The best from 1994
For the first time in the tournament's history, the World Cup headed to the United States in 1994. The competition gave us record attendances, the first final decided by a penalty shoot-out, Diego Maradona's last ever goal on the biggest stage of all and plenty more.
In this slideshow, we count down the 10 best players from the 15th edition of the World Cup finals.
10. Krasimir Balakov (Bulgaria)
Balakov and Bulgarian talisman Hristo Stoichkov openly clashed off the field but more than made up for it with the synergy they displayed on it.
Balakov failed to find the net at the 1994 World Cup, even missing his penalty in the shoot-out victory over Mexico in the round of 16. Yet despite the lack of goals, the Sporting CP midfielder was at the centre of everything the surprise semi-finalists did well – the schemer to Stoichkov’s spearhead.
9. Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany)
Klinsmann was just as effective in 1994 as he had been four years earlier, but Germany lacked the same spark that carried them to the title in Italy. The striker scored the only goal of the game against Bolivia in the group stage, before netting a header against Spain and a double against South Korea.
Klinsmann then combined beautifully with Rudi Voller to score the second in a 3-2 win over Belgium in the last 16, before two late goals from Bulgaria knocked the Germans out at the quarter-final stage.
8. Tomas Brolin (Sweden)
The Brolin who turned up at Leeds and quickly became a figure of fun bore no comparison to the 1994 World Cup version. The forward was the creative spark in an overachieving Sweden side, pulling the strings behind the potent strike partnership of Martin Dahlin and Kennet Andersson.
He converted a penalty against Russia, then scored an excellent opener in the quarter-final win over Romania before signing off with a goal in the 4-0 drubbing of Bulgaria in the third-place play-off.
7. Marcio Santos (Brazil)
The stereotype suggests Brazil have won five World Cups in spite of their defenders rather than because of them, but Marcio Santos was just one of the many brilliant centre-backs the country has produced.
A colossus in the air who also used the ball well, the then-Bordeaux man combined a dominant physical game with the ability to pick the right pass from deep. He scored in the 3-0 win against Cameroon, but his best performance came against the United States after the eventual champions had been reduced to 10 men.
6. Paolo Maldini (Italy)
With the legendary Franco Baresi missing most of the tournament through injury, his place in the Italian defence was taken by Milan colleague Maldini. The 25-year-old had served his apprenticeship at left-back despite being right-footed, but he spent much of the 1994 World Cup at centre-half.
Maldini barely put a foot wrong as the Azzurri squeezed out of a group in which all four teams finished with same points and goal difference, before replicating his solid showings in the knockout phase. Baresi miraculously returned to play alongside Maldini in the final, which Italy lost to Brazil on penalties after a goalless draw.
5. Dunga (Brazil)
Dunga was as far removed from the stereotype of a Brazilian footballer as it's possible to be. A study in discipline and hard graft, he was a world away from the deep-lying midfielders of 12 years before, Falcao and Toninho Cerezo.
Yet while many of his team-mates were more eye-catching, nobody was as important in Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning side as Dunga. His gift was not for tricks or elegant passing, but for positioning and the enforcement of coach Parreira’s decidedly unromantic philosophy. He was the enforcer, the facilitator, and when he took the captaincy from Rai, the squad went with him.
4. Roberto Baggio (Italy)
As the 1994 World Cup fades in the collective memory, one image of Roberto Baggio remains: the dejected Divine Ponytail looking down at the floor having missed the decisive penalty in the World Cup Final shoot-out defeat by Brazil. He deserves to be remembered for far more, though, with the forward having carried the Azzurri to within a few spot-kicks of becoming world champions.
Baggio scored five goals in total, including a crucial double against Nigeria in the round of 16, a late winner against Spain in the quarter-finals and another brace to beat Bulgaria in the last four.
3. Gheorghe Hagi (Romania)
Hagi was arguably the last of the great old-school playmakers and the 1994 World Cup was him at his young, fresh and effervescent best. He was short and stocky but elegant, graceful and lithe with it, embracing his role as the fulcrum of an entertaining Romania side who won plenty of admirers in the United States and beyond.
Twice he laid in Florin Raducioiu to score against Colombia, before curling in a preposterous goal from wide on the left. He then pinged in a 25-yarder in a 4-1 defeat by Switzerland, before lashing the ball home in the famous 3-2 second-round triumph over Argentina.
2. Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria)
Having lost their first group game 3-0 to Nigeria, Bulgaria needed a result in their second match against Greece. They got it when Stoichkov settled their nerves by converting from the spot in the fifth minute, before scoring another in the second half.
That was the start of something special: Stoichkov & Co. went on to beat Argentina 2-0 in their final group game to advance to the last 16, before the striker scored again in a 1-1 draw with Mexico which Bulgaria won on penalties. Stoichkov's spot-kick in the semi-final against Italy wasn't enough for victory, but he went home with a share of the Golden Boot after scoring six times.
1. Romario (Brazil)
Romario was the very definition of a ruthless finisher. His tournament started perfectly, scoring the first and winning the penalty for the second against Russia, before the striker fired home the opener against Cameroon and equalised against Sweden.
Those efforts helped Brazil through to the last 16, where he laid on Bebeto's winner against the United States. Romario then edged Brazil ahead against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, before settling a tight semi-final with Sweden in the 80th minute. He didn't get his name on the scoresheet against Italy in the showpiece, but the Barcelona frontman did convert his penalty in the Selecao's shoot-out success.
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