Top Ten Italia 90 Memories

Italia 90′ is the first World Cup I can remember. I was six year old at the time and it’s the tournament that allowed me to fall in love with football.

When I announced on Twitter that I was going to make more retro blogs as the current football calendar was being suspended due to Covid-19, my good friend Andrew Gibney requested a top ten of Italia 90.

Not one to disappoint, here’s my top ten memories from that wonderful tournament.

If you have your own memories then share them in the comments section.

10. Ciao The Mascot

Ciao was a weird football guy(?). I had it in toy form and anytime I see Ciao now, I automatically go back to that summer in 1990.

As I was only six years old at the time, the mascot was a big part of the experience as was the Panini sticker book. I actually now have a Panini Italia 90 sticker book t-shirt.

While most mascots are cuddly and usually some type of animal or cartoon person, Ciao was a tricoloured matchstick person who had a football as a head. It didn’t make much sense but that kind of summed up the 90s!

9. Rijkaard Versus Voller

Probably the biggest gob in World Cup history.

Germany and the Netherlands have had a very rocky history, what with the Germans invading the low countries during World War II. The West Germans then beat the Dutch in the 1974 World Cup final before the Netherlands knocked West Germany out of their own Euros in 1988.c

Both had fantastic teams in 1990. The Dutch boasted a team with Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard. The Germans had top stars like Jurgen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthäus, Andreas Brehme and Rudi Völler.

During the feisty battle, Rijkaard and Völler became embroiled in an argument after the Dutchman had founded the German forward. Frank was booked for his late challenge but the two opponents continued to mouth of as the referee branded his yellow card. As the dreadlocked Rijkaard jogged back towards his goal, to defend the freekick he’d just given away, the midfielder decided to grog up a big spit and launch it at Rudi. He hit his target as the phlegmy mess dangled disgustingly on top of Völler’s perm.

Understandably this upset the German and he chased after his rival. This caught the attention of the official and he decided to book Rudi. In the resulting free-kick Völler would make a silly challenge on the Dutch keeper. Rijkaard then decided to interfere once again and he shoved Rudi Völler over. The referee felt he had no choice but to send the two fighting players off. With that Frank once again dug deep down to his lungs before retching up another load of spittle and again cover Völler’s curly hair.

Frank Rijkaard trudged off to the tunnel, while Rudi Völler ran past him (no doubt hunting down the nearest shower). Afterwards Rijkaard accepted all the blame for the incident, the two would also later appear together in a tv advert.

8. Gazza’s Tears

A young Paul Gascoigne took the World and the World Cup by storm in 1990.

His energetic runs from midfield, his exciting dribbling skills and his unique personality had media and fans all over the planet instantly interested.

Unfortunately for Gazza his over exuberance got the better of the young midfielder during England’s semi-final tie against West Germany. Paul, as always, was running full pelt with the ball but then ran into trouble as he over played it. He would then lunge into a tackle. Gascoigne immediately got up and had his hands in the air apologising for the mistimed challenge.

As the German player rolled around the turf grimacing, the ref ran over to Gazza and produced a yellow card. The youngster instantly knew that that card would rule him out of the final, if The Three Lions were to reach that stage of the competition.

As it all dawned on Gascoigne tears started gathering in his eyes and his bottom lip started to tremble. Marksman Gary Lineker quickly noticed and turned to warn England manager Bobby Robson to keep an eye on the influential young middle-man. That image has since become an iconic image!

7. Rene Higuita’s Antics

Before sweeper keepers were a thing, we had Rene Higuita.

The Colombian nothing more than receiving the ball at his feet. He was always eccentric and that’s what caught the world’s imagination in 1990.

You couldn’t miss him with his distinctive goalkeeping jersey and lion like perm. If the ball was played forward, he would be out of his box to try and get their before an oncoming attacker. He even had the temerity to start doing keepie-ups during his side’s encounter against Yugoslavia.

Unfortunately for the keeper it all went horribly for him against Cameroon in the second round.

The game finished 0-0 after ninety minutes and thus we had extra time to contend with. Cameroon striker Roger Milla then gave his country the lead and then a few minutes later Higuita was halfway inside his own half, nowhere near his own penalty area. The ball was played back to him. His first touch wasn’t great and then the goalie tried to do a drag back as the forward approached him. Milla stole the ball from the hapless Rene and charged towards the Colombian’s goal. Higuita tried to smash Roger with a sliding tackle from behind but he couldn’t prevent the goal. Cameroon would win and Colombia were sent packing.

