Men's Team

World Cup Stories: Pep and Txiki at USA '94

They share their football philosophy; they share successes on and off the pitch and they also played together at the only World Cup tournament of their long and distinguished careers.

That came at USA ’94 and it was there that Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain experienced one of the most remembered moments in the history of Spain at the World Cup.

CITY MAGAZINE: WORLD CUP SPECIAL!

The sight of Luis Enrique (pictured below), the current Spanish manager, with a broken nose and bloody white shirt was one of the lingering memories of USA ’94 – a World Cup Spain believed they just might win for the first time.

Yes, on 9 June 1994, at the Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts, the Spanish team once again encountered World Cup misfortune, which prevented them from progressing beyond the quarter-finals and their aim to, at least, equal the fourth place reached in 1950.

Coach Javier Clemente's Spain met Italy in the last eight, with a nation daring to dream that the long wait for a major success just might end on American soil.

But it was the Azzurri who took the lead with a goal from Italian icon Dino Baggio who struck a shot from outside the area that was impossible for Andoni Zubizarreta to keep out to make it 1-0.

After the break, Caminero equalized for Spain and then came the moment when millions of Spaniards held their collective breath as Julio Salinas went one-on-one against Gianluca Pagliuca a- but couldn’t beat the Italy keeper.

When Roberto Baggio had a similar chance, he made no mistake, taking the ball around Zubizarreta to make it 2-1 and put Italy in the semi-finals just three minutes before the final whistle.

Then, in added time, Mauro Tassotti's elbow in Luis Enrique’s face was not sanctioned by the Hungarian referee Sandor Puhl, though the Milan defender was later banned for eight games and never played for Italy again.

Brazil would go on to beat Italy the first final decided on penalties.

The World Cup will return to the United States in 2026, and Spain will look to rebuild and perhaps approach that tournament differently, given the heartbreak of the penalty shoot-out loss to Morocco.

But back in ’94, expectation and hopes for La Roja had also been high.

"We came to win the World Cup and the team has shown that they could do it, but we lost in the game we played the best. It's football stuff," Javier Clemente declared after the defeat.

Up to seven teammates from Johan Cruyff's Barcelona, ​​who had won four consecutive league titles and the first European Cup in the Club's history in 1992, accompanied Pep and Txiki at that World Cup.

Andoni Zubizarreta, Albert Ferrer, Sergi Barjuan, Miquel Ángel Nadal, José Mari Bakero, Jon Andoni Goikoetxea and Julio Salinas.

A few weeks earlier, the Barça team had been defeated 4-0 in Athens in the European Cup final against Fabio Capello's Milan.

Alessandro Costacurta, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Roberto Donadoni and Daniele Massaro, as well as Tassotti, crossed paths with the Blaugrana again with Arrigo Sacchi's team.

"We believe that we can do something very important, something that Spain has never done in a World Cup”, Guardiola declared before the event.

And a nation believed.

Spain began the ‘94 World Cup with a 2-2 draw against South Korea and then held reigning champions Germany 1-1.

Clemente's team secured their place in the last 16 round in the final group game, with a 3-1 victory over Bolivia, with a goal by Pep from the penalty spot opening the scoring.

The team would grow and boost expectations in the Round of 16, with a 3-0 win against Switzerland.

Txiki, in his only 29 minutes as a World Cup player, took to the grass of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington and sealed the passage to the quarter-finals with the third goal of the game - a well-struck penalty - after Fernando Hierro and Luis Enrique had earlier scored.

 

Txiki, approaching his 30th birthday and with 22 caps and 6 goals, would not return to the national team after that World Cup.

Pep, Olympic champion two years earlier in Barcelona, ​​had been called up to the squad for the first time in 1992 for a friendly against England in Santander and would finally debut on October 14 in Belfast against Northern Ireland.

Pep did not play in the 1996 European Cup and missed the 1998 World Cups in France and Japan-Korea 2002 due to injury.

So, neither tasted the success of a World Cup triumph, but they did play at a tournament that helped put Spain back on the international map.

Close friends on and off the pitch, neither Txiki nor Pep could have imagined they would be reunited later in their post-playing careers to such great effect at City…

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