A dip into the Football Italia archives has Antonio Labbate reflecting on Italia ‘90, where under expectation, the tournament’s hosts came so close to victory.
Salvatore Schillaci seemingly came from nowhere. But the 1990 World Cup made Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci a world star. His six goals in the tournament saw him net the Golden Boot and become Italy’s overnight scoring sensation, leaving the more acclaimed Gianluca Vialli in the shadows.
Born and bred in the streets of Palermo, Schillaci learned his trade on the roadsides of Sicily. “He was born to score goals,” says Angelo Chianello - the scout who spotted him. “He was like Santa Rosalina to the people of Sicily. He was ours. But above all he was mine because I saw him grow up.”
Schillaci used to play on one street corner in particular and had a reputation in the neighbourhood as a real talent. So much so that people would often look out of their windows and balconies to see the youngster play.
He arrived at Juventus in the season prior to the Finals from Serie B and earned a place in the squad with 15 goals in 30 games. His six goals were key to Italy’s third place finish as his strikes and bulging eyes caught the public’s imagination.
However, post World Cup Schillaci would struggle to be the same player. He was closely man-marked and eventually dropped from the national side. A move to Inter followed but regular goals were never to be his again until a move to Jubilo Iwata in Japan. Now living in Palermo, he runs a football school for kids.
Vicini took charge of the national team after the 1986 World Cup. He graduated from the Under-21 set-up where he had been since 1976. A likeable man, he made his mark immediately at the 1988 European Championships where many of his Under-21 side were in the team that saw Italy reach the semi-finals - only to be defeated by the efficient Soviets. Vicini would never recover from the bitter blow of Italia ‘90 and lost his job to Arrigo Sacchi in 1991 after failing to guide the side to Euro ‘92.
Italia ‘90 will never be remembered as a great spectacle. Despite good displays from Italy and a few others including a Paul Gascoigne-inspired England and a flamboyant Cameroon side, it was a tournament marred by negativity and ill discipline. The back pass to the ‘keeper was wildly over used. There were increasing levels of diving and a host of red cards for reckless challenges. There was also the notorious spitting incident between Germany’s Rudi Voeller and Frank Rijkaard of Holland.
Argentina reached the Final by winning just two games in normal time - one of those with the help of 10 seconds of brilliance by Maradona in setting up Claudio Caniggia to score the winner over Brazil. Cameroon made history by becoming the first African side to reach the last eight after they beat Colombia with the help of 38-year-old Roger Milla and the antics of Colombia ‘keeper Rene Higuita. Costa Rica were also a surprise after their entertaining defeat of Scotland, but they were to be knocked out by a Tomas Skuhravy hat-trick. Bobby Robson got England to the last four despite knowing his England reign was coming to an end. But a tearful Gazza, David Platt and defender Des Walker were all to return to Italy soon after as fully fledged Serie A stars.
In the middle of a splendid four-year spell at Inter, Lothar Matthaus was the captain and real driving force behind the West German World Cup triumph and was understandably voted Player of the Tournament. His dynamic runs from midfield and tactical awareness were crucial to his country’s success, as were his four goals. After man marking Maradona in the 1986 Final, Matthaus got his revenge in Rome as he held aloft the golden trophy as Diego sobbed in the shadows. A fine example of an archetypal 1990s footballer, it’s just a shame his appearance at Euro 2000 did nothing but mar his reputation.
Roberto Baggio’s inclusion against Czechoslovakia was for many around the world the first real glimpse of the new golden boy of Italian football. With his £8m world record transfer from Fiorentina to Juventus just about concluded, Baggio demonstrated his worth with the goal of the tournament. After playing a one-two with Giuseppe Giannini on the half way line, Baggio set off for goal. With the ball under his control he slalomed past numerous players before coolly slotting past Jans Stejskal. As one commentator said: “It was a goal the world was waiting for.” Baggio had arrived on the world stage and in some style.
The worst World Cup Final ever. There was little of the Argentine magic which stood out from their 1986 success. Up until the 1990 game, every Final from 1930 had seen at least three goals. But there would be no repeat in Rome. Many remember the magnificent Three Tenors eve-of-match concert more than the Final itself. Argentina went into the game with four players suspended and would see two dismissed in the game itself. In the end the German’s won it with a controversial late Andreas Brehme penalty. How fitting that the tournament ended with a dive and a spot-kick.
West Germany 1-0 Argentina
Brehme pen 85 (WG)
Germany: Illgner, Brehme, Kohler, Augenthaler, Buchwald; Berthold (Reuter), Haessler, Littbarski, Matthaus; Klinsmann, Voeller
Argentina: Goicoechea; Ruggeri (Monzon), Simon, Lorenzo, Serrizuela; Sensini, Burruchaga (Calderon), Basualdo, Troglio; Dezotti, Maradona.
Ref: Edgardo Mendez (Mexico)