Video of the Day: The BBC Review of the 1990 World Cup

by | Mar 27, 2016

With admirable honesty, Desmond Lynam doesn’t bother trying to sugar-coat what BBC viewers have to look forward to over the coming hour of their Christmas review of that summer’s World Cup finals. “The 1990 World Cup finals didn’t produce that many classic matches,” he says, following the still familiar montage of Nessun Dorma, golden ballerinas and and stylised shots of iconic images from World Cups gone by, “In fact, some would say that the quality of the football didn’t quite live up to previous tournaments.”

And he’s right. When viewed dispassionately, the 1990 World Cup finals was a tournament with a cynical edge. The defensive football on display led to the single biggest change to the laws of the game in a generation – the back-pass rule – and, whilst spitting, kicking and rugby tackling are all fun to watch from a slightly devilish perspective, West Germany won the tournament because they were workmanlike and consistent with flashes of something more artistic, whilst it feels fair to question the quality of a tournament that allows that Argentina team to the final and that England team within a penalty shoot-out of the same.

With his next statement, however, Lynam nails what we understand at a base level about this particular tournament, that there was something epic, sweeping and dramatic about this tournament, from Italy’s lumbering to life in the intense crucible of Rome’s Olympic Stadium to the late, late penalty that won the tournament for West Germany for the first time in sixteen years. It’s also worth noting the quality of the camera work used by the Italian broadcasters RAI – was the first World Cup finals to be recorded in High Definition, and the quality of the actual pictures themselves as well as the editing and direction may well be a part of why this tournament is remembered so fondly.

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