PASADENA, Calif. -- It was the World Cup '94 championship, American-style.
The United States may not be on par with the rest of the world when it comes to soccer, but Americans sure can throw one grand farewell party.
A crowd of 94,194 packed the Rose Bowl yesterday and watched Brazil defeat Italy in the first shootout to decide a World Cup title. After 120 minutes of scoreless soccer, Brazil made three penalty kicks to Italy's two.
"We had such confidence that the thought of losing the penalty shootout never crossed our mind," Brazil's Bebeto said.
Brazil's victory was assured when Italy's Roberto Baggio, considered by many the world's finest player, missed a penalty kick, sending the ball over the goal.
"Normally, I place my kicks," said Baggio, who was playing with a hamstring injury. "But I had no energy left, so I just hit it as hard as I could."
Italian coach Arrigo Sacchi and soccer federation head Antonio Matarrese cried on each other's shoulders. Brazilian goalie Claudio Taffarel, who had helped assure the victory by stopping a kick in the shootout, ran around the field with a Brazilian flag atop his head.
The game ended a monthlong, 52-game tournament that included 24 of the world's best teams. A television audience of nearly 2 billion from 180 countries watched as Brazil became the first team to capture four championships. The tournament drew a record average crowd of 68,604 in nine cities.
The 25-minute closing ceremonies featured singer Whitney Houston, musician Kenny G. and a cast of thousands. Among the fans were former President George Bush, former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger and Vice President Al Gore. Outside the stadium, the largely pro-Brazilian crowd began singing and dancing the samba four hours before game time.
The Brazilians had the last chant, their famous "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole."