Yugoslavia qualified for the 1990 World Cup despite simmering tensions in the country. Their Under 20 side had excelled in the World Youth Championships in Chile in 1987, and many of that squad had progressed to the senior side, playing their part in Italy in 1990.
The youngsters were helped by some of the senior members of the side, one of the older players was Safet “Pape” Sušić from Bosnia.
In their opening game they were hammered by a West Germany side who produced probably the best performance of the tournament, and of course would go on to win it.
A solid 1-0 victory against Colombia gave them an excellent chance of progressing, knowing that just a draw against minnows United Arab Emirates would be enough.
Their got off to a perfect start when after just four minutes when Sušić headed them in front:
What Happened Next?
Yugoslavia won 4-1 and advanced in second place in the group to face Spain in the last sixteen. They beat the Spanish 2-1 after extra-time but fell to an agonising penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina in the quarter-final despite goalkeeper Ivkovic saving Diego Maradona’s poor penalty.
In 1991/92 the breakup of Yugoslavia saw the emergence of several new countries, many of which would go on to perform as well or even better than Yugoslavia had done in the World Cup.
Safet Sušić is considered as Paris St Germain’s greatest ever player. Sušić scored a total of 21 goals in 54 appearances for Yugoslavia from his attacking midfield position which included hat-tricks against Argentina and Italy.
He managed Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.