It’s difficult to even hear mention of Italia 90 without being immediately transported to a melody of Nessun Dorma or World in Motion.
Accompany these songs with images of a tearful Gazza and Chris Waddle larruping a penalty several yards over the bar and you’ve pretty much summed up most Englishman’s recollections of the tournament.
But contrary to popular belief, these two anthems are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the musical fare the World Cup served up.
At a time when scathing social media comment sections didn’t exist and we lived in a world a lot less media hardened than we are now, it wasn’t unusual for national teams to hop into a recording studio or on to a set to star in their own music videos. Although, admittedly, not all of them included a Hacienda-inspired John Barnes rap.
While the Three Lions’ iconic World in Motion track may have been shot with players reportedly more interested in pocketing some cash and heading to a Top Man opening later that day, they still managed to produce something that aged a little better than most of their counterparts. Probably.
USA World Cup Soccer Team – Victory
Never ones to avoid a chance to flex their creative muscles, the US national team also went down the route of producing a rap that simply oozes early 90s beats. So much so, you could easily imagine Will Smith’s eponymous character in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air enjoying the sound of Def Jef and DJ Eric Vaughn spitting rhymes alongside clips of celebrating Americans.
The only trouble is the lyrics – which include the motivational line ‘togetherness and unity, means victory for you and me’ – are probably a bit more Carlton than Will.
It doesn’t get any better, either. Well-meaning messages of self-respect, earning admiration and using intellect all sound great on a meme, but it all results in something that feels a bit earnest. Sadly, the song’s promise to provide the ‘attitude to achieve your goal’ didn’t translate on the pitch, with the US’s first World Cup appearance in 40 years ending in first round elimination after three straight defeats.
Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard – Het is Fijn in Italië te Zijn
The appearance of the US players in their effort was certainly welcome, even if they weren’t allowed to sing into a mic that was turned on, which is probably what should have happened to Dutch legends Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard on the Netherlands’ ditty. If you can even call it that.
The AC Milan duo absolutely murdered Het is Fijn in Italië te Zijn in what surely must be one of the worst songs ever to be released.
If you can imagine the faint sound of a fairground ride spliced with the drunk ramblings of a couple of Dutchmen stumbling home after a big night out, you’re not far off what this sounds like.
Although the title translates to It’s Great to be in Italy, The Set Pieces is pretty certain it would be good to be anywhere other than wherever van Basten and Rijkaard were crooning. Stick to what you’re good at, chaps.
Liam Harrison and the Goal Celebrities (Republic of Ireland) – Give it a Lash Jack
If this had been an English effort, we’d probably still be talking about this as a guilty pleasure. In fact, it was reported in 2011 that U2 stalwart Bono claimed it was the ‘greatest Irish song ever written’. Sorry, Jedward.
Ridiculously catchy, it’s easy to envisage Give it a Lash Jack getting the Irish fans going on the terraces as they cheered on the lads in Italy.
The fact that the song was rebooted four years later for USA 94 – and that it reached number one in the Irish charts – indicates quite how popular it was. If they ever make it to another World Cup finals, perhaps we can expect another chart smash in a Three Lions relived style.
Costa Rica – Lo Daremos Todo
For the first 25 seconds of this one, it’s hard to tell if Lo Daremos Todo is a World Cup song or an advert for Costa Rican military service. That’s right up until the full squad appears, proudly wearing their national team tracksuits, lined up on what appears to be a flash disco dancefloor anyway.
But for all the glitz and glamour the video lacks, the fact that it contains all the players belting out the song to the backdrop of a Casio keyboard and some steel drums earns our respect. There’s something so deliciously 90s about the whole thing.
After Shave & fotbollslandslaget (Sweden) – Ciao, Ciao, Italia
In some ways, this song was a premonition. Sweden were one of the first teams to say Ciao to Italia 90 after losing to Brazil, Scotland and Costa Rica in one of their most hopeless World Cups on record.
And while the Swedes left Italy having made very little impact on the tournament, their song was just as forgettable. Europop played out over clips of some, admittedly stonking, Swedish goals, the song doesn’t necessarily do anything wrong, it just doesn’t do anything particularly right either.
German National Team and Udo Jürgens – Wir sind schon auf dem Brenner
If the idea of a former Austrian Eurovision winner, the entire German national team and some gratuitous instruments that look like they’ve been borrowed from the local school doesn’t get you going, then World Cup songs aren’t for you.
This is peak football-music fare, with the team lined up around Udo Jürgens (our Eurovision star) shaking, rattling and rolling as they sing. If you keep your eyes peeled, you can spot Jurgen Klinsmann breaking out into some air sax, he’s enjoying it so much.
In typical German style, the title translates as We’re Already on the Brenner – referring to celebrating victory along the Brenner Pass that runs through the Alps between Germany and Italy. It’d be nice to say that hubris came before a fall but, well, as England fans know only too well, it didn’t.
Want even more Italia 90? Then stay tuned to The Set Pieces for the next few weeks, as our dedicated channel features interviews, features and quizzes from one of the World Cup’s most important tournaments – all in association with the Vincera podcast.