Monday, June 26, 2006

Italia :Flash Back 1990

Italia 90 was the first Football World Cup which I had watched, as before that one, I was too young to comprehend, and more importantly didn't have a Television set at home.

With annual exams over, I was excited for Maradona, and so were most of my friends. However, at the end of the event, though the tournament had its moments, we all agreed that both World Cup and Maradona were a disappointment.

Most of the fault didn't lie with him. Poor guy wasn't simply allowed to play. Hardly he stood on his legs, he would be pulled down. At the end of it, his would have been some swollen knees.

Virtually, the whole World Cup was played on defensive. Many Results were decided on penalty kicks. What more, it started with a shock when minnows Cameroon piped defending champions Argentina.

Cameroon were surprise stars, with Roger Mila stealing the show. He returned back from the retirement to become the oldest man to hit a goal in the World Cup's history.

But his performance against Columbia in the pre-quarterfinals was interesting. Columbia's goalkeeper Rene Higuita was a maverick of sorts. He use to spend more time outside the penalty box than inside. He even used to take penalty kicks for the team.

Since Columbia was practicing off side trap, his misadventures outside the box could have proved dangerous. And it did. During one such misadventure, Roger Milla snatched the ball from him, and virtually escorted the ball to the nets with the hopping Higuita on his heels.

Columbia were knocked out despite having star players like Carlos Valderrama. Unfortunately, defender Andres Escobar would be killed by betters(as in bet) after scoring own goal in the next world up.

Cameroon juggernaut came to end in the quarterfinals where they lost to England, after leading 2-1 till last 10 minutes, due to two controversial penalties given against them, both hit home by the star English striker Gary Linekar.

Whenever any Football World Cup starts, English media always declares England a strong contender. This, till recently, was true for Wimbledon and Cricket World Cup too. But they never live up to the hype, at least in the period I have been following sports.

England were in the group of death - having star studded but listless Holland, competitive Ireland, and excellent Egypt to compete with. One would have imagined to witness exciting Football. On the contrary, it was the group which scored least goals, and played most draws.

In fact, Holland was ousted in the round one itself despite having stars like current coach Marco Van Basten, hippy haired Ruud Gullit, and Frank Rijkaard.

Number 3 Italy played exciting Football those days, unlike defensive now. Striker Salvatore Schillachi ran amuck in that event and won both Golden Shoe and Golden Ball. Young, promising Roberto Baggio was in their ranks, and so was Paolo Maldini. Walter Zenga, Italy's fashionable, poster boy goal Keeper had an envious record of not conceding a single goal, that is, till semi finals.

Ironically, the semi final against Argentina was a different story for him. Zenga was eclipsed by the third hero(Milla & Schillachi, the other two)of this world cup - Argentinean goalie, Sergio Goycochea.

Goycochea was incidentally the number two Goalkeeper of the team. He replaced fractured Nery Pumpido for late matches. And boy, what a replacement that was. Goycochea was instrumental in keeping formidable Brazilians at bay and knocking them out in the last sixteen.

Goycochea's heroics helped Argentina beat Yugoslavia in quarter finals in the penalty shoot out, and he was the key again with yet another shoot out
against Italy in semi finals. Fancied Zenga was piped, and Goycochea was the unlikeliest hero.

His luck, however, ran out in the finals against Germany, who had defeated England in another penalty shoot out in their semi final.

Germany had more than their fair shares of stars in the team with Captain Lothar Matthaeus, current coach Juergen Klinsmann, former coach Rudi Voeller, Andreas Brehme, Juergen Kohler, Thomas Haessler and not the least, the legendry Franz Beckenbauer as the coach.

But final was bit of disappointment. Three Argentinean players, including the prolific scorer - Claudio Caniggia - were forced to sit out of the main eleven because of two yellow cards in the previous matches.

In the later half, they were playing with only nine players. And to add insult to the injury, referee awarded a very controversial penalty in last five minutes which was duly scored by Brehme.

That brought some what defensive Italia 90 to the end. However, I enjoyed it nevertheless with the typical kid's exuberance.

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