The 1990 FIFA World Cup was the 14th FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international football world championship tournament. It was held from 8 June to 8 July 1990 in Italy, the second country to host the event twice. Teams representing 116 national football associations from all six populated continents entered the competition, with its qualification process beginning in April 1988. Twenty-two teams qualified from this process, along with host nation Italy and defending champion Argentina, for the finals tournament. The official match ball was the Adidas Etrusco Unico.
The tournament was won by West Germany, who claimed their third World Cup title by defeating reigning champions Argentina 1–0 in the final, a rematch of the previous final four years earlier. Hosts Italy beat England 2–1 to finish third after both lost their semi-finals in penalty shootouts. The 1990 World Cup is widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups ever. It generated a record low goals-per-game average of just 2.21 and a then-record 16 red cards were handed out, including the first ever dismissal in a final.
Despite the low goalscoring, the 1990 World Cup stands as one of the most watched events in television history, garnering an estimated 26.69 billion non-unique viewers, compiled over the course of the tournament. At the time it was the most watched World Cup in history in non-unique viewers, but has subsequently been bettered by the 1994 and 2002 FIFA World Cups. Following this World Cup, the back-pass rule was introduced in 1992 to discourage time-wasting and overly defensive play, and wins were awarded three points in the group stage of the 1994 World Cup to encourage more aggressive offensive tactics and discourage the strategy of playing for a draw.
FIFA World Cup hosts The vote to choose the hosts of the 1990 tournament was held on 29 May 1985 in Zürich, Switzerland. Here, the FIFA Executive Committee chose Italy ahead of the only rival bid, the USSR, by 11 votes to 5. This awarding made Italy only the second nation to host two World Cup tournaments, after Mexico had also achieved this with their 1986 staging. Italy had previously had the event in 1934, where they had won their first championship. Austria, England, France, Greece, West Germany and Yugoslavia also submitted initial applications for the 31 July 1983 deadline. A month later, only England and Greece remained in the hunt with Italy and the Soviet Union after the other contenders all withdrew. All four bids were assessed by FIFA in late 1983, with the final decision overrunning into 1984 due to the volume of paperwork involved. In early 1984, England and Greece also withdrew, leading to a two-horse race in the final vote. The Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games announced on the eve of the World Cup decision was speculated to have been a major factor behind Italy winning the vote so decisively, although this was dismissed by FIFA President João Havelange.
116 teams entered the 1990 World Cup, with 114 being required to qualify (due to rejected entries and withdrawals, 103 teams eventually participated in the qualifying stages). Italy as host nation and Argentina as reigning World Cup champions were granted automatic qualification, with the remaining 22 finals places divided among the continental confederations. Thirteen places were contested by UEFA teams (Europe), three by CONMEBOL teams (South America), two by CAF teams (Africa), two by AFC teams (Asia), and two by CONCACAF teams (North and Central America and Caribbean). The remaining place was decided by a play-off between CONMEBOL and OFC (Oceania). Both Mexico and Chile were disqualified during the qualification process; the former for fielding an overage player in a prior youth tournament, the latter after goalkeeper Roberto Rojas faked injury from a firework thrown from the stands, which caused the match to be abandoned. Chile were also banned from the 1994 qualifiers for this offence. Three teams qualified for the first time: Costa Rica, the Republic of Ireland and the United Arab Emirates. Returning after long absences were Egypt, who qualified for the first time since 1934; the United States, who competed for the first time since 1950, Colombia who appeared for the first time since 1962; and Romania, who last appeared at the Finals in 1970. Among the teams who failed to qualify were Hungary, France, Poland, and Portugal.
The final between West Germany and Argentina has been cited as the most cynical and lowest quality of all World Cup Finals. In the 65th minute, Argentina's Pedro Monzon was sent off for a foul on Jürgen Klinsmann, the first player ever to be sent off in a World Cup Final. Argentina, weakened by suspension and injury, offered little attacking threat throughout a contest dominated by the West Germans, who struggled to create many clear goalscoring opportunities. The only goal of the contest arrived in the 85th minute when Mexican referee Edgardo Codesal awarded a penalty to West Germany, after a foul on Rudi Völler by Roberto Sensini. Andreas Brehme, who later said there was no foul, converted the spot kick to settle the contest. In the closing moments, Argentina were reduced to nine after Gustavo Dezotti received the second red card of the game when he hauled Jürgen Kohler to the ground during a stoppage in play. The 1–0 scoreline provided another first: Argentina were the first team to fail to score in a World Cup Final. With its third title (and three second place finishes) West Germany – in its final tournament before national reunification – became the most successful World Cup nation, until Brazil won their fourth title in 1994. West German manager Franz Beckenbauer became the only man to both captain (in 1974) and manage a World Cup winning team, and only the second man (after Mário Zagallo of Brazil) to win the World Cup as a player and as team manager. It was also the first time a team from UEFA won the final against a non-European team.