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FIFA World Cup History

United States 1994 FIFA World Cup

1994 World Cup Betting

Year: 1996

Participants: 24

Countries: Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Colombia, Germany, Greece, South Korea, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, USA, Sweden, Switzerland

Championship: Brazil 1, Italy 0 (3-2 on penalty kicks)

Top goal scorer: Oleg Salenko, Russia and Hristo Stoitchkov, Bulgaria (6)

MVP: Romario, Brazil.

Soccer in the United States? Doesn't sound like a perfect match, but in 1994, the world's biggest soccer event invaded America for the first time.

One of FIFA's goals under president Joao Havelange was to expand the world scope of the sport. Bringing the World Cup to the United States naturally followed that policy, in hopes that interest in the game would finally catch on in the world's greatest economic power. Another factor that didn't hurt America's cause was the results from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. More than 100,000 jammed in the Rose Bowl to watch a third-place game between Yugoslavia and Italy. If fans would come out for that . . .

Italy's pony-tailed Roberto Baggio had the World Cup as his stage in 1994. A year earlier, he had been named FIFA player of the year, and now he was expected to lead this Italian team to greatness. Italy struggled in the first round -- as it did in 1982, when it won its third World Cup -- but Baggio came alive in the elimination rounds.

Baggio scored two goals to help Italy avoid an upset against Nigeria in the round of 16, scored in the game-winner in the 88th minute against Spain in the quarterfinals, and scored twice more in the semis against Bulgaria. . . .

But if the 1994 tournament was the rise of Baggio, it was the fall of Diego Maradona. The Argentine star had been recalled to the national team to rescue it in the qualifying stages, and he showed some of his old brilliance in the first round.

But after Argentina's second game, Maradona tested positive for a banned substance. He was banned from the rest of the tournament, ending a great World Cup legacy, and Argentina promptly lost its next two games. . . .

One of the great surprises of the tournament was the play of the U.S. team, which advanced to the second round before losing to Brazil. In pool play, the U.S. had shocked Colombia, one of the favorites to win the tournament. But sadly, euphoria for the U.S. meant tragedy in Colombia. Andres Escobar, who had scored an "own-goal" in the U.S. game, was shot in Colombia in a dispute that may have been related to his mistake. . . .

The championship featured Brazil and Italy, two nations chasing a record fourth world championship. Brazil had one of its most powerful teams ever, and its "beautiful game" was led by superstars Romario and Bebeto. But the Brazilian attack was countered by a strong Italian defense, and the game ended 0-0 and had to be decided by penalty kicks.

The game came down to Baggio, who needed to convert his penalty kick to keep Italy alive. It sailed high, and Brazil had its "tetra" -- the fourth title.

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