Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site


World Cup USA '94 was universally hailed as a success on many fronts, including its record crowds. But with an estimated 2 billion viewers tuned in to Sunday's championship game, the tournament exposed an Achilles heel: a format that let Brazil and Italy play through 120 minutes of exhausting and scoreless soccer, only to resort to a penalty shootout in which Brazil outshot Italy, 3 to 2.

This, many immediately opined, was no way to decide the 52nd and last game of a month-long tournament - an event that culminated in a classic matchup between two of the sport's superpowers.

About these ads

Three other World Cup finals went into overtime, but this was the first and likely the last decided by penalty kicks - a sort of Russian roulette between goalkeeper and shooter that bears little resemblance to soccer's basic nature. Shootouts likely will be scrapped for the 1998 World Cup in France, replaced with a sudden-death overtime.

That's small consolation to the Italians, who saw two heroic players, Roberto Baggio and Franco Baresi, tragically sail penalty shots over the goal's crossbar, a 12-hankie ending fit for opera buffs.

Called ``Mr. July'' for his clutch scoring leading up the final, Baggio took Italy's last shot, a do-or-die blast from 12 yards in front of the goal. ``I could not believe my eyes,'' he said of his errant boot. ``I kicked with power, against my nature.'' Had Baggio made the kick, and Brazil scored on its fifth shot, the game would have gone to sudden-death penalty kicks.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.