Roberto Baggio (left) is distraught after missing the penalty that helped Brazil beat Italy in the FIFA World Cup 1994 final © Getty Images
Roberto Baggio (left) is distraught after missing the penalty that helped Brazil beat Italy in the FIFA World Cup 1994 final © Getty Images


The FIFA World Cup 2014, held every four years since 1930, generates immense passion and excitement around the globe, and often cricket takes a backseat among even die-hard aficionados. However, often there have been some very notable cricketing contests during the periods when the focus of the world has been solely on football.  In this four-part series Arunabha Sengupta looks at the cricketing action that has transpired during the course of the World Cup tournaments over the years.


The last few Cups


USA 1994


One of the major reasons FIFA wanted the World Cup to be hosted in largely Football agnostic United States was to build the popularity of the game in the nation. The tournament was wildly successful, with record attendance for the matches. Following the stipulations set by the governing body of the game, United States also kick-started the Major League Soccer (MLS) tournament from 1996.


Across the Atlantic, a low-key series between New Zealand and England was underway. Propped by a double hundred by Graham Gooch, England had already won the first Test match at Nottingham. The second was showing signs of being a tall scoring affair at Lord’s. Martin Crowe’s 142 had propelled the Kiwis to 476 and by the end of the day England had responded with 94 for one. That evening, the FIFA World Cup 1994 kicked-off with the unified Germany team beating Bolivia by a solitary goal at Chicago.


Three days later, an Alec Stewart hundred at the top of the order and some late order stonewalling by wicketkeeper Steve Rhodes helped England hold on for a draw. That very evening Brazil opened their Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Russia.


By the time New Zealand had suffered a disgraceful innings defeat to Derbyshire, the line up for the round of 16 was all but ready. Colombia surprisingly brought up the rear of their group, the fateful own goal by Escobar contributing to the embarrassing defeat to United States. Italy and Argentina struggled all through while the unfancied Nigeria and Bulgaria took the World Cup by storm.


On June 30, the third Test started on a characteristically rain affected day at Manchester. Michael Atherton batted all day to remain unbeaten on 96. That evening Hristo Stoichkov slammed the first goal against Argentina in the second half at Dallas, and the Bulgarians ended a fantastic first round with a 2-0 victory. Their opponents, the great footballing nation, limped into the pre-quarterfinals by being the best of the third placed teams. Italy just about squeezed through as the fourth in the table of the thirds.


At close of Day 3, New Zealand were fighting back after following on through a spirited partnership between Crowe and Adam Parore. That same evening, Germany overcame a stiff Belgian challenge to win 3-2, while Spain slammed three into the Switzerland goal.


The following day the cricketers rested in Manchester while Romania ended the dismal journey of Argentina with a 3-2 victory. It was a sad farewell to World Cup for the great Diego Maradona.


It rained incessantly at Old Trafford, allowing just a handful of overs in the day. That July 4, as America celebrated Independence Day, their World Cup campaign ended after a tense battle. Brazil played with ten men from the 43rd minute after Leonardo was sent off with a red card, Alexei Lalas did create opportunities in the goal mouth, but in the end Bebeto netted the winner in the 72nd minute.


After Crowe’s century ensured a draw at Manchester, Roberto Baggio equalised for Italy in the 88th minute and Italy pipped the fantastic Nigerians 2-1 when Baggio converted a penalty awarded in the 12th minute of the extra-time.


The tour of the New Zealanders came to an end with a couple of matches in Ireland. In the United States, a gem of a left-footed free kick by Branco took Brazil to the semi-finals after they had been locked 2-2 against the Netherlands, while the Bulgarians brought off an unprecedented upset win over Germany.


A Romario strike in the semi-final took Brazil to the title round past Sweden as Italy proceeded after halting the impressive run of Bulgaria.


At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Brazil dominated the proceedings but the teams were locked 0-0 at the end of regulation time and could not break the deadlock after the additional half an hour. Goalkeeper Claudio Taffarel was the hero as Brazil converted three of the first four penalties and Italy only two of their five. Baggio famously missed the last penalty. It was the first World Cup final to be both scoreless and to be decided by a penalty shoot-out.


