Series 1 - Episode 12 1994



It was the tournament where America the beautiful welcomed the beautiful game. And it really did welcome it: however much the locals scratched their heads over a little-known sport (there’s a nice montage of trying-to-be-interested Americans here), they came to the soccer in record numbers.

As usual with these oddly mesmerising Fifa documentary features, the footage is mostly from pitch-side 16mm cameras, often slowed down and set to classical music. It’s an approach that reduces the goalless Brazil-Italy final to a sort of ballet of blurred limbs, until it all ends with a penalty shootout and a ponytailed Roberto Baggio – who’d had a great tournament up till then – hoofing the ball skywards.


A look back at the 1994 World Cup in the USA, which was the first without England since 1978, and ended in a penalty shootout to decide the winners. None of the home nations qualified for the tournament, which featured several matches taking place in stifling heat due to the demands of television broadcasts in Europe, and the 24-team format allowed several nations to reach the knockout stage despite their poor early performances. One such country was Italy, who Roberto Baggio inspired to the final, which sadly was a dismal affair that saw Brazil become the first nation to win the trophy on penalties.