USA '94: A World Cup of firsts

The 15th FIFA World Cup, held in the USA in 1994, is considered one of the most successful sporting events worldwide. Held during the American summer in nine venues across the United States, the tournament broke World Cup records for total attendance (3,587,538) and average attendance per match (68,991). Both are records that stand to this day.

But the tournament was also significant for reasons beyond its record-breaking attendance figures. As well as witnessing the first goalless Final, and Brazil capturing their fourth title, the 1994 World Cup saw a number of firsts that would also go down in football’s history books.

Win = 3 points

The 1994 World Cup was the first to use the new three points for a win system instead of the old two points for a win approach that had been favoured previously. After Italia ’90, which some fans felt lacked the attacking flair of previous World Cups, the new system was used during the group stage as a way of motivating teams to play a more attacking style.

No picking up of deliberate back-passes

In another move designed to encourage more attacking football after Italia ’90, goalkeepers were no longer allowed to pick up deliberate back-passes.

First goalkeeper to be sent off

Italy’s Gianluca Pagliuca became the first goalkeeper to be sent off during a World Cup match after handling the ball outside the penalty area in the 21st minute against Norway on 23 June. Pagliuca was shown the red card by German referee Hellmut Krug, but the crowd of 74,624 at New York Giants Stadium still saw ten-man Italy defeat Norway 1-0, with Dino Baggio the match-winner.

1 yellow card in group stage erased for knockout rounds

For the first time, if a player had been shown a single yellow card during the tournament’s group stage, it was erased for the knockout stages. Players who received two yellows during the group stage, or in the knockout rounds, were still suspended for the next match.

No commercials during English TV broadcasting in the USA

In the USA, all 52 matches in the tournament were broadcast in English without interruption during live action. While this was relatively commonplace in many parts of the world, it was a first in the USA.

FIFA anthem introduced

For the first time at a World Cup, players and officials entered the pitch at the start of matches to the sound of the new FIFA anthem, composed by Franz Lambert.

New colours for referees

Referees were no longer required to wear the traditional black, as FIFA provided various new colourful shirts for this tournament. Officials wore red, yellow or silver depending on the colours of the teams playing.

Numbers added to the front of shirts; names on the back

In 1954, numbers were introduced on the back of team jerseys. In 1994, FIFA again made changes to the jersey, and squad numbers were also printed on the front. Teams like Russia and Morocco chose to have their front numbers displayed on the right or left of their chest instead of in the centre. Player names were also printed on the back of the jerseys for the first time. These modifications were implemented to make it easier for television and radio broadcasters to identify players.

First World Cup match to be played indoors

The Pontiac Silverdome, just outside the city of Detroit, hosted the first FIFA World Cup match to be played indoors on 18 June when hosts the USA held Switzerland to a 1-1 draw in front of a crowd of 73,425. Grass was grown by a local university – Michigan State – and later installed in the Silverdome, which would host four more matches during USA 1994.

Five goals in a game and the oldest goalscorer

Russian forward Oleg Salenko became the first player to score five times in a single World Cup game as he led his team to a 6-1 win over Cameroon at Palo Alto’s Stanford Stadium on 28 June. Also during that match, Cameroon striker Roger Milla became the oldest player (at 42 years of age) to score in a World Cup match. Interestingly, his team-mate Rigobert Song had become the youngest player, at 17, to be sent off in a World Cup for a rash challenge on Brazil’s Bebeto just a few days earlier. This is another record that stands to this day.

First World Cup to feature a reunited Germany

Although the Berlin wall fell in November 1989, the 1994 World Cup was the first to feature a reunited Germany. The Germans were beaten 2-1 in the quarter-finals by Bulgaria thanks, in part, to a curled free kick from the tournament’s joint top scorer, Hristo Stoichkov. The Bulgarian shared the honours with Russia’s Oleg Salenko, both scoring six goals in the tournament.