France 1998


For the first time there was international cricketing action in a country other than England as the World Cup got underway.


Sri Lanka took on New Zealand at Sinhalese Sports Club on June 10 and progressed to 200 for eight against some potent pace of Chris Cairns. That evening, Brazil played Scotland, scoring within four minutes of kick-off. In the end, it was not the cakewalk that was expected. Scotland equalised through a penalty kick and it was only in the 73rd minute that the favourites managed to forge ahead, that too through an own goal.


Muttiah Muralitharan’s five second innings wickets gave Sri Lanka the Test by 164 runs. By then France was showing impressive form and England were also shaping up well in the tournament.


On June 21, an unbeaten 81 by Marvan Atapattu helped Sri Lanka essay a seven wicket win over New Zealand in the first match of the Singer Akai tri-nation tournament. Two days later buoyed by half-centuries by Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin India seemed to be cruising to a win over the Kiwis when rain forced abandonment of the match. Later that day in Marseille, Norway upset Brazil in their last group match. It did not matter with the standings though. Brazil topped the group with Norway one point behind.


On June 27, another scheduled match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand was abandoned without a ball being bowled, making one wonder about the advisability of scheduling matches in the island during this period. There was no interruption in France as Brazil hammered Chile 4-1 in the Round of 16, Ronaldo scoring twice.


Two days later, the India-New Zealand tie was also washed away by rain. That day, Germany came back from being a goal down to defeat Mexico 2-1. The following evening, Argentina and England were locked 2-2 after full time and once again England crashed out in the penalty shootout.


On July 3, India had New Zealand struggling at 128 for five after 31.1 overs when the heavens opened up and another match was abandoned. That afternoon, at Saint-Denis, France and Italy remained locked goalless before the hosts clinched it 4-3 on tie-breaker. Later that evening, Rivaldo scored twice to ensure a 3-2 win against Denmark at Nantes.


The following day, a strike by Denis Bergkamp enabled Netherlands end the challenge of Argentina. Late that evening in Lyon, the ageing German team was trounced by Croatia by three goals to nil.


On July 7, India and Sri Lanka played a thriller of a final in Colombo. Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly posted hundreds to add 252 for the first wicket and India finished on 307. In response, at 272 for four in 43.2 overs with Aravinda de Sliva past his hundred, Sri Lanka looked the favourites to pull of a spectacular win. What followed was a collapse with some nervy running and India scampered home by six runs. That afternoon Brazil and Netherlands were locked in an 1-1 stalemate in the semi-final and the match proceeded to a penalty shootout. The Latin American nation went through winning the tie-breaker 4-2.


The next day, as the Sri Lankan cricketers prepared for their England tour, Lilian Thuram scored twice for France to beat the Croatian challenge 2-1.


Rain seemed to have followed Sri Lanka all the way to the British Isles, and the first match against Hampshire was washed out on July 12.


The final was held on 12 July 1998 at the Stade de France, Saint-Denis. That same day, the World Cup final got off to a start under controversial circumstances.


Star striker Ronaldo was omitted from the starting line-up only to be reinstated 45 minutes before kick-off. He did manage to create the first chance for Brazil in the 22nd minute, but sleepwalked through the match after that. France took the lead with a Zinedine Zidane header from a corner. Three minutes before half-time, Zidane scored again, through another header from a corner. In the 68th minute Marcel Desailly was sent off, but even the 10-man France was too good for Brazil on that day. In the injury time, Emmanuel Petit scored the third goal. This was the heaviest defeat over Brazil since 1930.


Korea and Japan 2002


It was the first World Cup to be held in Asia.


The start coincided with the second Test between Sri Lanka and England at Edgbaston. Defending champions France kicked off the World Cup and were handed an embarrassing defeat by Senegal. That day, a big hundred by Marcus Trescothick saw England end on 401 for five after Sri Lanka had been dismissed for 162.


