• Sheikh Riad
  • riadhossain500@gmail.com
  • Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh

The Holy Water Scandal of the 1990 World Cup

As a result of the use of a spiked water bottle, Argentina eliminated Brazil from the World Cup on 24 June 1990. The defending champions struggled through the group stage, finishing behind Cameroon and Romania, but advanced as the highest-ranked third-place finisher. All three matches were won by Brazil, who topped their group.

They met in the first knockout round at Turin’s Stadio Delle Alpi, where Brazilian defender Branco helped keep Diego Maradona in check. A member of the Argentinian staff handed Branco a water bottle during a pause in play.

Round of 16, Brazil vs Argentina; Image source-Howler Magazine

He later complained that he began feeling drowsy and was unable to keep up with Maradona, who completed a brilliant run with a pass to set up Claudio Caniggia for the winning goal. Argentina eventually advanced all the way to the final, where they fell to West Germany 1–0.

Later, Maradona claimed that the water bottle Branco had been given was dosed with tranquilizers. Branco threatened to sue the Argentine Football Association, but they denied any knowledge of the event.

Since dubbed the “holy water” scandal, it has added fuel to the already intense rivalry between the two nations. There are 2 questions to ask a Brazilian:

  1. Was it water or not
  2. Pele or Maradona?

And the answers are heavily consistently unanimous.

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