The FIFA Confederations Cup has produced some memorable moments in since its inception in 1992. Among them are upsets such as Australia’s win over reigning world and European champions France in 2001 and USA’s historic defeat of Spain three years ago.
Moments such as Ronaldo and Romario scoring hat-tricks apiece as Brazil dismantled the Socceroos 6-0 in the 1997 final, a Cuauhtemoc Blanco-inspired Mexico edging the defending champions 4-3 in a thrilling conclusion to the following edition, and Cicinho, Kaka, Ronaldinho and Adriano inspiring A Selecaõ to a 4-1 reverse of arch-rivals Argentina in the 2005 decider. And the joy of watching Jay Jay Okocha’s bewildering body swerves in 1995 and Denilson exploding on to the scene two years later with his hypersonic, hypnotising step-overs.
Yet none of that would have unfolded had its experimental installment not proved such a success. Over 70,000 turned up to watch hosts Saudi Arabia overwhelm USA 3-0 in the first match of the four-team tournament, and they were joined in the final by Argentina, whose 4-0 win over Côte d'Ivoire included an eye-catching Gabriel Batistuta brace.
Twenty years ago today, The Green Falcons and La Albiceleste lined up in front of 75,000 spectators in Riyadh to determine the maiden FIFA Confederations Cup champions.
Argentina’s one-touch passing had sliced open the Ivorians’ defence at will, and it proved the source of their 18th-minute deadlock-breaker against Saudi Arabia. Leonardo Rodriguez played two successive one-twos with his former Velez Sarsfield team-mate Diego Simeone, before the latter unleashed a powerful shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Six minutes later it was 2-0, with Claudio Caniggia controlling the ball masterfully into his path inside the penalty area and blasting it home.
Twenty minutes after the restart, Argentina amplified their lead. Batistuta’s cheeky shot with the outside of his boot came back off the post and fell to Simeone, who faked the shot, cut inside an opponent and smashed the ball into the roof of the net from seven yards.
The Saudi fans, to their credit, applauded the goal, but just a minute later the King Fahd International Stadium erupted. Saeed Al-Owairan picked up the ball 30 yards from goal and produced a vicious, swerving strike that goalkeeper Sergio Goycochea couldn’t keep out.
It finished 3-1 but at least the Saudis had a consolation to celebrate. As for the world, they had the establishment of a tournament to celebrate – following intense interest and engrossing action, the FIFA Confederations Cup was here to stay.