Brazil was in unprecedented desolation. Ayrton Senna’s tragic death had prompted its government to declare three days of national mourning. Some friends, whom the Formula One showman had recently urged to win the forthcoming FIFA World Cup™ over Coq au Vin in a Paris restaurant, had the opportunity to honour him by doing just that.
Brazil, however, had not lifted the Trophy in 24 years and pessimism over the Seleção had never been higher. Hurdles, however, make for touching tributes. Those Brazilians wrote one. Here’s a statistical one to Carlos Alberto Parreira and pupils from FIFA.com.
days before USA 1994 began, Senna kicked off a friendly between Brazil and a Paris Saint-Germain XI including Bixente Lizarazu, Assis (Ronaldinho’s brother), David Ginola and George Weah. Afterwards, the three-time Formula One world champion went for dinner with the Brazilians. “He spoke to us as a group and one-on-one to give us advice and encouragement,” recalled Taffarel. “He captivated all of us, he made us believe.” Eleven days later Senna tragically died while leading the San Marino Grand Prix. Immediately after winning the Final, Dunga and team-mates proudly paraded a banner reading: “Senna, we accelerated together, the [fourth title] is ours!”
matches is what it took Brazil to finally lose a World Cup qualifier – and their July 1993 conquerors were, surprisingly, Bolivia. The 11 months in the run-up to USA 1994 also included a 0-0 draw with whipping boys Ecuador and draws with a struggling Mexico (at home, no less) and Canada.
minutes sleep is all Ronaldao claimed he got over his first two nights in the USA – not because of the consequential time difference from his Japan base, but because of the rambunctious snoring of room-mate Ronaldo! “Nobody would share a room with him because his snoring was deafening,” recalled the defender, an 11th-hour addition to Brazil’s squad. “I got lumbered with him because I was the last one to arrive. It was unbelievable.”
minutes is the earliest Brazil scored at USA 1994 – the longest it has taken a World Cup-winning side to register a goal in one of their matches. Runners-up Hungary netted a whopping 11 goals in the first 25 minutes of their six games at Switzerland 1954.
games is what Brazil played with Bebeto and Romario on the pitch together – and they didn’t lose once (17 wins, six draws). The pair scored 33 goals between them in those games, including eight at USA 1994.
Brazilian players were rolling about on the floor in fits of laughter in their Rose Bowl dressing room just minutes before they walked out for the biggest game of their lives. The players were holding hands, having just prayed before the Final, when Ricardo Rocha, sensing nerves, decided to rally the troops. “We’ve fought hard, we’ve reached this point – let’s do the same as those Japanese, the Kawasakis,” he bellowed, confusing the Kamikazes, the iconic World War II pilots, with the motorcycle manufacturers!
years after Socrates skippered and scored for Brazil on his World Cup debut against Soviet Union, his brother Rai skippered and scored for Brazil on his World Cup debut against Russia. The only other pairs of brothers to have netted in the competition are Fritz and Ottmar Walter, Rene and Willy van de Kerkhof, and Michael and Brian Laudrup.
players under the age of 18 have been to a World Cup, with Pele in 1958 and Ronaldo in ’94 the only to have won it. The full list, from youngest to oldest, is Edu, Norman Whiteside, Samuel Eto’o, Femi Opabunmi, Theo Walcott, Walter Brom, Salomon Olembe, Pele, Bartholomew Ogbeche, Ronaldo and Rigobert Song.
per cent of Brazilians – a staggeringly low total in the football-obsessed nation – believed A Seleção would win USA 1994 in a poll conducted in Sao Paulo on the eve of the tournament. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands were the favourites. As well as a forgettable qualification campaign and injury issues, Parreira had been slammed for his squad selection, with the likes of Roberto Carlos, Rivaldo, Edmundo and Evair being overlooked.
hours is what Brazil went without conceding in California at USA 1994. Taffarel kept clean sheets in all five matches in ‘The Golden State’, while he leaked goals in both games they played elsewhere – one against Sweden at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan and two against the Netherlands at the Cotton Bowl in Texas.
centre-backs were ahead of Aldair and Marcio Santos – who ultimately formed arguably the greatest defensive pairing in Seleção history – in Parreira’s pecking order. Julio Cesar quit the national team over a dispute, Valber was dumped for disciplinary reasons, Mozer and Ricardo Gomes were sent home after making the squad for USA 1994, and Ricardo Rocha limped off during Brazil’s curtain-raiser against Russia.
years and two months had passed since Romario had scored for Brazil until he bagged the brace that spared the unthinkable and booked their American adventure. After netting against Venezuela in 1989, Romario had failed to score in six internationals and been banished from the national team for 18 games for disciplinary reasons. After being left out of the squad for their crucial final preliminary against Uruguay, Carlos Alberto Parreira ate humble pie and recalled ‘Shortie’ when, already without Careca and Evair, Muller withdrew due to injury.
goals is, astonishingly, what Romario scored with his trademark toe at USA 1994. Two were breathtaking – one from almost 17 yards into the bottom corner against Sweden, and the other an outrageous volley against the Netherlands.
man has started a World Cup-winning team’s campaign as captain but not lifted the Trophy. Rai lost the armband when he lost his place in the starting XI to Mazinho ahead of the knockout phase. Jorginho, who had captained his country on multiple occasions, was expected to assume the captaincy, but Parreira surprisingly handed it to Dunga, who duly became one of the most iconic skippers in World Cup history.