The 1990 FIFA World Cup was the 14th FIFA World Cup, the quadrennial international football world championship tournament. It was held from 8 June to 8 July 1990 in Italy, the second country to host the event twice (the first being Mexico in 1986). Teams representing 116 national football associations entered, and qualification began in April 1988. A total of 22 teams qualified from this process, along with host nation Italy and defending champion Argentina.
The tournament was won by West Germany, their third World Cup title. They beat Argentina 1–0 in the final, a rematch of the previous final four years earlier. Italy finished third, and England fourth, after both lost their semi-finals in penalty shootouts. This was the last tournament to feature a team from the divided Germany, with the country being reunified later in 1990. Costa Rica, Ireland and the UAE made their first appearances in the finals, and Egypt its first since 1934. The official match ball was the Adidas Etrusco Unico.
The 1990 World Cup is widely regarded as one of the poorest World Cups. It generated an average 2.21 goals per game – a record low that still stands – and a then-record 16 red cards, including the first ever dismissal in a final. This World Cup saw the introduction of the pre-match Fair Play Flag (then inscribed with "Fair Play Please") to encourage fair play. Negative tactics led to the introduction of the back-pass rule in 1992, and three points for a win instead of two at future World Cups.
Nonetheless, the 1990 World Cup stands as one of the most watched events in television history, garnering an estimated 26.69 billion non-unique viewers over the course of the tournament. This was the first World Cup to be officially recorded and transmitted in HDTV by the Italian broadcaster RAI in association with Japan's NHK. At the time it was the most watched World Cup in history in non-unique viewers, but was bettered by the 1994 and 2002 World Cups.
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