Back of the Net's alternative USA '94: Awful penalties, minding ornaments and everyone being Irish
The decision to host the 1994 World Cup in the USA, a country in which the terms ‘football’, ‘World’ and ‘Cup’ all had different meanings to the European versions, proved to be a great success.
Although certain allowances had to be made for the American audience – such as the introduction of timeouts, seven points being awarded for a goal and the Dallas Cowboys being shoe-horned into Group C – the tournament saw the return of attacking football after the dour 1990 competition.
USA puts faith in Diana Ross
Mistakenly taking her 1983 single ‘Up Front’ to be a sign of footballing prowess, tournament organisers entrusted songstress Diana Ross with the task of taking a ceremonial penalty to open the competition. Ross dragged her kick wide, but the goal broke into pieces and fireworks went off anyway, drowning out her appeals for a retake as the 'keeper moved off his line.
The USA team, which was assembled on the day of their first game via an advert on Craigslist, performed surprisingly well and made the second round despite wearing a kit made of denim, which became incredibly uncomfortable in the 35 degree heat.
World Cup 1994 saw the first ever indoor game of football, between the USA and Switzerland. It was presumed to be impossible to play football inside before that and the match was marred by repeated yells from the owner of the Pontiac Silverdome telling players not to hit any of his furniture which was dotted around the playing surface.
Everyone becomes Irish
After England failed to qualify, the football-loving public in the British Isles were forced to either support, or in the case of Andy Townsend play for, the Republic of Ireland instead.
Commentary cliches flowed like the Guinness they assumed was being drunk in Dublin, as Ireland overcame Italy. Ireland lost in sweltering conditions to Mexico, leaving manager Jack Charlton - who, like most of the commentators, had never visited Ireland - to claim that "the Mexicans didn’t beat us, the weather beat us". The points were duly awarded to the Weather, but it had little impact on Group E where Mexico, Ireland, Italy and Norway all finished on four points. As ever, distance from Denmark was used to decide who went through.
Ireland went out in the round of 16 to Holland, but Charlton petitioned to ensure that ‘Excellent Development of Youth Players’ went through instead.
The divine ponytail
Roberto Baggio, nicknamed ‘The Divine Ponytail’ due to the hairstyle that was immaculately conceived on his head, dragged a pedestrian Italy side to the final to face Brazil.
The nervy contest ended 0-0 and it was all set up for Baggio to be the hero once again in the penalty shootout, but he hadn’t read the script (another concession to American audiences) and blasted over the bar. The goal collapsed and fireworks went off. For Baggio it was an ignominious ending and he was relegated to the rank of Dino Baggio.