The day after Matthew Hoggard’s five for clinched an innings win for England, Brazil started their campaign and almost immediately were confronted with a scare. Turkey scored first and it was after a lot of struggle that the favourites won 2-1.


At another corner of the world, West Indies rode a Shivnarine Chanderpaul hundred to beat New Zealand by six wickets on June 8 in Gros Islet. That day, Brazil recovered their rhythm with a 4-0 victory over China.


By the time New Zealand made it 2-1 in the ODI series with a six wicket haul by Scott Styris ensuring a nine run win, France was already out of the tournament with just one point from their group matches.


The following day, England started off well to end at 275 for four in their Test match against Sri Lanka at Manchester, while Brazil rose to their sublime peak with a 5-2 victory over Croatia.


As Sri Lanka struggled in reply to the big England total on the third day of the Test, Round 2 kicked off with Germany pipping Paraguay by a goal and England scoring thrice against Denmark.


The next day Ronaldo and Rivaldo scored in the second half as Brazil beat Belgium, while Sri Lanka followed on at Manchester while all-round brilliance by Chris Gayle ensured a 3-1 series win for West Indies at Kingstown.


The next day was of mixed fortune for the Asians. Japan was beaten by Turkey while South Korea ended the Italian journey in the extra time. At Manchester Sri Lanka lost by 10 wickets.


On June 21, England scored first through Michael Owen. On the stroke of half time Rivaldo equalised for Brazil. And after the break came that famous floated free-kick from Ronaldiho that sailed into the England net. Brazil triumphed 2-1. In another quarter-final Germany beat United States by a solitary goal. At Bridgetown, a Stephen Fleming hundred took New Zealand to 257 for four at the end of the first day of the first Test. And at Taunton, Sri Lanka went down to Somerset in a 50-over game.


The following day, South Korea reached the semi-finals by beating Spain in the shootout, while Turkey overcame a stiff challenge from Senegal through a goal in the extra time. At Bridgetown, West Indies collapsed to 107 all out and New Zealand chose not to enforce follow-on.


After the day Shane Bond captured five wickets to give New Zealand victory at Barbados, West Germany overcame the South Korean challenge by a solitary goal. On June 26, Brazil pipped Turkey by a similar margin.


West Indies started to on a cautious reply to New Zealand’s 373 as Turkey beat South Korea 3-2 in the third-place play-off.


On June 30, India beat Sri Lanka in a low scoring NatWest series game at Kennington Oval, while Chris Gayle hammered the Kiwi bowling to register 204 at Bridgetown in the eventually drawn Test match. At Yakohama, Brazil and Germany faced off in what was their first meeting in a World Cup match. Oliver Kahn, the German custodian who had excelled all through the tournament, failed to trap a Rivaldo long ranger, and the rebound was volleyed into the net by Ronaldo in the 67th minute. Twelve minutes later Kleberson passed square and Rivaldo stepped over it to allow an unmarked Ronaldo side-foot it into the net from the edge of the penalty box. Brazil won 2-0. Thus Ronaldo exorcised the ghosts of the 1998 final.


Zinedine Zidane is sent-off in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2006 against Italy © Getty Images
Zinedine Zidane is sent-off in the final of the FIFA World Cup 2006 against Italy © Getty Images

Germany 2006


The FIFA World Cup kicked-off in Germany even as a man more suited to rooting for his national football team did the star turn in cricket.


At Chelmsford, the Dutch recruit of Essex, Ryan ten Doeschate hammered 63 to win the 50 over game for his county side against the visiting Sri Lankans. In Munich, Germany powered past Costa Rica 4-2.


The following five days saw the familiar footballing powers advance in the group stage as West Indies hung in to draw the Gros Islet Test against India aided by rain washing out the fourth day. The hundreds of Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid and Mohammad Kaif could not bring India the deserved victory.


By the time the third Test kicked off at Basseterre, the group standings were all but finalised, Australia being perhaps the only surprise element to go through to the Round of 16.


