1990 FIFA World Cup qualification

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1990 FIFA World Cup Qualification
Tournament details
Teams 116 (from 6 confederations)
Tournament statistics
Matches played 314
Goals scored 735 (2.34 per match)

The qualification competition for the 1990 FIFA World Cup was a series of tournaments organised by the six FIFA confederations. Each confederation — the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Confederation of African Football (CAF), CONCACAF (North America), CONMEBOL (South America), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), and UEFA (Europe) — was allocated a certain number of the 24 places at the tournament. A total of 116 teams entered the competition, with Italy, as the host, and Argentina, as the holders, qualifying for the final tournament automatically.

The first qualification match was played on 17 April 1988 and qualification concluded on 19 November 1989. A total of 735 goals were scored in the 314 qualifying matches (an average of 2.34 per match).


At the close of entries on 30 September 1987, a total of 116 football associations had entered the 1990 World Cup. This entry figure was five lower than those who originally entered the previous tournament, a then-World Cup record of 121 entries.

Three entries were rejected by FIFA: Belize, Mauritius and Mozambique due to their outstanding financial debts, taking the number of accepted teams down to 113. With both the hosts and holders qualifying automatically for the finals, 111 nations were therefore scheduled to compete in the qualifying competitions. Gabon, Oman and Pakistan were making their first appearance in the World Cup.

Seven teams withdrew during the qualifying process without playing a match: Bahrain, India, Lesotho, Maldives, Rwanda, South Yemen and Togo. Mexico were disqualified from the CONCACAF qualifying tournament before playing a game for fielding overage players in the qualifying stages for the 1988 Olympic Games. Libya withdrew during the CAF group stage, but had already (successfully) played in the first round. Therefore the total number of teams playing at least one fixture during the 1990 World Cup competition was 105 (103 during qualifying).

Continental zones[edit]

To see the dates and results of the qualification rounds for each continental zone, click on the following articles:

Group 1 - Romania qualified.
Group 2 - Sweden and England qualified.
Group 3 - Soviet Union and Austria qualified.
Group 4 - Netherlands and West Germany qualified.
Group 5 - Yugoslavia and Scotland qualified.
Group 6 - Spain and Republic of Ireland qualified.
Group 7 - Belgium and Czechoslovakia qualified.
Group 1 - Uruguay qualified.
Group 2 - Colombia advanced to the Intercontinental Play-off.
Group 3 - Brazil qualified.
Costa Rica and United States qualified.
Egypt and Cameroon qualified.
Korea Republic and United Arab Emirates qualified.
Israel advanced to the Intercontinental Play-off.

Qualified teams[edit]

Final qualification status
  Country qualified for World Cup
  Country failed to qualify
  Country did not enter World Cup
  Country not a FIFA member

The following 24 teams qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup:

Team Qualified as Appearance
in finals
Previous best performance
 Argentina Champions 10th 5 Winners (1978, 1986)
 Austria UEFA Group 3 Runners-up 6th 1 (Last: 1982) Third place (1954)
 Belgium UEFA Group 7 Winners 8th 3 Fourth place (1986)
 Brazil CONMEBOL Group Winners 14th 14 Winners (1958, 1962, 1970)
 Cameroon CAF Final Round Winners 2nd 1 (Last: 1982) Group Stage (1982)
 Colombia CONMEBOL v OFC Play-off Winners 2nd 1 (Last: 1962) Group Stage (1962)
 Costa Rica CONCACAF Championship Winners 1st 1
 Czechoslovakia UEFA Group 7 Runners-up 8th 1 (Last: 1982) Runners-up (1934, 1962)
 Egypt CAF Final Round Winners 2nd 1 (Last: 1934) First Round (1934)
 England UEFA Group 2 Runners-up 9th 3 Winners (1966)
 Italy Hosts 12th 8 Winners (1934, 1938, 1982)
 South Korea AFC Final Round Winners 3rd 2 Group Stage (1954, 1986)
 Netherlands UEFA Group 4 Winners 5th 1 (Last: 1978) Runners-up (1974, 1978)
 Republic of Ireland UEFA Group 6 Runners-up 1st 1
 Romania UEFA Group 1 Winners 5th 1 (Last: 1970) Group Stage (1930, 1934, 1938, 1970)
 Scotland UEFA Group 5 Runners-up 7th 5 Group Stage (1954, 1958, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986)
 Spain UEFA Group 6 Winners 8th 4 Fourth place (1950)
 Sweden UEFA Group 2 Winners 8th 1 (Last: 1978) Runners-up (1958)
 United Arab Emirates AFC Final Round Runners-up 1st 1
 United States CONCACAF Championship Runners-up 4th 1 (Last: 1950) Third place (1930)
 Uruguay CONMEBOL Group Winners 9th 2 Winners (1930, 1950)
 Soviet Union UEFA Group 3 Winners 7th 3 Fourth place (1966)
 Yugoslavia UEFA Group 5 Winners 8th 1 (Last: 1982) Fourth place (1930, 1962)
 West Germany UEFA Group 4 Runners-up 12th 10 Winners (1954, 1974)

Qualification process[edit]

The qualification process commenced in April 1988 and was completed in November 1989. The draw for all qualifying groups and opening round ties in the six confederations was held in Zürich, Switzerland on 12 December 1987.

