It averaged fewer goals per match than any other World Cup and was criticised for negative tactics, yet Italia ’90 can light up the eyes of any fan who remembers the tournament.
Images of Cameroon humbling the world’s elite or the late Bobby Robson keeping his cool while others melted around him are enough to warm a football fan’s heart.
Is this reaction an unexplainable phenomenon? Can an era of the game in which men wore foolishly short shorts possibly hold elements we long for now?
England made the journey to Italy, so too did Scotland and the Republic of Ireland for a tournament that existed in an age before social media and players lived without selfies. Yet, 25 years since day one of the tournament, the memories still move us.
World Cup Italia 90
An aria originating from a 1926 opera hardly sounds inspiring as a World Cup theme song, but we challenge you to listen to Nessun Dorma and not come over all sentimental.
As those powerful opening lyrics accompany the orchestra, try fighting off memories of 1990, World Cup sticker books and recording the action on video.
The BBC’s musical choice to introduce coverage of the tournament was emotive, dramatic and enduring. It was no cheap, short-term hit and Luciano Pavarotti’s high notes reached number two in the UK singles chart.
But what if you preferred a toe-tapper? How about a toe-tapper with John Barnes rapping.
New Order’s ‘World in Motion’ reached number one in the charts, reverberated around the pubs of the land and provided simple lyrics that men, women and children could belt out. Barnes rapped, thousands tried to mimic his effort.
One YouTube video simply introduces Benjamin Massing’s hip-high challenge on Claudio Caniggia as “the greatest tackle in World Cup history”.
His Cameroon side were about to write their name in the tournament’s folklore by shocking holders Argentina in a 1-0 win and Massing ensured there would be no late equaliser.
It was a leap-from-the-sofa moment. Not just a professional foul to end an attack but delivered with the force of a stampede as Caniggia attempted to hurdle errant challenge number three of his run
He won’t get past that,” shouted commentator Brian Moore. “An assault and a brutal assault it was.”
Massing’s foul – he hit his man so hard he had to retrieve his own boot – is a vivid memory of a distant age. Even amid one of the greatest shocks in 85 years of World Cup football, his clinical act stands out.
The tournament featured twice as many red cards – 16 – as the 1986 World Cup.
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