Saturday 04 April 2020, 08:00

#WorldCupAtHome: Argentina exact revenge on Brazil

  • Brazil vs Argentina chosen by fans for the #WorldCupAtHome series

  • Clash took place at Italy 1990 in the Round of 16

  • Match being re-aired in full on Saturday 4 April at 18:00 CEST

The Round of 16 at the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™ featured several mouth-watering fixtures, but there was one, the superclassico between arch-rivals Brazil and Argentina, that really stood out. Heading to Italy, Argentina were the reigning world champions and one title away from matching Brazil’s then-haul of three world crowns.

With the clash also being a South American derby, it did not lack in intensity. A Seleção dominated from the off, but Argentina handled the pressure adeptly, taking full advantage of a moment of genius from Diego Maradona, who set up Claudio Caniggia for the only goal of the game and a place in the quarter-finals.

The summary

Brazil 0-1 Argentina 24 June 1990 Stadio delle Alpi, Turin

Goals: Claudio Caniggia (ARG, 81')

Line-ups: Brazil: Claudio Taffarel, Ricardo Gomes (c), Ricardo Rocha, Jorginho, Branco, Dunga, Mauro Galvao (Renato Gaucho 85’), Alemao (Silas 83’), Valdo, Muller, Careca Argentina: Sergio Goycochea, Oscar Ruggeri, Juan Simon, Julio Olarticoechea, Pedro Monzon, Jose Basualdo, Ricardo Giusti, Pedro Troglio (Gabriel Calderon 61’), Jorge Burruchaga, Claudio Caniggia, Diego Maradona (c)

The stakes

Argentina and their talisman Maradona had been waiting eight years for this encounter. After their clash with Brazil at Spain 1982, when Maradona was sent off and Argentina lost for the second time against Brazil at a World Cup, it was high time for La Albiceleste to record a historic victory that some deemed equivalent to their two World Cup titles. This was evident at Brazil 2014, when visiting Argentinian fans missed no opportunity to remind their hosts of that chastening defeat and Maradona’s part in it.

From the two squads that featured in the 1982 showdown, only two players were still there in 1990; Maradona and Calderon. It was therefore a special opportunity for the Argentinian No10 to exact full revenge – something he was certainly capable of, having performed imperiously four years earlier in leading his country to the world title in Mexico.

Brazil came into the 1990 finals as favourites thanks to a star-studded squad. They won all their group stage games, unlike Argentina, who struggled badly in losing to Cameroon, beating the USSR and drawing with Romania, only progressing as one of the best third-place sides.

1990 World Cup Finals, Valdo races for the ball with Argentina's Claudio Caniggia

The match

Brazilian dominance: As expected, Brazil took the initiative as Careca’s early effort was denied by Goycochea. Brazil continued to torment Argentina’ defence, creating chance after chance. Rocha missed an inviting one in front of the goal, before Dunga headed Branco's cross against the post. Argentina were clearly lacking in intensity and losing most the 50-50 balls. Boos and whistles could be heard whenever Maradona touched the ball – something the Napoli hero must have expected at Juventus’ stadium. Moreover, he faced incessant pressure from the Brazilians, who frequently fouled him when they could not dispossess him. Consequently, Argentina posed very little threat, with Ruggeri’s header wide being one of their rare chances.

Bilardo's silence: When the Argentinian players sat in their dressing room awaiting the half-time team talk from their ordinarily voluble coach Carlos Bilardo, they were greeted with silence. Indeed, it was only as the players were about to go back on the pitch that he said to them: "Lads, if you keep playing this way, giving the ball away, we’ll definitely lose."

Marked improvement: Bilardo’s message must have got through as his charges looked better in the second half. Admittedly, Brazil continued to dominate proceedings, but without really threatening Goycochea. Bit by bit, Maradona, who was carrying an ankle injury, and his team-mates started to find a path to goal. First Burruchaga carved out some space and forced Taffarel to push his shot out for a corner, then Calderon came close, only to be denied by Gomes.

Late drama: As the game entered the final ten minutes, Maradona somehow found a way to overcome his injury, the constant booing and, most importantly, the close attention of Brazil’s defence. Receiving the ball in a crowded midfield, he evaded Alemao and Dunga's attempts to bring him down. As he weaved his way into the final third, he drew in three defenders, who were expecting him to head for goal. However, in a moment of genius, he opted to make a right-footed pass instead to Caniggia, who rounded the goalkeeper to score the winning goal.

Argentina almost doubled their lead when Basualdo broke clean through, only to be hacked down by Gomes, who was duly sent off. Taffarel later saved from Maradona, but nothing would spoil Argentina’s celebrations at the final whistle.

The star

Claudio Caniggia made his full debut a year after Argentina had won the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Much was expected of him, but he failed to hit the heights at the 1987 and 1989 editions of the Copa America. After starting on the bench in his side’s Italy 1990 opener against Cameroon, he nonetheless began all their subsequent games. Against Brazil, he showed his brilliance by anticipating Maradona’s run and switching sides to allow his team-mate to find him. Despite the pressure, he showed immense confidence to take an extra touch and go around Taffarel, before slotting the ball into the empty net.

Although he never again received the kind of adulation which followed that goal, he continued his fine form in the semi-final against Italy, when he became the first player to score against Walter Zenga at the tournament. That goal earned Argentina a penalty shootout, in which they would go on to eliminate the hosts. Unfortunately for Caniggia, he would miss the final through suspension.

Argentina's Claudio Caniggia is seen in action during the FIFA World Cup 1990

What they said

"Brazil controlled most of the game and didn’t give us any space. Then I saw an opening and thought, ‘I’m going for this’. As I ran with the ball, I saw a flash of white – Caniggia – and although the ball was on my right foot, I managed to slip it to him between Ricardo Rocha's legs. I was lying on the ground, screaming hit it, hit it, but he didn't. He took one touch and then a second, everyone was waiting for him. But then he scored and it was thanks to him that we won. That marvellous goal destroyed Brazil's spirit." Diego Maradona

What happened next

Having struggled in the group stage, not many observers expected Argentina to prevail against Brazil, but their win over A Seleção changed everything. Inspired by that historic feat, La Albiceleste then proceeded to beat Yugoslavia and Italy (both in penalty shootouts) to make the final against Germany. However, a late Andreas Brehme penalty in the decider would shatter Argentina’s dreams of a third world title.