The distribution by confederation for the 1990 World Cup was:

  • Europe (UEFA): 13 places (+ Italy qualified automatically as host nation for a total of 14 places)
  • Africa (CAF): 2 places
  • Asia (AFC): 2 places
  • South America (CONMEBOL) 2 or 3 places (+ Argentina qualified automatically as World Cup holders for a total of either 3 or 4 places)
  • North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF): 2 places
  • Oceania (OFC): 0 or 1 place
Confederation Teams started Teams eliminated Teams qualified Qualifying end date
UEFA 32+1 19 13+1 18 November 1989
CAF 26 24 2 19 November 1989
CONCACAF 16 14 2 19 November 1989
CONMEBOL 9+1 6 3+1 30 October 1989
AFC 26 24 2 28 October 1989
OFC 5 5 0 30 October 1989
Total 114+2 92 22+2 19 November 1989

Confederation qualification processes[edit]

Africa (CAF)[edit]

(26 teams competing for 2 berths)

The CAF qualification process began with a preliminary round between June and November 1988, which eliminated eight nations.

These eight nations were joined in the second round by the eight highest-ranked African nations, which had received a bye in the first round. These sixteen teams were placed in four groups of four teams, with the group winners advancing to the final round. The four group winners of these groups were paired together into two knockout ties played during October and November 1989. The winners of these two-legged ties qualified for the World Cup finals.

Final Round

Team 1 Agg. Team 2 1st leg 2nd leg
Algeria  0–1  Egypt 0–0 0–1
Cameroon  3–0  Tunisia 2–0 1–0

Asia (AFC)[edit]

(26 teams competing for 2 berths)

The group stage draw divided the teams into six groups, which were played from January to July 1989, from which the six group winners advanced to the final group stage. The final group stage saw the six remaining teams play each other once during a sixteen-day tournament based in Singapore in October 1989. The two top teams qualified for the World Cup finals.

Final standings

Pld Pts
 South Korea 5 8
 United Arab Emirates 5 6
 Qatar 5 5
 China PR 5 4
 Saudi Arabia 5 4
 North Korea 5 3

Europe (UEFA)[edit]

(32 teams competing for 13 berths, host Italy occupying a 14th berth)

The European qualification games started in May 1988 and ended in November 1989. Seven groups were drawn in total: Four of five teams and three groups of four contested the European qualifying competition. As a result, the seven group-winners qualified, while the runners-up in the groups containing five teams also qualified directly. The runners-up in the three groups containing only four teams were ranked, with the two teams with the best records also qualifying. The weakest runner-up missed out (Denmark).

Group 1
Pld Pts
 Romania 6 9
 Denmark 6 8
 Greece 6 4
 Bulgaria 6 3
Group 2
Pld Pts
 Sweden 6 10
 England 6 9
 Poland 6 5
 Albania 6 0
Group 3
Pld Pts
 Soviet Union 8 11
 Austria 8 9
 Turkey 8 7
 East Germany 8 7
 Iceland 8 6
Group 4
Pld Pts
 Netherlands 6 10
 West Germany 6 9
 Finland 6 3
 Wales 6 2
Group 5
Pld Pts
 Yugoslavia 8 14
 Scotland 8 10
 France 8 9
 Norway 8 6
 Cyprus 8 1
Group 6
Pld Pts
 Spain 8 13
 Republic of Ireland 8 12
 Hungary 8 8
 Northern Ireland 8 5
 Malta 8 2
Group 7
Pld Pts
 Belgium 8 12
 Czechoslovakia 8 12
 Portugal 8 10
  Switzerland 8 5
 Luxembourg 8 1

North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF)[edit]

(16 teams competing for 2 berths)

The 1989 CONCACAF Championship also served as the qualifying process for the 1990 FIFA World Cup. The Championship consisted of a two-round qualification process, with the ten lowest-ranked CONCACAF teams beginning in the first round. The five teams winning their two-legged ties were joined by the five highest ranked CONCACAF teams in the second round, which again consisted of teams being drawn into two-legged ties. The five victorious teams contested the final tournament of the 1989 Championship, which took the form of a group with teams playing each other on a home-and-away basis. The eventual CONCACAF champions and runners-up qualified for the World Cup finals.