On June 24, at Chester-le-Street Sri Lanka registered a big win over England riding on a run-a-ball 126 by Mahela Jayawardene in the third ODI. At Basseterre the match looked likely to head towards a tall scoring draw, with West Indies batting well into the third day for 581. At Munich, Lukas Podolski scored twice early into the game to enable a German win over Sweden. At Leipzig, Argentina managed to squeeze past Mexico with an extra time winner from Max Rodriguez.


The following day, as VVS Laxman held the Indian innings together with a hundred notched up over six and a half hours. That evening David Beckham netted the only goal in the match against Ecuador. This completed a strange triple coincidence. This was Beckham’s third and final goal in the World Cup. Earlier he had scored against Colombia in 1998, Argentina in 2002. On all three days, there was a game between Lancashire and Warwickshire. In 1998 it was Day One of the county game at Edgbaston, in 2002 the Benson Hedges Cup semi-final at Old Trafford and this day of 2006 the Cheltenham and Gloucestershire Trophy at Edgbaston.


The day after the Test match in West Indies ended in a draw, Brazil stormed into the quarter finals with a 3-0 victory over Ghana while France defeated Spain 3-1.


On June 30, the final Test of the series started at Sabina Park and captain Rahul Dravid stood among the ruins to score 81 as India were dismissed for 200. That same day Argentina led Germany by a goal till the 80th minute in the quarter finals before Miroslav Klose produced the equaliser and eventually the Latin American nation lost in penalties. In the other match, Italy struck thrice to beat Ukraine at Hamburg.


Harbhajan Singh’s five wickets in just four and a half overs restricted the West Indian reply to 103. India reached 128 for six by the end of the day, Dravid playing another gem of an innings. That evening saw yet another England team ousted in penalties after a 0-0 score-line against Portugal. In the subsequent match, a second half strike by Thierry Henry took France into the semi-finals as Brazil’s World Cup dreams were dashed by a lapse in defence.


India duly won the Tense Jamaica Test by 49 runs the following day.


On July 4, at the VRA stadium, Amstelveen, Sanath Jayasuriya hit 157 as Sri Lanka amassed a record 443 against the hapless Netherlands attack. And not too far away, at Dortmund, Italy struck twice in the dying minutes of the extra time to beat Germany 2-0.


The next evening France pipped Portugal by virtue of a Zidane penalty.


The final started with each side scoring within the first 20 minutes. Zidane opened the scoring by converting a controversial seventh-minute penalty kick,[21] which glanced off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal. Marco Materazzi then levelled the scores in the 19th minute following an Andrea Pirlo corner. Both teams had chances to score the winning goal in normal time: Luca Toni hit the crossbar in the 35th minute for Italy (he later had a header disallowed for offside), while France were not awarded a possible second penalty in the 53rd minute when Florent Malouda went down in the box after a tackle from Gianluca Zambrotta.


There was no international cricket on July 9 as France and Italy met in the final. Another Zidane penalty put France ahead, while Marco Materazzi equalised within 12 minutes. The two men would do much more in the match to capture the headlines.


The score remained 1-1 at the end of the 90 minutes. In the extra time, a frustrated Zidane head-butted Materazzi in a clear off-the-ball assault and was sent off. The scoreline was unaltered through the final half hour and for the second time the final proceeded to penalty shootout. David Trezeguet’s shot hit the cross bar and Italy won 5-3.


Zidane’s head-butt found its way into popular culture, and even managed to get into the cricket world. Shortly after the World Cup, the Pakistanis clashed with umpire Darrel Hair around ball tampering allegations and ended up forfeiting the Test match at The Oval. A news channel produced an animated and fictionalised dialogue between captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and the umpire. In the climax of the sequence, the Inzamam cartoon ended the confrontation by head-butting Hair to the floor.


Cricketing history during football’s showpiece event — Part 1 of 4


Cricketing history during football’s showpiece event — Part 2 of 4


Cricketing history during football’s showpiece event — Part 3 of 4


(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at