World Cup 1990: When Cameroon stunned Argentina

West Germany became the third country – after Brazil and Italy – to win the World Cup for the third time.

The West Germany team celebrate after the 1990 FIFA World Cup Final between West Germany and Argentina at Olympic Stadium on July 8, 1990 in Rome, Italy
The West Germany team celebrate after the 1990 FIFA World Cup final [David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images]

Host: Italy
Teams: 24
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Matches: 52
Goals: 115
Winner: West Germany
Runners-up: Argentina
Golden boot: Salvatore Schillaci (Italy)


The 1990 World Cup was a first for many, as well as the last.

On the political and geographical side, it would be the last World Cup for West Germany as the country would unify with East Germany a few months later and play all subsequent tournaments as Germany. The USSR also played its last World Cup as a union before its dissolution the following year.

Italy were one of the favourites to win the tournament, along with Argentina, England and West Germany.

Costa Rica, the Republic of Ireland and the United Arab Emirates made their debut, while Egypt and the United States made their return after a long absence. Previous finalists France failed to qualify.

The tournament kicked off with one of the biggest upsets in its history: Cameroon, playing only their second World Cup, beat defending champions Argentina 1-0. They then went on to beat Romania and qualified for the knockouts.

Argentina advanced as well but as one of the third-placed teams.

Cameroon and the Republic of Ireland were the shock qualifiers for the quarterfinals, as Brazil, the Netherlands and Uruguay were knocked out.

Both semifinals were decided on penalty shootouts, resulting in heartbreak and tears for Italy (4-3 loss to Argentina) and England (4-3 loss to West Germany).

The final failed to live up to the occasion as both teams deployed defensive tactics. The first red card of a World Cup final was shown to Argentina’s Pedro Monzon in the 65th minute.

Despite facing a weakened side for the rest of the match, West Germany failed to threaten the Argentinian goal. They eventually scored the game’s only goal from the penalty spot after 85 minutes.

West Germany became the third country (after Brazil and Italy) to win the World Cup for the third time.


Franz Beckenbauer became the first person to win a World Cup as captain and manager.

Cameroon became the first African country to qualify for the quarterfinals.


Defensive tactics saw lots of back-passing and goalkeepers holding up the ball to waste time.

One of the lowest-scoring World Cups, with 2.21 goals per match.

A then-record 16 red cards were handed out in the tournament.

Source: Al Jazeera