Selecao triumph in drama-filled WC

Brazil players with their trophy after triumphing at the 1994 World Cup.

Scarcely has there been more drama in a FIFA World Cup than there was in the 1994 edition.

A country that called football 'soccer' was handed the hosting rights, Diego Maradona was banned for a second doping offence, Colombian defender Andres Escobar scored an own goal against minnows USA, which eventually led to his death, and the elegant Roberto Baggio's missed a spot kick in the final, something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

Surprisingly, the Americans soaked in the sport massively as crowds thronged the monumental stadia around the country as it turned out to be a real carnival off the pitch.

The upsets began to unfurl right from the Group stages with Republic of Ireland miraculously nipping past former champions Italy 1-0. Another surprising result, a few days after, was Sweden holding the impressive Brazilians 1-1, with the electric Romario upfront.

As romantic as those results may have been, things turned ugly in a matter of three days. First, the United States put Colombia out of the tournament with a 2-1 victory. It was a real shame that it was Escobar's last competitive game as he was brutally shot 12 times outside a bar in Medellin. One of the shooters had apparently said: “Thanks for the own goal.”

If the Escobar incident was tragic, one of the greatest players in the world – Maradona – would go on to disgrace himself and his country after his side's second Group game against Nigeria. The 34-year-old was sent home by the Argentine FA and his country would lose their remaining two games (against Bulgaria in the Group stage and Romania in the Round of 16). The lone bright spark for Albiceleste was the emergence of energetic Gariel Batistuta.

Brazil and Italy endured some cagey results before making it a repeat of the 1970 final. But it wasn't half as entertaining with Arrigo Sacchi seemingly lacking any ambition to win it. Interestingly, two of the greatest defenders were playing their first World Cup – Cafu and Paolo Maldini.

After a drab affair, it was finally penalties that would call the outcome of this game and nothing summed up the result better than the 'Divine Ponytail' Baggio, who had had a terrific World Cup until that point, hung his head in disappointment as Selecao lifted their fourth title.

Final result: Brazil beat Italy 3-2 after penalties.

 

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Selecao triumph in drama-filled WC

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