run through the Brazilian defence by Diego Maradona and a strong performance from their goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea. It would later come to light that Branco had been offered water spiked with tranquillisers by Maradona and Ricardo Giusti during half time, to slow him down in the second half. Initially discredited by the press, Branco would be publicly proven right years later, when Maradona confessed the episode on a TV show in Argentina.[28] Hosts Italy beat Uruguay 2–0, thanks to goals from Schillaci and Aldo Serena.

The match between West Germany and the Netherlands was held in Milan, and both sides featured players from the two Milanese clubs (Germans Andreas Brehme, Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann for Internazionale, and Dutchmen Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard for Milan). After 22 minutes Rudi Völler and Rijkaard were both dismissed after a number of incidents between the two players, including Rijkaard spitting on Völler. As the players walked off the pitch together, Rijkaard spat on Völler a second time. 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 Netherlands in the 89th minute narrowed the score to 2–1 but the Germans saw the game out to gain some revenge for their exit to the Dutch in the previous European Championship.

Meanwhile, in Cameroon v. Colombia, Roger Milla was introduced as a second-half substitute with the game goalless, eventually breaking the deadlock midway in extra time. Three minutes later he netted a second after Colombian goalkeeper, René Higuita was dispossessed by Milla while well out of his goal, leaving the striker free to slot the ball into the empty net. Though the deficit was soon reduced to 2–1, Cameroon held on to become the first African team ever to reach the World Cup quarter-finals. Costa Rica were beaten 4–1 by Czechoslovakia, for whom Tomáš Skuhravý scored the tournament's second and final hat-trick.

The Republic of Ireland's match with Romania remained goalless after extra time and the Irish side won 5–4 on penalties. David O'Leary converted the penalty that clinched Ireland's place in the quarter-finals. Ireland thus became the first team since Sweden in 1938 to reach the last eight in a World Cup finals tournament without winning a match outright. Yugoslavia beat Spain 2–1 after extra time, with Dragan Stojković scoring both the Yugoslavs' goals. England were the final qualifier against Belgium, as midfielder David Platt's swivelling volley broke the stalemate with the game moments away from a penalty shoot-out.

Cameroon 2–1 (a.e.t.) Colombia
Milla 106', 108' Report Redín 115'
Attendance: 50,026
Referee: Tullio Lanese (Italy)

Czechoslovakia 4–1 Costa Rica
Skuhravý 12', 63', 82'
Kubík 76'
Report González 55'

Brazil 0–1 Argentina
Report Caniggia 81'
Attendance: 61,381

West Germany 2–1 Netherlands
Klinsmann 51'
Brehme 85'
Report R. Koeman 89' (pen.)
Attendance: 74,559

Italy 2–0 Uruguay
Schillaci 65'
Serena 83'
Attendance: 73,303

Spain 1–2 (a.e.t.) Yugoslavia
Julio Salinas 84' Report Stojković 78', 93'

England 1–0 (a.e.t.) Belgium
Platt 119' Report


The first game of the last 8 saw Argentina and a Yugoslav side, reduced to 10 men after only half an hour, play out a goalless stalemate. The holders reached the semi-finals after winning the penalty shoot-out 3–2, despite Maradona having his penalty saved. A second Argentine miss (by Pedro Troglio) looked to have eliminated them until goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea – playing because first choice Nery Pumpido broke his leg during the group stage – rescued his side by stopping the Yugoslavs' final two spotkicks.

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 hosts Italy, thus becoming the team who advanced the furthest in a World Cup without winning a match. West Germany beat Czechoslovakia with a 25th minute Lothar Matthäus penalty.

The quarter-final between England and Cameroon was the only quarter-final to produce more than one goal. Despite Cameroon's heroics earlier in the tournament, David Platt put England ahead in the 25th minute. At half-time, Milla was brought on. In the second half, the game was turned on its head during a five-minute stretch: first Cameroon were awarded a penalty from which Emmanuel Kunde scored the equaliser; then in the 65th minute Eugene Ekeke put Cameroon ahead. Cameroon came within eight minutes of reaching the semi-finals before they conceded a penalty, which Gary Lineker converted. Midway through extra time, England were awarded another penalty and Lineker again scored from the spot. England were through to the semi-finals for the first time since 1966.

Republic of Ireland 0–1 Italy
Report Schillaci 38'
Attendance: 73,303

Czechoslovakia 0–1 West Germany
Report Matthäus 25' (pen.)
Attendance: 73,347
Referee: Helmut Kohl (Austria)

Cameroon 2–3 (a.e.t.) England
Kundé 61' (pen.)
Ekéké 65'
Report Platt 25'
Lineker 83' (pen.), 105' (pen.)
Attendance: 55,205


The first semi-final featured the host nation, Italy, and the world champions, Argentina in Naples. 'Toto' Schillaci scored yet again to put Italy ahead in the 17th minute, but Claudio Caniggia equalised midway through the second half, breaking Walter Zenga's clean sheet streak throughout the tournament. There were no more goals in the 90 minutes or in extra time despite Maradona (who played for Naples in Serie A at the time) showing glimpses of magic, 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 after more heroics from Goycochea.

