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WORLD CUP ITALIA '90 CHALLENGE

27th June 2011

On 23rd June the world reflected upon the twenty-year anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog. This awesome blue hedgehog revolutionised platform gaming as we knew it: Speed, action and attitude of a 16-bit magnitude blew away all that preceded it. Hell, I even jogged through the original Sonic the Hedgehog out of respect for the series that has bought so much awesome into the world.

The Twenty-Third Mega Drive Championship will mark the ten-year anniversary of the competitions. With the First Tournament taking place on 8th January 2001, this incredible milestone will pay homage to the original event that took place in a stuffy teenage bedroom many years ago. Some of the ideas thrown around included: replacing the current game pools with the three games used in the original tournament and returning to three-points for a win, have the three 'founding fathers': Doc Shakib, Lord Dilks and Mr Smith engage in a special exhibition that emulated the First Championship fixtures, merging the league, knock-out and challenge to only have one competition, and a few even more contemptible/unrealistic schemes that aren't worth mentioning. All foolish notions were quickly dismissed and, in the end, it was decided to pay homage to the First Tournament in the following ways:
(1) Have a cake at the competition
(2) Have the Challenge embody the First Tournament in some manner
(3) Not to alter the league system to any previous set-up, as the biggest strength the tournaments now have is being nothing like the early Mega Drive Championships, which were repetitive rubbish

With Sonic the Hedgehog celebrating his twentieth anniversary and the Mega Drive Championships celebrating their tenth, the old blue speed demon seemed like a natural choice. Hell, it was Sonic the Hedgehog who inspired the First Mega Drive Championship, with the well known fable of Doc Shakib challenging Mr Smith to a 'race' on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 to determine which of them was the better player. Yet Sonic the Hedgehog has been done. At the Nineteenth Mega Drive Championship the Challenge was a speed run in Green Hill Zone Act 1, with Commander Graham's last ditch effort to overhaul Professor King's 29 seconds, failing by just 1 second, arguably one of the finest moments in the history of Mega Drive Championshippery. That bout of awesome inspired the 2010 European Mega Drive Championship were game 26 was to collect as many rings in Green Hill Zone Act 1 in 90 seconds or under. Pedro Braganša's 223 ring tally, out of 225 rings, was one of the greatest fetes today and will live forever in infamy upon this video:

In spite of its place as the inspiration of all tournaments, the epic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 race between Doc Shakib and Mr Smith was the second game of the First Mega Drive Championship. Instead, while Mr Smith typed up the tournamental fixtures, Doc Shakib and Lord Dilks duelled upon World Cup Italia '90 - the seminal game of the tournaments. While World Cup Italia '90 is one of the most passionately disliked tournament games (and when you consider some of the rubbish we play this is quite an achievement) it has been decided that this game will be used in the Challenge to honour that First Mega Drive Championship, oh so many years ago!

Sonic the Hedgehog is graphically superb, the blue one rushes through six beautiful levels in an attempt to destroy badniks and defeat Robotnik. World Cup Italia '90 has teams from across the globe in which every player looks identical. Sonic the Hedgehog offers revolutionary platform gameplay that helped established Sega as a force to be reckoned with. The one-player mode on World Cup Italia '90 is a turgid affair and a damning indictment on how bad video games can be. The following select quotes on World Cup Italia '90 from our members and its easy to understand the esteem this game is held in:

"So contemptible my words cannot express" - Captain Maltby
"Abject tosh" - Mr Smith
"The 'kicking a bag of meat' game" - The Plumb

So it has to be asked, are the Beloved Tournament Administration making a mistake by selecting World Cup Italia '90 as the Challenge game? Hardly! In order to make the Challenge a more enjoyable contest than a general league bout of World Cup Italia '90, although that is hardly an onurous task, the following winning conditions have been added:
1) The first player to score three goals qualifies.
2) At half-time the player in the lead qualifies.
3) Any goal in the second half constitutes a golden goal.
4) The infamous Italia '90 penalty shoot-out and sudden death.
It is believed this will transform a generally disliked game into an awesome challenge that can stand proudly beside its predecessors.

So, in order to prove World Cup Italia '90 isn't as crap as generally believed, we shall now run down some of the most memorable Mega Drive games this lame attempt at a cash in on the 1990 World Cup has produced:

Lord Dilks 16 Vs 1 Doc Shakib - 1st Tournament
The inaugural game of the Mega Drive Championships proved to be an easy one for Lord Dilks, who coasted to victory and set his stall out as being the best tournament player on World Cup Italia '90.

