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1994 World Cup, United States

1994 saw the World's most popular game trying to gain a foothold in the USA, where football is some form of armour-plated rugby, and "Soccer" is a game mainly played by women and the under-12s. England's failure to qualify robbed the host cities' SWAT teams of a chance of riot control practise, and with Scotland also absent much British attention was focused on Jack Charlton's Republic of Ireland team. The Irish team suffered in the tremendous heat, and a lasting image of the tournament is of pitches ringed with water bottles. Their high point was surely the defeat of Italy by Ray Houghton's long range shot.

As has often been the case, this served as a call to action for the classy Italians, who had a point to prove after a disappointing performance as hosts in 1990. Galvanised by Roberto Baggio, the "divine pony-tail", they progressed to a "dream" final against favourites Brazil. The teams were impossible to separate (and found it impossible to score) during normal and extra-time, so for the first time ever the World Cup final was to be decided by the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.

In a terrible irony, it was to be Baggio's miss that gave the trophy to the Dunga and the Brazilians.



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