Back to Brazil: Advances at Home
If 1990 was the start of America’s return to the world of international soccer, 1994 proved to be a grand coming out party. Awarded the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the United States went on to produce the most successful tournament in history, showcasing the many different faces of America in stadiums around the country.
On the pitch, the U.S. Men’s National Team automatically qualified for the World Cup as the host nation. But despite avoiding the gauntlet that is CONCACAF qualifying, the team the U.S. sent to the World Cup that year made waves with their performance, opening with a 1-1 draw against a European opponent in Switzerland and then upsetting the No. 4 ranked team in the world, Colombia, 2-1. After falling 1-0 to Romania in their final match of group play, the U.S. happily found themselves in the second round as the third place team from their group. Unfortunately, that meant a match against Brazil, the No. 1 seeded team entering the tournament.
With the game scheduled for the Fourth of July, and U.S. sports fans abuzz over their first up-close experience with the world’s biggest sporting event, patriotism and fan support swelled to never-before-seen heights for this game.
Missing John Harkes to yellow card accumulation and Claudio Reyna (who had made the team but was unable to play in all four World Cup games due to injury), the U.S. chose to defend with numbers, looking for breaks on a counterattack.
The plan worked at first, with the U.S. maintaining a 0-0 score late in the first half. In the 43rd minute, a vicious sideline elbow by Leonardo sent Tab Ramos out of the game with a serious head injury. Leonardo was shown a straight red card for the foul, giving the U.S. a man advantage heading into the second half.
Continuing their defensive posture, the U.S. was unable to capitalize on their advantage and Brazil’s passing and possession kept the ball in their control for great stretches of time. In the 67th minute, Romario attacked up the middle, dribbling and drawing defenders in. Just before reaching the box, he laid the ball off to his right, finding Bebeto keeping pace with the defense in the right side of the box. His one-touch shot from a narrow angle went across the face of the goal and snuck just inside the far post, finally breaching the net that U.S. goalkeeper Tony Meola had so strongly protected.
When the final whistle blew, an exhausted U.S. side was undoubtedly disappointed, but in taking stock of their tournament performance afterwards, there was much to be proud of. The U.S. advanced out of the first round in a tournament that soccer giants France and England had not even qualified for, and done so with a monumental upset. When Brazil went on to win their fourth FIFA World Cup a couple of weeks later, the staunch defensive performance looked even brighter.
But most importantly, that tournament showed that Americans can and will follow their national soccer team. Legions of fans waving flags and painted up for the holiday filled Stanford Stadium that day, illustrating their newfound passion. While a victory would have been a historic result for fans to see, the inspirational, courageous effort they saw instead surely still filled U.S. fans with pride.
Match: United States vs. Brazil
Date: July 4, 1994
Competition: FIFA World Cup, Round of 16
Venue: Stanford Stadium; San Francisco, Calif.
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. local time
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
BRA 0 1 1
BRA – Bebeto (Romario) 72nd minute
USA: 1-Tony Meola (capt.); 5-Thomas Dooley, 17-Marcelo Balboa, 20-Paul Caligiuri, 22-Alexi Lalas; 7-Hugo Perez (10-Roy Wegerle, 66), 9-Tab Ramos (11-Eric Wynalda, 46), 13-Cobi Jones, 16-Mike Sorber, 21-Fernando Clavijo; 8-Earnie Stewart
Subs not used: 12-Juergen Sommer, 18-Brad Friedel; 2-Michael Lapper, 3-Mike Burns, 4-Cle Kooiman, 14-Frank Klopas, 15-Joe-Max Moore, 19-Claudio Reyna
Subs not available: 6-John Harkes
Head Coach: Bora Milutinovic
BRA: 1-Taffarel; 2-Jorginho, 5-Mauro Silva, 7-Bebeto, 8-Dunga (capt.), 9-Zinho (14-Cafu, 69), 11-Romario, 13-Aldair, 15-Marcio Santos, 16-Leonardo, 17-Mazinho
Subs not used: 12-Zetti, 22-Gilmar Rinaldi; 3-Ricardo Rocha, 4-Ronaldao, 6-Branco, 10-Rai, 18-Paulo Sergio, 19-Muller, 20-Ronaldo, 21-Viola
Head Coach: Carlos Alberto Parreira
BRA – Mazinho (caution) 8th minute
BRA – Jorginho (caution) 16
USA – Tab Ramos (caution) 43
BRA – Leonardo (sent off) 43
USA – Paul Caligiuri (caution) 49
USA – Fernando Clavijo (caution) 64
USA – Thomas Dooley (caution) 80
USA – Fernando Clavijo (caution) 85
USA – Fernando Clavijo (sent off) 85
Referee: Joel Quiniou (FRA)
Assistant Referee 1: Park Hae-Yong (KOR)
Assistant Referee 2: Mikael Eric Everstig (SWE)
Fourth Official: Bo Jonas Hil Karlsson (SWE)