The semi-final between West Germany and England at Juventus's home stadium in Turin was goalless at half-time. Then, in the 60th minute, a free-kick tapped to Andreas Brehme resulted in a shot which was deflected off Paul Parker into his own net. England equalised with ten minutes left; Gary Lineker was the scorer. The game ended 1–1. Extra time yielded more chances. Klinsmann was guilty of two glaring misses and both sides struck a post. England had another Platt goal disallowed for offside. The match went to penalties, and West Germany went on to win the shoot-out 4–3.[29]

The two matches had the exact same score at 1–1, an identical penalty shootout score at 4–3, and the same order of penalties scored.

Third place play-off[edit]

The game saw three goals in a 15-minute spell. Roberto Baggio opened the scoring after a mistake by England's goalkeeper Peter Shilton, in his final game before international retirement, presented a simple opportunity. A header by David Platt levelled the game 10 minutes later but Schillaci was fouled in the penalty area five minutes later, leading to a penalty. Schillaci himself got up to convert the kick to win him the tournament's Golden Boot for his six-goal tally. Nicola Berti had a goal ruled out minutes later, but the hosts claimed third place. England had the consolation prize of the Fair Play award, having received no red cards and the lowest average number of yellows per match.

Italy 2–1 England
Baggio 71'
Schillaci 86' (pen.)
Report Platt 81'
Attendance: 51,426


The final between West Germany and Argentina has been cited as the most cynical and lowest-quality of all World Cup Finals.[1][2][30][31][32] In the 65th minute, Argentina's Pedro Monzon - himself only recently on as a substitute - was sent off for a foul on Jürgen Klinsmann. Monzon was the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup Final.

Argentina, weakened by suspension and injury, offered little attacking threat throughout a contest dominated by the West Germans, who struggled to create many clear goalscoring opportunities. The only goal of the contest arrived in the 85th minute when Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal awarded a penalty to West Germany, after a foul on Rudi Völler by Roberto Sensini leading to Argentinian protests.[33] Andreas Brehme converted the spot kick to settle the contest. In the closing moments, Argentina were reduced to nine after Gustavo Dezotti, who had already been given a yellow card earlier in the match, received a red card when he hauled Jürgen Kohler to the ground during a stoppage in play. The 1–0 scoreline provided another first: Argentina were the first team to fail to score in a World Cup Final.

With its third title (and three second-place finishes) West Germany – in its final tournament before national reunification – became the most successful World Cup nation at the time along with Italy and Brazil (also won three titles each then). West German manager Franz Beckenbauer became the first man to both captain (in 1974) and manage a World Cup winning team, and only the second man (after Mário Zagallo of Brazil) to win the World Cup as a player and as team manager. It was also the first time a team from UEFA won the final against a non-European team.

West Germany 1–0 Argentina
Brehme 85' (pen.) Report
Attendance: 73,603



Salvatore Schillaci received the Golden Boot award for scoring six goals in the World Cup. This made him the second Italian footballer to have this honour, after Paolo Rossi won the award in 1982. In total, 115 goals were scored by 75 players (none credited as own goals).

6 goals
5 goals
4 goals
3 goals
2 goals
1 goal



Golden Boot winner Golden Ball winner Best Young Player FIFA Fair Play Trophy
Italy Salvatore Schillaci Italy Salvatore Schillaci Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Robert Prosinečki  England

All-star team[edit]

Goalkeeper Defenders Midfielders Forwards

Final standings[edit]

After the tournament, FIFA published a ranking of all teams that competed in the 1990 World Cup finals based on progress in the competition, overall results and quality of the opposition.[35][36]

Pos Grp Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts Result
1 D  West Germany 7 5 2 0 15 5 +10 12 1st
2 B  Argentina 7 2 3 2 5 4 +1 7 2nd
3 A  Italy 7 6 1 0 10 2 +8 13 3rd
4 F  England 7 3 3 1 8 6 +2 9 4th
5 D  Yugoslavia 5 3 1 1 8 6 +2 7 Eliminated in the quarter-finals
6 A  Czechoslovakia 5 3 0 2 10 5 +5 6
7 B  Cameroon 5 3 0 2 7 9 −2 6
8 F  Republic of Ireland 5 0 4 1 2 3 −1 4
9 C  Brazil 4 3 0 1 4 2 +2 6 Eliminated in the round of 16
10 E  Spain 4 2 1 1 6 4 +2 5
11 E  Belgium 4 2 0 2 6 4 +2 4
12 B  Romania 4 1 2 1 4 3 +1 4
13 C  Costa Rica 4 2 0 2 4 6 −2 4
14 D  Colombia 4 1 1 2 4 4 0 3
15 F  Netherlands 4 0 3 1 3 4 −1 3
16 E  Uruguay 4 1 1 2 2 5 −3 3
17 B  Soviet Union 3 1 0 2 4 4 0 2 Eliminated in the group stage
18 A  Austria 3 1 0 2 2 3 −1 2
18 C  Scotland 3 1 0 2 2 3 −1 2
20 F  Egypt 3 0 2 1 1 2 −1 2
21 C  Sweden 3 0 0 3 3 6 −3 0
22 E  South Korea 3 0 0 3 1 6 −5 0
23 A  United States 3 0 0 3 2 8 −6 0
24 D  United Arab Emirates 3 0 0 3 2 11 −9 0


