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On This Date in Sports July 17, 1994: Shootout for the World

in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com


It is a battle of the world’s best at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena as Brazil and Italy meet in the final of the FIFA World Cup. Each country had won three previous World Cup championships and was looking to become the first nation to win the World Cup four times. It would be the first time the World Cup was decided on penalties as teams played to a scoreless tie. Brazil would win the World Cup 3-2 in the shootout. 

All eyes were on the United States as the FIFA World Cup came to a country that had yet to embrace soccer. Team USA had ended a four-decade drought in the World Cup four years earlier and won the first Women’s World Cup in 1991. At the time of the 1994 World Cup, there was no top-level soccer league in the US following the demise of the NASL in 1985. A big part of awarding the World Cup to the United States was with the hopes of sparking a renewed interest in soccer that could allow for a new league to be born. 


The 1994 FIFA World Cup tournament had 24 teams playing in nine American cities. The tournament kicked off with an opening ceremony before the first game at Chicago’s Soldier Field on June 17th. In the first game Germany, the reigning champions beat Bolivia 1-0. One day later, Team USA played Switzerland to a 1-1 draw at the Pontiac Silverdome. On June 22nd, Team USA won their first World Cup match since 1950, beating Colombia 2-1 at the Rose Bowl. That loss would turn tragic for Colombia as Andres Escobar, who had an own goal, was murdered upon his return home. 

Despite a 1-0 loss to Romania in their final Group A match, Team USA was able to qualify for the knockout round. Team USA would get knocked out in the round of 16 by Brazil, losing 1-0 on July 4th at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto. In group play, Brazil had two wins and a draw, beating Russia 2-0 and Cameron 3-0, before a 1-1 stalemate with Sweden.

While Brazil cruised into knockout play, Italy scuffled in the group round, suffering a stunning 1-0 loss to Ireland in the Meadowlands. Italy rebounded with a 1-0 win over Norway and 1-1 draw with Mexico and was the lowest of the qualifying third-place teams after group play to make the knockout round. Things looked bleak for Italy in the round of 16 as they trailed Nigeria 1-0 in the late stages when Roberto Baggio leveled the game in the 89th minute. Baggio would later score on a penalty kick in overtime to give Italy a dramatic 2-1 win at Giants Stadium.


Brazil faced a pesky challenge from the Netherlands in the quarterfinals, winning 3-2 on a goal by Branco in the 82nd minute at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Italy meanwhile beat Spain 2-1 on a goal by Roberto Baggio in the 88th minute at Foxboro Stadium. Brazil faced Sweden for a second time in the semifinals, this time winning 1-0 on a goal by Romario in the 80th minute at the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, Roberto Baggio continued to carry Italy, scoring two goals as the Italians beat Bulgaria 2-1 in the Meadowlands. 

The Rose Bowl was the stage as a crowd of 94,194 were on hand for the crowing of a champion between Italy and Brazil. It was a game of cautious plays as scoring chances were few and far between, especially in the second half. After 90 minutes of play, there was no score. In extra time it was all Brazil, but no shots found the net, as the game remained scoreless. For the first time, the World Cup would be decided on penalty kicks. 

Marcio Santos of Brazil and Franco Baresi each missed their kicks, raising the tension in the shootout right away. Demetrio Albertini of Italy and Romario of Brazil each made their kicks, as did third shooters Alberigo Evani of Italy and Branco of Brazil. The shootout took a dramatic turn when Brazil goalie Claudio Taffarel stopped Daniele Massaro’s shot. When Dunga stepped up and put his ball past Gianluca Pagliuca, Brazil was suddenly on the verge of the championship. Roberto Baggio faced a do-or-die chance to keep Italy’s hopes alive. Baggio’s shot sailed over the goal, giving Brazil a 3-2 win in penalties.  

The success of the World Cup would lead to the launching of Major League Soccer in 1996.