Ireland V Italy at World Cup 1994 – Match Report
Ireland took on Italy on June 18 at Giants Stadium in the opening group E match at the 1994 World Cup in the USA. The New Jersey stadium was a sea of Irish tricolours and the Irish players must have felt as though they were playing at home. Once more the Irish fans had travelled in huge numbers to support their team and it wasn’t long before they had cause to be jubilant.
Just 12 minutes after the match kicked off the Italian captain, and magnificent defender, Franco Baresi was already looking uncomfortable. His attempt to get the ball out of danger, when the lone Irish striker Tommy Coyne challenged, so lacked conviction that Ray Houghton was able to collect the ball comfortably. The Glasgow-born Irish midfielder made an almost full turn before lifting his left-footed shot over Italian keeper Pagliuca. Houghton again. The former Liverpool FC player, who qualified to play for Ireland under the so-called Granny Rule, had launched Ireland’s 1988 Euro Championship campaign with a headed winner against England in Stuttgart. Now here he was doing the trick once more, at the age of 32, not so long after Irish football manager Jack Charlton had been openly doubting his worth to the side. Even his tumble goal celebration was suggestive of a much younger player.
In the first half Italy had at least an equal share of possession of the ball but almost everything was being channelled through play-maker Roberto Baggio. Later, Baggio fed Maldini, whom Roy Keane did extremely well to stop as he prepared to shoot at goal, and executed a delightfully nimble one-two with Giuseppe Signori to make the opening for a drive that thumped against the uncannily positioned Paul McGrath. It would not be that last time that an Italian attack would founder on the resolute rack that was the Irish centre half.
Irish fans feared the worst when Signori, at last skipped away from McGrath for Italy’s best chance in the first half but he leapt with frustration as it went wide. For a man who had scored 49 goals in a mere 56 Serie A matches since joining Lazio from Foggia, one might have expected greater precision. Luckily for the Irish his aim was off on this occasion.
McGrath Stands Out in a Magnificent Irish Team Performance
The Irish continued to defend brilliantly as a team however there was no hiding the fact that Paul McGrath was outstanding as he stayed as cool of mind as the air was hot, and was always vigilant in snuffing out sources of danger; altogether a more impressive figure than his fellow 34-year-olds, the creaking Baresi and Tassotti, at the other end of the pitch. Newcomer Phil Babb was superb alongside McGrath, while Denis Irwin demonstrated why Charlton can afford to leave young Gary Kelly on the bench.
Time and again McGrath repelled Italian attacks, snuffing out danger early, making last ditch tackles, and making towering clearing headers. His performance had it all including one cameo, midway through the second half, where he made a number tackles in quick succession finally taking a fierce shot from Roberto Baggio full in the face. Unbelievably he was back on his feet in a flash ready to stop whatever else the Italian attack could throw at him.
Almost immediately the Irish poured forward, lone striker Tommy Coyne to the fore, the ball breaking off him to Houghton, who made Pagliuca move sharply to save. Keane then got to the bye line and pulled back for Sheridan, unmarked, to lean just a little and allow his shot from eight yards to fly up and kiss the bar on its way over. There were more near or nearish things around Pagliuca, and the Italians realised it was not to be their day.
But Ireland were above all a team, and to say that they defended as such, doing little else, for slightly over half the match should not to disguise that they amply deserved to win it. It was the first time Ireland had avoided defeat in seven meetings with the Italians- and the first time in 13 World Cups that Italy had lost their opening match. Yet another famous football victory for the Republic of Ireland.
Roy Keane’s Description of Paul McGrath’s Performance against Italy in 1994
“Big Paul McGrath showed all the qualities demanded of us for half an hour in Giants Stadium that day. For him the word big is appropriate. Known for his poise, his ability on the ball, his unique gift for reading the game, Paul displayed these qualities on this day. One other huge asset was his courage. When the Italians did get sight of the goal, Paul presented a final, insurmountable obstacle. Paul inspired us as much as in the end he demoralised Roberto Baggio and the other Italian players ” Source: Roy Keane’s Autobiography
1994 World Cup Group E Standings After First Round of Matches
Teams Line Up
Republic of Ireland: 1 Pat Bonner (Glasgow Celtic), 2 Denis Irwin (Manchester United), 3 Terry Phelan (Manchester City), 5 Paul McGrath (Aston Villa), 11 Steve Staunton (Aston Villa), 14 Phil Babb (Coventry City),
Italy: Gianluca Pagliuca, Alessandro Costacurta, Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi (capt), Mauro Tassotti, Demetrio Albertini, Dino Baggio, Roberto Donadoni, Alberigo Evani, Roberto Baggio, Giuseppe Signori.
Venue: Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey, Date: 18th June 1994 Attendance: 75,338 Referee: Mario van der Ede from Netherlands.
Result: Ireland 1 – 0 Italy
Ireland Euro 88 – Irish Squad Euro 88