A superb FIFA World Cup marred only by a disappointing final which Brazil won on penalties after a goalless draw with Italy. There were plenty of goals, excitement, drama and surprises.

There was drama when Diego Maradona, Argentina’s hero of 1986, tested positive for drugs and was expelled from the tournament, and there was tragedy too when Colombian Andres Escobar was murdered days after returning home from scoring an own goal against the United States.

In the country where basketball, baseball and American football have far more popular appeal, the 15th FIFA World Cup in America nonetheless drew huge crowds.

A new record of countries, 147, entered for the qualifiers.

The final pitted Brazil against Italy, two nations which had already won the World Cup three times. But what in theory was the ideal match, proved to be a dour, physical and ultimately disappointing game.

And for the first time in World Cup history, it all came down to penalties. As he stepped up, Italy’s saviour Roberto Baggio knew he had to score. But his penalty flew high into the blue California sky and the Brazilians were champions again, 24 years after their last success. Brazil had also become the first nation to win the FIFA World Cup four times.