See also[edit]

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Italy 1990". BBC Sport. 17 April 2002. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b "World Cup 1990". ESPN Soccernet. 9 November 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  3. ^ Glanville, Brian (2005). The Story of the World Cup. Faber. ISBN 0-571-22944-1.
  4. ^ Freddi, Cris (2006). Complete Book of the World Cup. HarperSport. ISBN 978-0-00-722916-1.
  5. ^ a b "FIFA World Cup™ Record – Organisation". Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "A riot of colour, emotion and memories: the World Cup stands alone in the field of sport". The Independent. Archived from the original on 1 May 2022. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  7. ^ "World Cup and Television" (PDF). FIFA. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2007. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
  8. ^ "L'Alta Definizione a Torino 1986 – 2006 di Marzio Barbero e Natasha Shpuza". Crit.rai.it. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  9. ^ "The FIFA World Cup TV viewing figures" (PDF). FIFA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 31 October 2007.
  10. ^ a b "Italy gain vote over Soviet rival". The Times. London. 21 May 1984. p. 21.
  11. ^ "Sports in brief". The Times. London. 3 August 1983. p. 17.
  12. ^ "Sports in brief". The Times. London. 2 September 1983. p. 20.
  13. ^ "World Cup formats". The Times. London. 12 November 1983. p. 18.
  14. ^ "Romania could join the boycott". The Times. London. 22 May 1984. p. 30.
  15. ^ "Mexico given ban in soccer". The New York Times. Associated Press. 1 July 1988. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
  16. ^ "WORLD CUP '90; Fan Violence at World Cup Finals". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 November 2018
  17. ^ "WORLD CUP '90 : English Fans Clash With Riot Police". LA Times. Retrieved 12 November 2018
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "WM 1990 Sonderheft". Kicker (in German). May–June 1990. p. 185.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "World Cup '90: The Complete Collection". Orbis.
  20. ^ a b c "England Is Seeded Sixth in 1990 World Cup in Italy". The New York Times. 8 December 1989. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  21. ^ "THE SIDELINES : World Cup Seeds Reported". Los Angeles Times. Rome, Italy. 29 November 1989. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  22. ^ "Cup seedings revealed". The New York Times. 30 November 1989. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  23. ^ a b c d "The Times guide to the draw for the World Cup finals". The Times. London. 9 December 1989. p. 51.
  24. ^ Gardner, Paul (10 December 1989). "U.S. must face Italy in cup". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  25. ^ "The FIFA World Cup Final Draw history" (PDF). FIFA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 June 2010. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  26. ^ "Mascots". FIFA. Archived from the original on 1 June 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
  27. ^ "Ireland and Egypt Play 0-0 Tie". The New York Times. Associated Press. 18 June 1990. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  28. ^ "Como Maradona "envenenou" Branco na Copa de 90". UOL. Retrieved 6 May 2014.[permanent dead link]
  29. ^ "England v West Germany at Italia '90 – as it happened". Guardian. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2014.
  30. ^ Glanville, Brian (2005). The Story of the World Cup. Faber. p. 303. ISBN 0-571-22944-1.
  31. ^ Vecsey, George (9 July 1990). "Winning Ugly, Losing Ugly, Just Plain Ugly". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 August 2010.
  32. ^ "A poor display bare of class". The Times. London. 9 July 1990.
  33. ^ Glanville, Brian (2018). The Story of the World Cup. Faber and Faber. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-571-32556-6. After half-time, the game grew harsher, when Klaus Augenthaler was blantanly tripped in the box by Goycoecha, Germany had far stronger claims for a penalty than that which won the match. Sensini bought down Völler in the area Codesal gave a penalty, Argentina protested furiously, and seemed to have a pretty good case.
  34. ^ "World Cup 1990 in Italy - World Cup Brazil 2014 Guide". Archived from the original on 12 December 2019. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  35. ^ "All-time FIFA World Cup Ranking 1930–2010" (PDF). Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 June 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  36. ^ "FIFA World Cup: Milestones, facts & figures. Statistical Kit 7" (PDF). FIFA. 26 March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 May 2013.
  37. ^ Figure does not include shoot-outs; penalties were missed during games by: Michal Bílek (Czechoslovakia v USA), Rubén Sosa (Uruguay v Spain), Faruk Hadžibegić (Yugoslavia v Colombia), Gianluca Vialli (Italy v USA) and Enzo Scifo (Belgium v Spain)
  38. ^ Figure does not include second yellow cards that led to a red card
  39. ^ Argentina defeated Italy in the semi-finals by a penalty shoot-out which, by FIFA regulations counts as a draw for statistical reasons.

External links[edit]