World Cup Italia 90: Tournament's emotional memories 25 years on

Gascoigne, Rijkaard, Milla, Schillaci, Pavarotti
World Cup Italia 90 produced heroes, villains, joy and tears

It averaged fewer goals per match than any other World Cup and was criticised for negative tactics, yet Italia '90 can light up the eyes of any fan who remembers the tournament.

Images of Cameroon humbling the world's elite or the late Bobby Robson keeping his cool while others melted around him are enough to warm a football fan's heart.

Is this reaction an unexplainable phenomenon? Can an era of the game in which men wore foolishly short shorts possibly hold elements we long for now?

England made the journey to Italy, so too did Scotland and the Republic of Ireland for a tournament that existed in an age before social media and players lived without selfies. Yet, 25 years since day one of the tournament, the memories still move us.

Operatic goosebumps and John Barnes' rap

Luciano Pavarotti and New Order
Luciano Pavarotti and New Order produced contrasting but memorable songs for the tournament

An aria originating from a 1926 opera hardly sounds inspiring as a World Cup theme song, but we challenge you to listen to Nessun Dorma and not come over all sentimental.

As those powerful opening lyrics accompany the orchestra, try fighting off memories of 1990, World Cup sticker books and recording the action on video.

Nessun Dorma translated...
Nessun dorma! Nessun dorma!None shall sleep
Vincero! Vincero!I will win! I will win!

The BBC's musical choice to introduce coverage of the tournament was emotive, dramatic and enduring. It was no cheap, short-term hit and Luciano Pavarotti's high notes reached number two in the UK singles chart.

But what if you preferred a toe-tapper? How about a toe-tapper with John Barnes rapping.

New Order's 'World in Motion' reached number one in the charts, reverberated around the pubs of the land and provided simple lyrics that men, women and children could belt out. Barnes rapped, thousands tried to mimic his effort.

Did you know?
'World in Motion' was going to be called 'E for England' but the Football Association vetoed the name in fear that it would be taken as a reference to the drug ecstasy.

Massing's brutal challenge

Benjamin Massing is sent off
Benjamin Massing's foul reduced Cameroon to nine men but they still beat Argentina

One YouTube video simply introduces Benjamin Massing's hip-high challenge on Claudio Caniggia as "the greatest tackle in World Cup history".

His Cameroon side were about to write their name in the tournament's folklore by shocking holders Argentina in a 1-0 win and Massing ensured there would be no late equaliser.

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Cameroon stunned Argentina in the opening game of the 1990 World Cup

It was a leap-from-the-sofa moment. Not just a professional foul to end an attack but delivered with the force of a stampede as Caniggia attempted to hurdle errant challenge number three of his run.

"He won't get past that," shouted commentator Brian Moore. "An assault and a brutal assault it was."

Massing's foul - he hit his man so hard he had to retrieve his own boot - is a vivid memory of a distant age. Even amid one of the greatest shocks in 85 years of World Cup football, his clinical act stands out.

The tournament featured twice as many red cards - 16 - as the 1986 World Cup.

Everyone wants to be Schillaci

Toto Schillacci
Toto Schillaci brought the host nation together as Italy reached the semi-finals

As a child in the '90s, the chances are you played with Lego, can remember the rapid emergence of Mr Blobby and at some stage, celebrated a goal you had scored by shouting Salvatore Schillaci's name.

Schillaci, 25 at the time with a look of a man well into his thirties, shot to worldwide prominence in the tournament, rising from the bench in Italy's first match to become leading goalscorer with six goals and win the Golden Boot.

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1990 World Cup - Top 10 goals

By goal five, which he scored in Italy's semi-final loss to Argentina, there was a sense of inevitability that the man nicknamed 'Toto' would net and let's be honest, his name rolls off the tongue of any commentator.

Italy did not concede a goal until the semi-final - their games were far from explosive - but Schillaci delivered smiles as he scored, arms flapping around in what seemed to be a bewildered celebration. "I've scored again have I?" Yes you have Toto, yes you have. He added his sixth in the third-place match against England.

Did you know?
Schillaci had played just one full season in Serie A when he top-scored at the World Cup

His status went global as Schillaci was named player of the competition. So obviously he went on to record a hundred caps? Not quite, just 16 in all. A one-tournament phenomenon.

Milla had the moves

Roger Milla
Roger Milla found the net and then the corner flag to perform his gyrating jig after his goals in Italy

When the oldest outfield player at a tournament, who you have never heard of, is tearing up logic and dancing to his own music, it takes a tough character not to smile.

Roger Milla, 38 at the time, amassed an army of fans as he scored, raced to the corner flag and danced a fleet-footed jig to celebrate each of his four goals.

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World Cup 2014: Roger Milla shows off his famous goal celebration in Wolverhampton

Living rooms lit up with his joyous wiggle, school playgrounds suddenly became a place where football mixed with dance.

This was a man playing for amateur side Jeunesse St-Pierroise on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion. This was a man who had to be begged to come out of semi-retirement by the country's president as Cameroon reached the quarter-finals.

His story is one of hope for any sportsman or woman who thinks the game is up at a certain age. Milla is proof that there is always one last dance to be had.

Milla to the Midlands...
Roger Milla's first offer after his display at the World Cup came from Walsall, who were in the Fourth Division

Rijkaard's spit on Voller

Ruud Gullit and Rudi Voller
Frank Rijkaard later apologised to Rudi Voller for his behaviour

The Luis Suarez bite at the 2014 World Cup, Leonardo's elbow smash of '94, Rivaldo's dive of 2002. All of them horrible, shameful, embarrassing World Cup moments, but it was the tournament in Italy which produced possibly the greatest 'yuck' moment of all time.

Households the length and breadth of Britain, and the wider world, looked on aghast as Holland's Frank Rijkaard spat into the curly hair of Germany's Rudi Voller - not once, but twice. It was seemingly a calculated act, and a stomach-turning one at that.

Perhaps overlooked is the calmness with which Voller dealt with the situation, refusing to get drawn into conflict despite knowing what was lodged in his hair during their last-16 match.

Rijkaard was nicknamed a "Llama" by some members of the media as a result of the spitting incidents.

Gazza's tears in Turin

Paul Gascoigne cries
Paul Gascoigne crying was one of the most powerful images of the 1990 World Cup

Tears in Turin. Tears everywhere in Turin, even in the stands as distraught England fans digested the penalty-shootout defeat by Germany at the semi-final stage. And tears on the cheeks of Paul Gascoigne as he contemplated suspension.

At 23, Gascoigne had showcased all his talent at what would be his only World Cup. This heart-on-the sleeve character seemingly bonded with the common man, he was tricky, witty and committed - perhaps too much so.

Gascoigne's desperate tackle on Thomas Berthold arrived as the Tottenham midfielder appeared to lose control of the ball, prompting a booking which ensured he would miss the final if England defeated West Germany - and so the tears rolled.

As Gascoigne's lip curled and began to shake, England striker Gary Lineker watched his team-mate with tangible concern and a nation's heart broke as the emotion poured through television sets.

It hurt everyone as Gascoigne, a player living the dream of millions and having fun doing it, would not play in the World Cup final.

By the end of the match it was clear that neither would England, but their semi-final loss and the agony of Gascoigne's tears means you probably remember where you were when he cried - 25 years on.

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