Parma had just lost to Arsenal in the European Cup Winners Cup Final of 1994, an Alan Smith goal would see the Londoners leave Copenhagen victorious and Parma heading home wondering what if.
For Parma’s Swedish midfield maestro he’d have been on the plane thinking about his chance that rattled the post in the opening 20 minutes, an inch the other way, it could have been a very different atmosphere as Parma headed back to Italy.
For many of Nevio Scala’s side I’m sure after a tough, vigorous season they’d be up for going to sit on a beach for the rest of the summer with their families, however for many of Parma’s squad they had a World Cup to prepare for in just over a months’ time.
In fact, Parma had six representatives in Arrigo Sacchi’s 22 man squad heading to the USA, Luca Bucci, Luigi Apolloni, Antonio Benarrivo, Lorenzo Minotti, Roberto Mussi, and Gianfranco Zola all had plane tickets and passports at the ready. Faustino Asprilla would also be on the biggest stage of them all representing Columbia, whilst his South American neighbour Nestor Sensini was preparing Argentina and of course Tomas Brolin was getting ready to go State Side with Sweden.
At the age of 24 Brolin was probably in the best shape of his life and arguably playing the best football of his life. Sweden, drawn in a group with Cameroon, Brazil and Russia weren’t predicted to go far in the tournament, despite having a talented pool of players to choose from.
Tommy Svensson took his side to the Rose Bowl in an opener with Henri Michel’s Cameroon, Brolin was handed the number 11 jersey for the tournament, where he’d play behind Borrusia Monchengladbach forward Martin Dahlin who would earn Sweden a point as his 75th minute strike tied the game at 2-2.
Just five days later Sweden were heading to the Potanic Silverdome, knowing defeat to Russia pretty much meant the end of their World Cup dream. Svensson went with Kennet Andersson and Martin Dahlin in attack with Brolin once again behind them, despite the Swedes going behind after just 10 minutes. Tomas Brolin stepped up to level the game from the spot before Dahlin struck twice in the second half to secure all three points ahead of Sweden’f final group game against the formidable Brazil.
Brolin would be instrumental as he set up Kennet Andersson to hold the favourites to an impressive 1-1 a draw that would see Brolin and Sweden progress to the last 16, where they’d face Saudi Arabia.
Andersson and Dahlin were scoring for fun now, with Brolin pulling the strings behind them, people were beginning to sit up and take notice of this entertaining side, with a comfortable 3-1 victory over the Saudi’s, Sweden breezed into the quarter final.
Romania was all that stood in the way of Sweden and a World Cup Semi-Final. In a cagy game, Tomas Brolin thought he’d won it, in one of the tournament’s most iconic moments, Sweden were awarded a free kick, as the clock approached 80 minutes, Stefan Schwarz was lining up to shoot, however he jumped over the ball before Hakan Mild passed it to Brolin who fired Sweden in front, Florin Raducioiu however would tie the game moments later. The game would finish 2-2 an head to penalties. Despite missing the first spot kick, Sweden hit five perfect penalties after that with Brolin scoring Sweden’s third as Svensson’s men won 5-4 on penalties.
That disappointing night in Copenhagen with Parma just a month or so earlier must have seemed like a distant memory now for Tomas Brolin as he prepared to take on Brazil in a World Cup Semi-Final.
With the World watching, Romario would go on to break Swedish hearts as Brazil won 1-0, however Sweden would go take the bronze medal finishing third with Brolin scoring his third goal of the tournament as Sweden demolished Bulgaria 4-0 in the third / fourth place playoff.
Brolin’s impressive performances throughout the 1994 World Cup earned him a place in Fifa’s Team of The Tournament.