That embarrassing episode didn’t stop Rene Higuita from being outlandishly flamboyant. He would then wow the world with his inventive goal saving scorpion kick against England, years later.

6. David Platt’s Goal Against Belgium

Not many goals make this list but I’ve never forgotten this strike from England’s David Platt against Belgium.

It was yet another second round tie that had ended in stalemate in the first ninety minutes. It looked like neither team would break the deadlock in extra time, when Paul Gascoigne broke into the Belgian’s half and won his team a free-kick with one minute left on the clock.

Gazza then chipped the ball into the penalty box. It floated over over Platt’s right shoulder. The English midfielder followed the ball’s flight and as it fell from the sky, David turned and volleyed the ball home.

It needed something special to separate the two sides and David Platt’s goal was sensationally special!

5. Klinsmann’s dive

We are all used to see footballer’s fling their bodies into the air as they’re fouled or nearly fouled in some cases.

But in 1990, Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to start the craze. A dfedneer would get close to him and then the West German striker would be flying and diving through the air.

The best example of this came in the final against holders Argentina.

Jurgen is on the right wing and bombing forward. He then knocks it beyond and incoming Pedro Monzón. The Argentine then follows through with his tackle.

Klinsmann launches himself right into the air, almost like an olympic diver. As he connects with the turf, Jurgen then inexplicably throws himself up again in what can only be described as a dramatic, over the top forward roll!

That was enough for the referee to send Monzón off and give West Germany a player advantage. That was the first ever red card in a World Cup final.

I think it was a foul and the defender’s foot was high. But did it really merit Jurgen Klinsmann’s reaction? I don’t think so. I wonder what VAR would’ve made of it.

4. Nessun Dorma

It’s not often that we can combine football with the culture art form of the opera but the BBC managed to do it wonderfully when they used Luciano Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma as their title music.

The song quickly became synonymous with football and Italia 90 in particular.

Italy has given us some truly wondrous things over the centuries. Thankfully they can add hosting a superb World Cup to that list.

Anytime I hear Nessun Dorma now I go right back to Italia 90.

3. Roger Milla’s Goal Celebrations

Roger Milla was definitely a veteran by the time the World Cup came around in 1990.

Being thirty-eight years of age, didn’t stop Milla or dampen his goalscoring instincts. He scored four in Italy that summer. Two against Romania and that brace against Colombia that saw Cameroon reach the quarter final stage, the first time an African side had every done so.

While his goalscoring technique and his age were talking points not matched his goal celebrations. After each strike the hitman would run towards the corner flag, lift one arm while his other would be on his hip as he then gave a wee jig. He would then reach out both ams out to the crowd. It has since become one of the most iconic goal celebrations ever!

2. Claudio Caniggia Getting Hacked By Cameroon

Argentina had a real electrifying goal threat in Claudio Caniggia. The long haired forward would go on and score very nice goals against Brazil and Italy. But alas it’s his dribble against Cameroon that lives on in the memory.

The forward picked up the ball inside his own half. He then used his pace to charge forward. One Cameroonian tries to step across him, but Claudio dodges his attempt. The Argentine is now in the opponent’s half as defender makes a more serious attempt to get the ball with a reckless tackle but again Caniggia keeps his feet. Cameroon’s Benjamin Massing then arrives on the scene but before he can get there Caniggia taps the ball passed him.

Massing isn’t messing around and even though the ball is now nowhere near him, he flies in with a karate-like kick that brutally forces the Argentinian to the floor. It was so hard that Massing actually lost his boot during the attack. The official had no option but send the African off.

  1. Roberto Baggio’s Goal Against Czechoslovakia

Let’s just remember I was only six when I saw this goal and it has never left me!

Roberto Baggio really shone at this World Cup and would go on to be the world’s best player. His country were obviously hosts and as you can imagine that meant a lot of added pressure for the Azzurri. But you couldn’t have guessed it by watching the magician that is Il Divin Codino.

It was against the old Czechoslovakia.

Baggio would pick up a pass and he’d step back into his own half, he would lay the ball on before receiving it back again. He would surge into the Czechs half, cutting inside from the left and dodging a desperate lunging challenge. Baggio would then dribble the ball further and reach the penalty area, where he managed a neat step-over, which sent another defender the wrong way. Then the Italian superstar would then side foot his shot beyond the goalkeeper.

Roberto Baggio would fall to the ground, realising what a great goal he had just scored in his homeland, during a World Cup.

A terrific individual goal from an excellent talent, who would go on and feature in two more World Cups and have a story to tell from both of them!

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