Mr Smith 2 Vs 2 Lord Dilks - 3rd Tournament
The closest Lord Dilks ever came to a domestic Italia '90 defeat was against his arch-rival, Mr Smith. Here the teams of England and Argentina battled it out in one of the strongest displays of any two teams. It the final few minutes, with the game balanced at 2-2, Mr Smith's England unleashed a shot towards goal and for a few moments it seemed like the advantage would swing to Mr Smith, however, the ball hit the post and bounced out. The game ended a tie and is ranked #4 on our most memorable list of English Mega Drive games.

Captain Maltby 0 Vs 44 Lord Dilks - 5th Tournament
The highest score the Mega Drive Championships have ever produced saw Italia '90 elite, Lord Dilks, thrash the Italia '90 inept, Captain Maltby. Yes, Captain Maltby played most of the game with his feet (to prove the pointlessness of him actually playing the game properly). Ranked #14 most memorable tournament battle of all time and made all the more famous by Baron Von Hooton's repetitive comment: "Come on Chris, see if you get fifty."

Lieutenant Gareth 4 Vs 6 Captain Maltby - 15th Tournament
Captain Maltby was long regarded as our Italia '90 whipping boy and, in his first game since 2001, he faced his rival Lieutenant Gareth. When Lieutenant Gareth opened the scoring the statisticians seemed correct - Captain Maltby would lose again. Yet this game turned into a tightly poised spectacle that saw neither man able to maintain a commanding advantage. Ranked #7 greatest Mega Drive encounter of all time, Captain Maltby edged his way to his first ever victory on Italia '90.

Earl Holbrook 5 Vs 4 Doc Shakib - 18th Tournament
Recently promoted Earl Holbrook had the reputation of being a button masher. Against veteran, Doc Shakib, on Italia '90 - a game where button mashing just won't cut it, it was largely anticipated the rookie was be taken to school. This was a surprisingly tight game, however, Doc Shakib's Morocco held a slender advantage over Earl Holbrook's Brazil until late in the second-half when Earl Holbrook scored two late goals to secure two vital points, which would, ultimately, be the difference between relegation and safety.

Lord Dilks 6 Vs 4 Rod Rash - 2007 Anglo-Irish Mega Drive Tournament
Lord Dilks has long been regarded as the best English World Cup Italia '90 player ever to have picked up a controller. But in this first supranational event between England and Ireland, Lord Dilks found himself on the back foot against Rod Rash and at half-time the score was 4-0 in favour of the Irishman. The second-half saw one of the greatest comebacks since the Second World War, as Lord Dilks stayed tight at the back, but deadly up-front, scoring six goals and conceding none to hand the point to Team England.

The Plumb 2 Vs 4 Doc Shakib - 21st Tournament
Passion was in abundance as Division One newcomer and sports game enthusiast, The Plumb, took on Doc Shakib. The game was a very close affair, with merely six goals scored the victory could have gone to either player. When The Plumb scored his second goal, to take the score to 3-2 he celebrated so much, the adjacent game of Pete Sampras Tennis froze. Sadly, this was the closest The Plumb came to victory as another goal for Doc Shakib gave him the two-points.

World Cup Italia '90 Overall Rankings, All Members

P

W

D

L

G

C

G.D.

Pts

1st

Lord Dilks

29

27

2

0

377

55

+322

56

2nd

Mr Smith

22

15

2

5

177

71

+106

32

3rd

Doc Shakib

32

13

1

18

162

223

-61

27

4th

Commander Graham

4

3

0

1

25

29

-4

6

5th

The Plumb

4

2

0

2

23

19

+4

4

6th

Earl Holbrook

6

2

0

4

17

50

-33

4

7th

Baron Von Hooton

17

4

1

12

70

130

-60

9

8th

Fireman Sam

4

1

0

3

14

19

-5

2

9th

General Pink

1

1

0

0

10

6

+4

2

9th

Princess Charlene

1

1

0

0

4

0

+4

2

11th

Captain Maltby

23

3

0

20

68

304

-236

6

12th

Samurai Taguchi

1

0

0

1

4

5

-1

0

13th

Sir Jackaman

1

0

0

1

6

10

-4

0

14th

Lieutenant Gareth

3

0

0

3

8

24

-16

0

15th

Dame Yada

1

0

0

1

0

6

-6

0

16th

Professor Mizutani

1

0

0

1

0

15

-15

0