At Italia ’90 the Irish team is drawn in a very tough Group F that includes European champions the Netherlands, African footballing power Egypt, and England. This is something of a coincidence as the English and the Dutch were also in Ireland’s UEFA Euro 1988 group. The tournament organisers are fearful that this grouping might lead to crowd disorder particularly between the English and Dutch fans. The group is based on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia and security is very tight with alcohol bans in place on match days.
Ireland’s first match at a World Cup finals competition is against their longtime foe England. The English are seeking revenge for their surprise defeat by the Irish in the opening group match at Euro ’88. Once again Bobby Robson‘s English team is expected to beat Ireland and his players underline 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 is elusive until an error by Steve McMahon allows Kevin Sheedy to score in the 73rd minute.
Ireland’s next matches are against Egypt and the Netherlands, both played in Palermo and both ending in a draw. The Irish team finishes group play with 0 wins, 0 losses and 3 draws. England registers the only win in the group, beating Egypt. The three European teams progress into the next round.
In the knock-out round Ireland avoids drawing West Germany, the ultimate winner of the 1990 World Cup. They draw Romania as their first opponent and end regulation in yet another draw in Genoa. A penalty shoot-out follows and after the first eight penalties the teams are still tied at 4-4. Irish goalkeeper Packie Bonner blocks Romania’s fifth penalty kick. David O’Leary steps up confidently and sends his kick past the goalkeeper and into the net. Ireland has advanced to the quarterfinals at the first attempt.
Ireland bows out at the quarterfinals stage losing by a single goal to the hosts, Italy, at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. It is a very strange campaign in that Ireland does not won any of their matches, scores only two goals, and plays in some really poor matches in terms of quality of play. Notwithstanding this the Irish over-achieve which is fully appreciated by the Irish supporters. The green army stays on in the Stadio Olimpico long after the final whistle to laud manager Jack Charlton and his gallant squad.
(From: “Ireland at 1990 World Cup Finals in Italy,” Soccer-Ireland.com, http://www.soccer-ireland.com | Photograph by Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE)