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Italy In USA 94

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2010 06 12 – 08828 – Washington DC – World Cup in Dupont
Greece USA
Image by thisisbossi

Italy In USA 94



World Cup USA 94 (Italy VS. Ireland)


An article about the game Italy played and lost to Ireland in USA 94, which was also the first world cup match I ever saw.


It was the summer of 1994 and the date was June 18, a day on which Italy would be playing its first world cup game against the Republic of Ireland. I for my part would be not only watching it but even present at “Giant’s Stadium” in the Meadowlands as I had gone through the trouble of getting a ticket, not only to see Italy take on Ireland but Norway in the next match as well. Regarding the game against Norway that had been a relatively easy task as interest had not been so high given there are not as many Norwegian Americans in New York or New Jersey as there are Irish Americans in these states. I however had pulled it off and would be sitting at “Giant’s Stadium” hopefully to watch Italy beat Ireland like they had done four years before in “Italia 90”.


By then I; it being four years after the tragedy had fully recovered from having lost to Argentina on penalties in 1990 and even from not having qualified to the European Nations Cup in 1992, which thanks to the by then already disintegrated Soviet Union, Italy did not play in. This would basically be Italy’s first competitive match in a major tournament since that night so long ago in Napoli, against Argentina. I mean after all who really counts a match for third place in any tournament as competitive.


Many had been the changes in Italy, now being coached by Arrigo Sacchi, the man who had made Milan invincible or practically and was expected to at least get to the final of USA 94. Roberto Baggio, had also become our star player after Italia 90, who surely would be starting every game; him even being considered by many at the time as arguably the greatest player of his generation, along with Brazil’s Romario and Argentina’s Batistuta. Italy, naturally also had other solid players, some of which were new to the team, such as Dino Baggio (no relation to Roberto), and Daniele Massaro, from AC Milan and Signori from Lazio.


Of course as with every team that aspires to win a world cup, Italy also had those players who were returning from the previous tournament such as the more experienced Maldini and Baressi. Both these players coming from AC Milan, who had won that year’s edition of the European Cup; presently known as the Champions League. As for notable absence, their really were not any, as most were healthy or least enough to start though some around the world wondered why Italy’s top goal scorer from the last world cup; Schillaci would not be playing but this was basically due to his poor form in the years preceding the world cup. All things considered there was great reason for Italy’s many fans to think their team could do in USA 94 what they had not managed to do in Italia 90 and that being to win the world cup.


In all this however there were other factors, and one of them being that Italy’s team was overly dependent on Roberto Baggio and the form he showed on any particular day; basically what it boiled down to was Italy was as good or as bad as Roberto Baggio was. Another thing to consider was that though Italy had qualified to the world cup without too many difficulties, they had not really been overly impressive coming in second to Switzerland in their group.


This a team, whom they barely managed a 2-2 draw against while playing at home and had even lost to by 1-0 on their return match. I even recall one particular qualifying match in which Italy was forced to play under a practical blizzard of snow in Scotland that ended in 0-0. Roberto Baggio, having to be literally carried of the field after a collision with a Scottish player, both of whom were going for the same ball which was coming down. Qualifying had definitely not been all that easy however Baggio and company had prevailed and even managed a win in their last qualifying match against Portugal at home, when a draw would have sufficed to get them to USA 94.


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I, at the time (as far as my life went) no longer found myself working in John Hancock’s mutual fund department; having been laid off a couple of weeks earlier but not before having made a few bets with some of the Irish American at work, who naturally put their money on Ireland’s greens while I did so on Italy’s azzurri. I, however in looking back regarding my job would have in all honesty missed several days at work, in what would have been a first for me (who had not even taken one day off) in over a year at John Hancock, for as important as work is; this is football and a world cup at that, so it comes first. I imagine that to a lot of Americans, who do not descend from football playing countries; an attitude such as mine might seem strange, if not irresponsible but that is the way many all over the world feel about football. Some even go to the extreme of giving up their jobs and spending all their savings on going to the games to cheer their team to victory.


As for Ireland; they were definitely not a bad team, solid on defense with big strong players capable of shooting the ball with both legs, and not unskilled either. Ireland, also however did not have many good players on the bench and were limited in their attacking game to mostly plays that went down the flanks in order to set up the air ball in the box, for a header or a lucky bounce. These sometimes coming from their goalkeepers long distance kicks as had been the case with their tying goal against the Netherlands in Italia 90.


I, in all that concerned this most special day for me; will never forget the pride I took when putting on the blue shirt of the Italian national football team, in order to show my support for “La Squadra Azzurra”. I being a fan also had purchased a small Italian flag in the part of Manhattan known as “Little Italy”, where I would go on to watch the final. I was even slightly worried that I might end up being surrounded by a group of Irish fans; who probably would not take loosing too kindly. All of which made me hopeful of being in an Italian section but this I would have little control over.


As for the rest of the world cup, up and till that moment, only two games had been played with the first game ending with a surprisingly difficult 1-0 victory for Germany over Bolivia, while the second one held no unique attraction, other than it was the first world cup game ever to be played in an indoor stadium. This second game having been played the very day of the one I was getting ready to go to and having ended in a 1-1 draw between the USA and Switzerland, who in qualifying had given Italy everything it could handle.


In my excitement I also started thinking, how it was going to be the first game, I had ever seen live between two national teams which not only was not a friendly but a world cup match at that. I had never even seen as much as a qualifying match of any kind, not even to the European cup, so to me it was a huge deal to be able to see the nation of my forefathers in action against Ireland. This taking on an additional importance in New York City, given that many are either of Irish or Italian descent and are not always friendly toward each other.


I basically got in the spirit of the game that moment I bought my ticket however as for actually having it all around me; this came when I got to the Port Authority Bus terminal and saw all the flags, half of which were Irish and the other Italian. I, naturally looked to be near those who were Italian, as this was a day to be among one’s contingents. The mood was definitely right for an international football game and as I looked around I could also see fans with painted faces, the Irish applying their national colors orange, green and white while Italians red, white and green.


Once at Port Authority I had no problems in catching a bus to Giant’s Stadium, where the game would be played. As for the bus I took I would say it was evenly divided among both Italian and Irish supporters, with it being abundantly clear who was for which team based on the colors on the flags they carried. In all this however it was odd to see that most of the fans weather for Ireland or Italy were actually Americans descendent from one or the other, with most of the Italian fans not even speaking Italian. Something I noticed when I tried speaking to a few in Italian who at least recognized what language it was even if they could not understand or much less reply.


In all this I must say much to the credit of the organizers of this tournament, there was no violence of any kind from either side though the occasional racial or ethnic slur could be heard from both sides with Italians refereeing to the Irish as “micks”. This given that many Irish have the letters Mc in their last name, while the Irish responded in not so kind be calling Italians “w.o.p.s” These three letters standing for “with out papers”, as many Italians first arrived to America illegally and like the expression says without papers. However these “verbal taunts” for the most part were limited and did not, or at least that I saw degenerate in to physical violence.


After, a short bus ride, we that is I and my fellow Italian supporters entered Giant’s Stadium and by then the electricity was everywhere, today we would see who would have bragging rights in the city of New York. Would it be the Irish or Italians? This we would soon find out and though Italy was slightly favorite, this did not connote automatic victory by any means.


The national anthems were played and in all sincerity I do not remember whose was played first but this did not matter; for both were sung with equal passion by both

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