world at their feet

Gazza to Milla: 7 players who made their name at Italia 90

From a fresh faced 22-year-old to an eccentric dancing 38-year-old, here are 7 players who helped make Italia ’90 so memorable.

25 YEARS ON from one of the greatest World Cup finals’ ever seen we take a look back at the players who made names for themselves at the tournament in Italy.

Some went on to have amazingly successful careers while others faded into relative obscurity, but for a few short weeks in the summer of 1990 they were at the forefront of world football.

Paul Gascoigne

Soccer - World Cup Italia 90 - Semi Final - West Germany v England Gascoigne can't hide his emotions as England get eliminated. Ross Kinnaird Ross Kinnaird

Gascoigne was a relative newcomer to the international scene when he went to Italy in 1990. Having made his first start for England just a year previously, the then 23-year-old became the fulcrum of the English side and was the most technically gifted amongst the squad. Gascoigne was superb for the Three Lions and was a true beacon of hope for English fans.

He allowed the English midfield to exert control on the centre of the pitch while also being the creative hub of the side, setting up the winning goals for England in their games against Egypt and Belgium. The English eventually fell to West Germany in the semi-final, with Gascoigne being reduced to tears after receiving a yellow card which would have ruled him out of the final.

Claudio Caniggia

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One half of Italia 90′s most aesthetically pleasing attacking duo was 23-year-old Caniggia who finished the tournament with five goals to his name after linking up with Diego Maradona to such great effect throughout the tournament. It wasn’t just his goals however that set him apart, his general contribution to play was much greater than statistics could portray. As Maradona received all the attention from tough-tackling centre-backs it was Caniggia who provided the biggest attacking threat for the Pumas. The harsh treatment he received from Cameroon defenders was a testament to his threat and to his courage as he constantly rose again to run at defenders.

Dragan Stojkovic

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Stojkovic was already well known on the continent because of his exploits with high-flying Red Star Belgrade at the time, but the 1990 World Cup really helped him to endear himself to the masses. Stojkovic was the Yugoslavian’s best player throughout the tournament, clocking up two assists in the group stage before scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Spanish in the round of 16.

He eventually missed a penalty in their defeat to Argentina but it didn’t halt mega-rich Marseille signing him at the end of the season and linking him up with the likes of Eric Cantona, Jean-Pierre Papin, Chris Waddle, Didier Deschamps, Jean Tigana, Abédi Pelé, and Basile Boli.

Paolo Maldini

WORLD CUP SOCCER Maldini was part of the meanest defence the World Cup has ever seen. EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

The legendary AC Milan centre-back began his international career at just 19 but by the age of 22 he was already a permanent fixture in one of world football’s toughest defences. Throughout the whole tournament Italy only conceded two goals in their seven matches, went a record-breaking 518 minutes without conceding and broke the record for the amount of consecutive World Cup clean sheets, going five games in a row without conceding. Maldini was named in the team of the tournament and Italia 90 set the tone for the rest of his hugely successful career.

Roger Milla

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His story was the most uplifting individual story of the 1990 World Cup as he became the symbol for African football. After retiring in 1987 he spent a year in Réunion in the Indian Ocean where he played for JS Saint-Pierroise before Cameroon president Paul Biya phoned him and asked the 38-year-old to come back and play in the World Cup. He netted four goals, including two against Colombia in the last 16 to carry his side into the World Cup quarter-final. He didn’t stop there however, as with his side trailing 1-0 to England in the next game, he came on to win a penalty and then set up the go ahead goal for Cameroon. They eventually lost but Milla’s legend had been written. He even played in the 1994 World Cup at the age of 42.

David Platt


Platt was by no means a household name when he boarded the plane for Italy, but he came home as one of the countries heroes. He only featured as a substitute in England’s opening two games and didn’t feature at all in their final group game against Egypt. During their last 16 game against the Belgians, with the game deadlocked at 0-0 he entered the fray. With just one minute of extra-time remaining Paul Gascoigne lofted in a free that looked harmless enough, but Platt let it drop over his right shoulder and hooked the ball beautifully on his right foot to volley it across goal and into the far corner to send England through, and write his name in the history books.

Salvatore ‘Totó’ Schillaci

Soccer - FIFA World Cup Italia 90 - Semi Final - Italy v Argentina - Stadio San Paolo, Naples Schillaci celebrates his equaliser against Argentina in the semi-final. EMPICS Sport EMPICS Sport

The man who broke Irish hearts. Totó was a relatively unknown footballer leading into the tournament and certainly less of an illustrious name than his striking partners Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Baggio, but he ended as the Italian’s top scorer. Having plied his trade in Serie B for eight seasons his move to Juventus in 1989 earned him a spot in Aezeglio Vicini’s Italian squad for the World Cup. With the rest of the strikers misfiring it was Schillaci that drove the Italians on, scoring six goals including winners against Austria, England and of course Ireland. This was the pinnacle of his career however, he managed just on more goal for Italy and by 1994 he was playing his club football in Japan.

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