Final standings

Team Pld Pts
 Costa Rica 8 11
 United States 8 11
 Trinidad and Tobago 8 9
 Guatemala 6 3
 El Salvador 6 2

Oceania (OFC)[edit]

(5 teams competing for 0 or 1 berth; a play-off against CONMEBOL determines which confederation gets the extra berth)

The qualification process began in November 1988 with the strongest two OFC teams facing the two other OFC entrants in two-legged ties. The two winners advanced to a final group where they were joined by non-OFC members Israel who were allocated to this zone for the qualification process. The three teams played each other on a home-and-away basis with the team finishing top of the group advancing to a final play-off against the third best South American team for a World Cup berth.

Final standings

Team Pld Pts
 Israel 4 5
 Australia 4 4
 New Zealand 4 3

Israel advanced to the CONMEBOL–OFC play-off, against Colombia, the 3rd best team of CONMEBOL.

South America (CONMEBOL)[edit]

(9 teams competing for 3 or 4 berths; a play-off against OFC determines which confederation gets the extra berth, with Argentina also qualifying automatically as World Cup holders)

The CONMEBOL qualification process featured three groups of three teams being drawn to play on a home and away basis, with matches played from July to September 1989. The records of the three group winners were ranked, with the two best teams qualifying directly for the World Cup finals; the group winner with the weakest record advanced to a play–off against the winner of the OFC zone.

Group 1
Pld Pts
 Uruguay 4 6
 Bolivia 4 6
 Peru 4 0
Group 2
Pld Pts
 Colombia 4 5
 Paraguay 4 4
 Ecuador 4 3
Group 3
Pld Pts
 Brazil 4 7
 Chile 4 5
 Venezuela 4 0

Colombia advanced to the CONMEBOL–OFC play-off, against Israel, the winner of the OFC zone.

Intercontinental play-off[edit]

There was one inter-confederation play-off to determine the final qualification spot for the 1990 FIFA World Cup finals. The play-off was contested by the CONMEBOL group winners with the weakest record and the winner of the OFC zone.

CONMEBOL–OFC play-off[edit]

15 October 1989
15:30 UTC−5
Colombia  1–0  Israel
Usuriaga Goal 73'

30 October 1989
19:00 UTC+2
Israel  0–0  Colombia
Ramat Gan Stadium, Ramat Gan
Attendance: 50,000
Referee: Edgardo Codesal (Mexico)

Colombia won 1–0 on aggregate and qualified for the 1990 FIFA World Cup.


  • On 12 August 1989, Samuel Okwaraji collapsed and died whilst playing for Nigeria in their qualifying match against Angola, ten minutes before the end.
  • One of the most bizarre incidents in World Cup history occurred on 3 September 1989. During the Brazil vs Chile CONMEBOL qualifying match in Rio de Janeiro. Chile needed victory to retain any hope of qualification, but trailed 0–1 to Brazil. Around twenty minutes into the second half, Chilean goalkeeper Roberto "Cóndor" Rojas fell to the pitch with an apparent injury to his forehead. A firework, thrown from the stands by a Brazilian fan named Rosenery Mello do Nascimento,[1] was smouldering about some yards away. After carrying Rojas off the pitch, the Chilean players and coaches refused to return claiming conditions were not safe, and the match went unfinished. After studying video footage of the match showing that the firework had not made any contact with Rojas, FIFA awarded Brazil a 2–0 win, eliminating Chile from the 1990 World Cup. As punishment, Chile was barred from the qualifying process for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, and Roberto Rojas was banned for life[2] (subsequently lifted in 2001[3]) for his role in falsifying the story simulating an attack by the Brazilian fans. The incident is called the Maracanazo by the Chilean national team since it took place in the Maracanã Stadium.
  • The decisive second leg of the CAF Final Round, tie between Egypt and Algeria in Cairo saw ugly scenes at its conclusion. The game was won 1–0 by Egypt, sending them to the 1990 World Cup at the expense of their opponent. After the final whistle, Algerian players and officials mobbed the referee and threw plant pots into the crowd. At the post-game conference, the Egyptian team doctor was blinded in one eye after being hit with a broken bottle thrown by an Algerian player. This was believed to be star striker Lakhdar Belloumi who was sentenced to prison for this offense, but he denied any wrongdoing and a twenty year international arrest warrant was eventually quashed in 2009. Teammates had previously testified that reserve goalkeeper Kamel Kadri was instead the culprit.


External links[edit]