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. 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. A month later, only England, Greece, Italy and the Soviet Union remained in the hunt after the other contenders all withdrew. 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. 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, although this was denied by the FIFA President João Havelange.
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), three 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, the latter after goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked injury from a firework thrown from the stands, which caused the match to be abandoned. Chile were also banned from the 1994 qualifiers for this offence.
Three teams qualified for the first time: Costa Rica, the Republic of Ireland and the United Arab Emirates.
Returning after long absences were Egypt, who appeared for the first time since 1934; the United States, who competed for the first time since 1950; Colombia, who appeared for the first time since 1962; and Romania, who last appeared at the Finals in 1970.
Among the teams who failed to qualify were France, Denmark, Poland and Hungary. As of 2014, this was the last time that Egypt and United Arab Emirates qualified for a FIFA World Cup finals.
Twelve stadiums were selected to host the World Cup matches in twelve different cities. The Stadio San Nicola in Bari and Turin's Stadio delle Alpi were completely new venues opened for the 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 Espana '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 their competitive matches in Rome, except for their semi-final match), 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 2 biggest cities in Italy: Rome and Milan, each hosting 6 matches, and Bari, Naples, and Turin each hosted 5 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, were forced to play all their matches in Cagliari. Hooliganism, rife in English football in the 1980s had followed the national team while they played friendlies on the European continent – the distrust of English fans was so high that the English FA'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 Peter Moniyhan's negative remarks about English fans weeks before the match, security around Cagliari during England's three matches there was extremely heavy – in addition to 7,000 local police and Carabineri, highly trained Italian military special forces were also there patrolling the premises.
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 would host 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.
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).
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. 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 based on the nations' performance in, primarily, 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. 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, while England had been defeated in 90 minutes; 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.
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". 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".
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. 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.
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.
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. Its name is an Italian greeting.
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.
The tournament generated a record low goals-per-game average and a then-record of 16 red cards were handed out. 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 and 2014 tournaments. Eight matches went to extra time, a record equalled in the 2014 tournament.
Ireland and Argentina were prime examples of this trend of cautious defensive play; the Irish scored just twice in five games in drawing all their matches until their defeat to Italy in the quarter-finals. Losing finalists Argentina, meanwhile, scored only five goals in the entire tournament (a record low for a finalist). Argentina also became the first (and so far only) 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.
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.
Cameroon reached the quarter-finals, where they were narrowly defeated by England. They opened the tournament with a shock victory over reigning champions Argentina, before topping the group ahead of both them 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. 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.
Despite the performances of nations such as Cameroon, Colombia, Ireland and Costa Rica, the semi-finalists consisted of Argentina, England, Italy and West Germany, all previous World Cup winners, with a total of 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.
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.
If teams were level on points, they were ranked on the following criteria in order:
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 Czechoslovaks ended runners-up in the group, while the USA's first appearance in a World Cup Finals since 1950 ended with three consecutive defeats.
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 brothers Biyik: 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 a Soviet Union (in what would be their last World Cup due to the dissolution of the Soviet Union) side striving to stay in the tournament on goal difference after successive 2–0 defeats. A 1–1 draw between Romania and Argentina sent both through, the latter as one of the best third-placed teams.
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.
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.
The winners of Group E were Spain, for whom Michel 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.
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, thanks to a 58th-minute goal from Mark Wright – and that was enough to win the group.
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.
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 (at least five penalties each, 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).
All times listed are local (UTC+2)
Two of the ties – Argentina vs Brazil 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 an outstanding 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 in a TV show in Argentina. As for Italy, a strong second half showing saw the hosts beat Uruguay 2–0, thanks to another goal from Schillaci and one from Aldo Serena.
The match between West Germany and the Netherlands was held in Milan, and both sides featured several notable 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 (including Rijkaard spitting on Völler) between the two players left the Argentine referee with no option but to send them both off. 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, the heroics of Cameroon and Roger Milla continued in their game with Colombia. 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 comfortably 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.
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. 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 then 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 in 24 years.
The first semi-final featured the host nation, Italy, and the world champion, 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 shot from Andreas Brehme was deflected by 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.
The game saw three goals in a 15-minute spell. Roberto Baggio opened the scoring after a rare 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.
The final between West Germany and Argentina has been cited as the most cynical and lowest-quality of all World Cup Finals. In the 65th minute, Argentina's Pedro Monzon was sent off for a foul on Jürgen Klinsmann, 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. Andreas Brehme, who later said there was no foul, converted the spot kick to settle the contest. In the closing moments, Argentina were reduced to nine after Gustavo Dezotti 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. West German manager Franz Beckenbauer became the only 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.
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 different players (none credited as own goals).6 goals
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.Most wins: Italy (6)
Most defeats: South Korea, Sweden, UAE, United States (3)
First goal: François Omam Biyik (for Cameroon vs Argentina; Group B, 8 June)
Fastest goal in a match: 3 minutes 59 seconds – Safet Sušić (for Yugoslavia vs UAE; Group D, 19 June)
Latest goal scored in a match (apart from penalty shoot-outs): 119 minutes – David Platt (for England vs Belgium; Round of 16, 16 June)
Biggest win: 5–1 – by Czechoslovakia vs United States, and by West Germany vs UAE
Most goals in the tournament (team): West Germany (15)
Most goals in the tournament (player): Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) (6)
Least goals in the tournament (team): Egypt and South Korea (1)
Most goals in a game: 6 (United States 1 Czechoslovakia 5; West Germany 5 UAE 1)
Most goals in a game (player): 3, by Míchel (for Spain vs South Korea) and Tomáš Skuhravý (for Czechoslovakia vs Costa Rica)
Fewest goals conceded: Brazil, Egypt and Italy (2)
Total goals scored: 115 (average 2.21 goals per game, a record low in World Cup history)
Most clean sheets: Italy (5)
Number of penalties awarded: 18 (13 scored, 5 missed)
Most yellow cards in a game: 9 – Austria vs United States (Group A, 19 June)
Most yellow cards in the tournament: Argentina (22)
Total yellow cards: 162
Most red cards in the tournament: Argentina (3)
Total red cards: 16 (a record high for a 24 team World Cup)
Highest attendance: 74,765 – West Germany vs Yugoslavia (Group D, 10 June)
Lowest attendance: 27,833 – Yugoslavia vs UAE (Group D, 19 June)
Average attendance: 48,391 (5th highest in World Cup history)
Oldest player: Peter Shilton (England) (40 years 292 days)
Youngest player: Rónald González Brenes (Costa Rica) (19 years 307 days)
Italy's performance of 6 wins, 1 draw and 0 losses is the highest ever winning percentage for a team that did not win the World Cup.
The Republic of Ireland became the second team in World Cup history to reach the last eight without winning a match (Sweden progressed to the last eight by default in 1938 when Austria withdrew).