Ireland at 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy
Following on from Ireland’s first qualification for the finals of a major football championship at Euro 88 the Irish began the 1990 World Cup qualification campaign optimistic that they could qualify for the World Cup finals in Italy. Ireland had been drawn in Group 6 with
Spain – group favourites, Hungary – a bit of an unknown quantity, Malta, and near neighbours Northern Ireland. It was not an easy group but with the top two teams to qualify it offered hope for Irish football manager, Jack Charlton.
Under instruction from Charlton the FAI agreed that Ireland would play the three matches away from home. Away draws against Northern Ireland and Hungary, and a 2-0 loss to the Spanish meant that Ireland had just two points from three matches.
In the remaining five group matches Ireland scored ten goals, conceded none and garnered maximum points to earn Ireland a place at the Italia ’90. Ultimately it had been a very impressive Irish qualification campaign with just one loss to Spain, only two goals conceded – in that loss, and the Irish were the only team to beat group winners Spain.
Republic of Ireland Drawn in Tough Group in Italia 90
At Italia 90 the Irish team was drawn in a very tough group that included European champions Holland, African footballing power Egypt, and England. This was something of a coincidence as the English and the Dutch were also in Ireland’s Euro 88 group.
Yet again the English were up first and the Dutch provided the opposition in the last group match. The tournament organisers were fearful that this grouping could lead to crowd trouble particularly between the English and Dutch fans.
The group was based on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and security was very tight with alcohol bans in place on match days. The Irish group matches at Italia 90 were drawn as follows:
Ireland v England in Cagliari
Ireland’s first match at a World Cup finals competition was against the auld enemy England. The English were seeking revenge for their surprise defeat by the Irish in the opening group match at Euro 88. Once again Bobby Robson’s English team was expected to beat Ireland and his players underlined that by taking an early lead through an eight minute goal from Gary Lineker. Despite Ireland getting a greater foothold in the second half an equaliser was elusive until an error by Steve McMahon allowed Kevin Sheedy to drill home in the 73rd minute.
Ireland v Egypt in Palermo
This was the match that famously inspired football pundit Eamon Dunphy to throw his pen across the RTE TV studio in apparent disgust and proclaim that he was ashamed of the Irish performance. In fairness to the Dunphy it was a truly shockingly turgid affair as the two teams played out a sterile 0-0 draw. It appeared that Egypt did not want to be beaten and played with eleven men behind the ball while the Irish stuck rigidly to the Jack Charlton style of football i.e. the long ball.
In view of Egypt’s lack of ambition the Irish had the opportunity, and the talent, to get the ball down and string some passing moves together. Despite this the Irish persisted with the long ball tactics. Although Ireland had the better chances, including a close effort from Kevin Sheedy late on, Charlton and his players had to settle for a second draw in the group.
Ireland v Holland in Palermo
In the third match of Group F was against the Dutch who had beaten the Irish in the last group match of Euro 88. The Dutch were the reigning European champions and their team was packed with supreme talents of Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, and Frank Rijkaard amongst others. The team for the match also included Vim Kieft who scored the somewhat fortunate winning goal against Ireland in Gelsenkirchen in 1988. The Dutch got off to a great start via a goal from Gullit after ten minutes.
With the Dutch in menacing form it was lucky that Irish goalkeeper was in fine form. As with the opening match against England Ireland applied greater pressure in the second half. This bore fruit after 71 minutes when the Dutch failed to deal with a long ball from Bonner and Niall Quinn slid the ball home from close range. As England had registered the only win in the group, beating Egypt, the three European teams progressed into the next round.
Ireland v Romania in Genoa
Group F at the 1990 World Cup was one of the tightest ever. Unusually Ireland and Holland ended with identical points, goals score and conceded, and results. The only way to separate them was to draw lots and by dint of this Ireland finished second in the group. This meant that Ireland avoided West Germany, who would ultimately win the 1990 World Cup, and were drawn against Romania in the first match of the knock-out rounds. Following a tense affair, including extra time, in which Romania’s genius Gheorghe Hagi gave Packie Bonner some heart-stopping moments yet again Ireland had drawn in Italia 90.
A penalty shoot-out followed and after the first eight penalties the teams were still tied at 4-4. The last two regulation penalties would be taken by extra time substitutes Daniel Timofte and David O’Leary. Timofte did not strike the ball with any real sense of confidence but Bonner still had to make the save which he did as he dived to his right. David O’Leary stepped up confidently as he sent goalkeeper Lung the wrong way and side-footed the ball into the Romanian goal. Ireland were in the quarter-finals at the first attempt.
Ireland v Italy in Rome
Ireland began brightly against the Italia 90 hosts showing no signs of nerves or being overawed. Irish midfielder Andy Townsend put down a marker when he left the great Franco Baresi sitting on his backside following an early tussle. Niall Quinn also had and early attempt on goal but it lacked real conviction. Gradually the Italians began to assert themselves and it was no real surprise when the hosts took the lead shortly before half time. Packie Bonner lost his footing after parrying a fierce shot and was in no position to do anything about Toto Schillachi’s shot on the rebound. In the second half the Irish continued to toil creating the odd half chance but in truth the Italians could have extended their lead through a stunning shot from Schillaci that crashed back off the crossbar.
1990 World Cup Summary
In its’ first World Cup finals the Republic of Ireland had bowed out at the quarterfinals stage losing by a single goal to the hosts, Italy, at the Olympic Stadium in Rome. It had been a very strange campaign in that Ireland had not won any of their matches, had only scored two goals, and had played in some really poor matches in terms of quality of play. Notwithstanding this the Irish had over-achieved which was fully appreciated by the Irish supporters. The green army stayed on in the Olympic Stadium long after the final whistle to laud Jack Charlton and his gallant squad.
Ireland & 1990 World Cup Finals – Irish Squad World Cup 1990