FIFA World Cup 1994: Top 10 Memorable Moments
There is an episode of the television show Sports Night, where in discussing a commemorative feature on Bobby Thompson's famous "shot heard round the world" in 1951, one of the lead characters defends his desire to celebrate it with a 49th anniversary piece.
In that spirit, what better time to celebrate the top 10 moments of the 1994 World Cup than a few months after its 17th anniversary?
And in all seriousness, there was a lot to enjoy about the world's biggest football competition's venture to the United States as packed stadiums watched some of the best talent ever brought together at one tournament.
Of course not every game was great, but more than enough provided at least a moment or two that would last long in memory. Here are ten of those, accompanied with great video to help you relive them, or if you're seeing them for the first time, be introduced to some football history.
Maradona's Last World Cup Goal
Love him or hate him, there is no denying Diego Maradona has played his part in the storied history of the World Cup. Mostly it was the part of one of the game's greatest players inspiring his Argentina side, in particular for their win in 1986.
But undoubtedly there were negatives too, and his final World Cup brought the biggest of them all when he was kicked out for failing a drug test.
Before that came one last World Cup memory of Maradona to be etched in our minds, as he put the finishing touch to a superb Argentina team move against Greece.
Maradona proceeded to go running, screaming towards the camera, but he was not long for the World Cup after that.
Klinsmann's Clinical Finish Against South Korea
Reigning champions Germany would prove unable to defend their title won in Italy four years prior, going out to an inspired Bulgaria team in the quarterfinals. But it wasn't through want of trying on the part of their brilliant forward Jurgen Klinsmann.
This goal against South Korea (one of two) was superb, and if can you excuse this writer a moment of personal indulgence, perhaps my favourite goal from my first World Cup.
Klinsmann collected the ball midway in the Korea half, turned and laid it off to Thomas Hassler, who proceeded to drive into the box. The midfielder then squared it to Klinsmann, positioned just off the penalty spot, where the striker flicked it up with his right foot and spun round in one motion before lashing it into the net.
Goal of the Tournament?
In the three tournaments that followed 1994, Saudi Arabia failed to progress beyond the group stage, while they did not qualify for 2010.
But in the United States, in what was their first World Cup, they gave a pretty decent showing as they finished second in Group F before losing 3-1 to Sweden in the second round.
Their 1-0 win against Belgium also featured what was arguably the goal of the tournament by Saeed Al-Owairan. The video more than does the talking.
Ireland Upset Eventual Finalists Italy
Italy had a difficult start to a tournament in which they would reach the final. They only just scraped through a Group E, in which all four teams would finish with four points. That struggle was in part caused by an upset at the hands of the Republic of Ireland in their opening game.
The Irish were in the middle of a relative peak period for their national team, having qualified for two of the previous three tournaments since former World Cup winner Jack Charlton became manager.
Here they got the win that would secure their own passage to the second round, Ray Houghton lobbing Gianluca Pagliuca with a tremendous finish.
Brazil Make It to a World Cup Final for the First Time in 24 Years
Romario had already scored four times for Brazil as they made their way through World Cup 1994, but it was his final open-play goal of the tournament that would be most significant.
Having drawn 1-1 with Sweden in their last Group B game, Brazil met them again in the semifinal. The likes of Martin Dahlin and Tomas Brolin made the Swedes a side not to be dismissed, and they held Brazil for nearly 80 minutes.
It was at that point that Romario ensured this group of players would do what a Brazil squad hadn't managed since 1970.
The ball was crossed deep to the far post where it found the striker as he timed his leap to perfection, placing a textbook header into the bottom corner. (Go to the 7:00 minute mark of the above video to see the goal).
Awaiting them in the final were their opponents of 24 years previously, the Italy team of Roberto Baggio.
Oleg Salenko Scores Five Against Cameroon
Russia would not even quality for the second round, but they managed to make some impact on World Cup '94 thanks to a brilliant display from one man.
Oleg Salenko enjoyed a decent career as he traveled all round Europe, but this was undoubtedly the highlight, the striker scoring five times as his Russia side thrashed Cameroon 6-1.
Thanks to a penalty scored in their 3-1 loss to Sweden the previous match, it would mean Salenko would finish the tournament's joint top scorer with Hristo Stoichkov.
His six goals in the span of two games beat out the likes of Romario, Jurgen Klinsmann and Roberto Baggio.
Bebeto Celebrates New Life and Starts a Phenomenon
Bebeto probably didn't know he was creating something of a football phenomenon when he celebrated his quarterfinal goal against Holland. Joined by Romario and Mazinho, their rocking of an imaginary child days after the birth of the goalscorer's son would go onto become the go-to celebration for new-parent footballers everywhere (though there was also that time Francesco Totti gave birth to a football...).
The goal that led to it was pretty darn good too. Bebeto made the most of a napping Netherlands defence as he slipped in and went on to round it past Ed De Goey.
Letchkov Sends Bulgaria into the World Cup Semifinal
It was never this good before, and it has never been so good since, but Bulgaria will always remember their World Cup '94 as talisman Hristo Stoichkov led a talented bunch all the way to the semifinals.
Along the way they thrashed Greece and even beat Argentina, but it was the goal that saw them through to the semifinal that was arguably the greatest moment.
Stoichkov brought his side back to level terms on 75 minutes having been a goal down to Germany. Three minutes later Zlatko Yankov skillfully set himself up to strike a perfect cross into the German box.
It found Yordan Letchkov getting across the last defender and meeting it with a flying diving header that sent the ball across and beyond the reach of Bodo Illgner's dive.
Hagi and Romania Upset Argentina
Like Bulgaria, Romania made a huge impact on the 1994 World Cup as a true world-class talent and probably the strongest collective of players in their history came together to entertain and surprise the world.
In the second round they met an Argentina side without the recently banned Maradona, but still boasting top-class players like Gabriel Batistuta, Ariel Ortega and Fernando Redondo.
But Romania had Gheorghe Hagi, and having gone 2-1 up through a brace by Ilie Dumitrescu, the "Maradona of the Carpathians" struck.
On 58 minutes Dumitrescu broke with the ball from his own half. Finding his own route blocked by Argentinian defenders, he sent a perfectly-angled pass into the path of Hagi, who struck it beyond the reach of Luis Islas in goal.
Abel Balbo pulled one back for Argentina, but Romania held on to reach the quarterfinal.
Roberto Baggio Misses Crucial Penalty, Hands World Cup to Brazil
It is hard to remember if it was a saying originally used to describe sports or one just adopted for such a use later on, but the idea of football being kind one moment then cruel the next was never so true as it was for Roberto Baggio in World Cup '94.
There was something of a resemblance to World Cup '82 for Italy. They and their star player Baggio had struggled to get going early on and were fortunate to progress. Then things begun to click, and the "Divine Ponytail" embarked on a string of great performances as Italy got on track.
Make no mistake Baggio was excellent. Like Paolo Rossi 12 years earlier, his goals inspired Italy as they battled through to the final, but the comparisons with 1982 ended there and the final was more akin to 1970.
Italy and Brazil fought out a 0-0 draw in the Rose Bowl of Pasadena, a tense affair that could not be broken in neither normal or extra-time, so penalties it was.
With Brazil leading 3-2, Baggio had to score Italy's fifth penalty to keep the Azzurri in it. But then came that cruel twist of fate, and Baggio's penalty flew over the crossbar.
Brazil had won their fourth World Cup, and Italy went home with the small consolation of being runners-up.