My favorite World Cup moment just so happens to be my most disappointing moment as well. I’m purposely not doing any research or corroboration of this article to see just how accurate my recollection is after 16 years.
Let me set the stage:
- Date: July 4, 1994.
- Place: Sold out Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, CA.
- Weather: Sunny, high 80s at game time.
- Game: U.S. vs. Brazil; 2nd round of the 1994 World Cup.
- Seats: My group was sitting right behind the north goal about halfway up.
All I could think to myself that day was what if the U.S. actually beat Brazil. Sure it was a tall order but the feeling was that given the date and conditions, it could happen.
Then things got interesting. Near the end of the first half, Brazil’s Leonardo intentionally elbowed Tab Ramos in the head, earning an immediate red card. The halftime score was still 0-0! Sure the U.S. had been completely outplayed but now being a man up, an upset definitely seemed possible. I could not believe my good fortune. I was going to be witness to one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history. Incredible!
What happened next (or shall I say what did not happen next) resulted in my greatest World Cup disappointment.
Instead of taking advantage of this good fortune, Bora Mulitinovic, the U.S. head coach, was content to continue playing a defense-oriented game and hope for either a counter-attack or for the game to go to penalty kicks. Eventually, this strategy failed when Bebeto scored with about 15 minutes to go in the game (at our end of the field). By this time, the U.S. was incapable of attacking and the game ended in a disappointing 1-0 loss.
It did not help that Ramos, arguably America’s best player, broke his jaw from Leonardo’s elbow and was not able to play. Had he, the U.S. may have been able to control the game more than it did. Unfortunately, and perhaps because it was daytime, Bora did not see that all the planets were perfectly aligned as well. Had he, and had he changed his strategy and just ‘Gone For Broke’, who knows what would have happened.
All I can say is, “Bora, Bora, Bora!?”