World Cup 1990 Quarter-Final: Ireland 0 Italy 1
IRELAND lost with honour in the World Cup quarter-final against Italy in Rome last night. Salvatori Schillaci scored the goal that brought our glorious crusade to an end. But long before that wicked 38th minute Ireland's World Cup campaign had ceased to be about football.
We lost on the field which for all nations bar one is the inevitable end in World Cup football. What we have gained as a community will be stored forever in our hearts
We smiled when we won and graciously last night in defeat. The world has discovered a new Ireland. Ireland has discovered a new self. Football stays the same. There will be other World Cups but Ireland will never be the same thanks to the young men who have played soccer for us these past few golden weeks.
Gratitude is also due to the thousands of Irish who are here and the millions at home. We have-gained infinitely more than we lost in Rome last night. We are right to smile as we bid the World Cup farewell.
We had seen the courage and the will power, the discipline and the valour. Last night in Rome we saw Irish class and composure in the first 45 minutes against Italy.
The huge stadium seemed to dwarf the Irish passion in the crowd. .You could see small groups of Irish .support but mostly the place was alive with the flags and voices of Italy.
This seemed to suit the Irish players. From the beginning, they controlled the pace of the game.
Even Mick McCarthy looked comfortable around the ball. Up front Niall Quinn showed at every opportunity, his towering presence clearly bothering Franco Baresi and the other Italian defenders.
Quinn got a taste of things to come when he was the victim of a dreadful tackle early in the game. Elsewhere the Irish were covering every Italian move.
Paul. McGrath was critical to almost all our play. When the Italians had possession Donadoni, Giannini, Baggio and Maldini - Paul was in around them allowing - them no time, no space, getting a nudge here, a little flick there. Always present. When we had the ball McGrath moved it gracefully among the Irish players.
We were taking the game to Italy. It was a remarkable sight. I have never seen an Irish team in such an.atmosphere play so much within themselves. That's the way it seemed at least although you always felt that one of these Italians might be carrying a stiletto.
Ireland created the first chance and the second, this a really serious chance when Paul McGrath crossed and Niall Quinn got a powerful header on target in the 25th minute.
The Italians had failed utterly to find a way through to have a shot on Packie Bonner's goal. They were desperate for a hero. They looked like a team of small men.
Even Baresi, the great AC Milan defender, their real leader, looked impotent. Twice in the first half Baresi misplaced passes he would have targeted on any other night. As the half progressed he was reduced to firing long high balls forward to where Mick McCarthy loomed large over Salvatore Schillaci. This Italian ploy would have no chance of succeeding except for one thing; Portuguese referee Valente Silva. And the two linesmen, one from Costa Rica and one from Colombia.
The match officials were chosen by FIFA to please the Italians. Thus a Latin referee and two inexperienced linesmen who would be more likely to put an offside flag up against Ireland rather than the hosts
After half an hour we looked uncannily comfortable. The Italians had just one half-chance, a header which Schillaci flicked wide after 26 minutes. After 35 minutes they got a free-kick when McCarthy fairly won an aerial challenge against Schillaci.
The little Sicilian was now play-acting having failed to escape the horde of white shirts that descended on him every time he gained possession. Now ten minutes from half-time he was reduced to feigning injury. The free kick was cleared.
Then Ireland moved forward again, threatening once more. Ray Houghton, Kevin Sheedy, McGrath, Morris and Townsend all played comfortably round the ball. Quinn and Aldridge searched ceaselessly for space in the Italian box. De Agostini was booked for a desperate challenge. A sign of Italian fears beginning to get the better of them.
Then the stiletto was produced. Giannini ran at the Irish defence. It didn't seem a particularly worrying attack. He passed wide to Donadoni who had always looked likelier than anyone to lift the gloom that had enveloped this huge, stadium throughout the play so far.
Donadoni hit the ball from 23 yards wide on an angle left of goal. It was fiercely struck. Packie Bonner could only parry the shot. Like a thief Schillaci pounced. He stroked the ball firmly into an empty net. He made it look easier than it was.
37 minutes had elapsed, 37 minutes in,which the Irish team had seemed more than equal to the task. Now the place went mad.
We'd seen the class, the composure and felt the knife. The second half would have to be once again about courage and will power, stomach, desire and all the qualities that had taken us to this incredible night.
Now Ireland needed a hero.
The second half was similar to the first but for different reasons. Now the Italians had the game, all they had to do was protect their lead. They're very good at that and we are very good at what we tried in vain to do for the last 45 minutes of our World Cup journey.
We were defiant. But that was not enough. When you're chasing the game against a side as experienced as Italy, you need to be either lucky or imaginative. We weren't lucky, and brave though we were, that touch of creativity required to score against this Italian team in these circumstances was missing.
Paul McGrath was our most heroic player throughout the 90 minutes. He'd been everywhere in the first half and was.again in the second. Our first real threat in this period came after 60 minutes when Paul half-volleyed a shot, narrowly wide from 25 yards.
In the 78th minute, he was.in the Italian box again, this time to nod the ball neatly down to John Aldridge, who was unbalanced and unable to take the chance. This was probably the most clear-cut opening we created in this game.
With ten minutes left, Jack Charlton made a very strange substitution; he introduced John Sheridan to the World Cup. Nobody can say for sure what Charlton intended, but it seemed a rather crass gesture, as Ronnie Whelan, a player who might well have turned the game, was left sitting on the bench. Alongside him, David O'Leary.
Throughout the second half, one was conscious of Whelan's absence from the team. The trick that Ireland needed to get back into this game is Ronnie's trick. It's called class.
That means, as he has done so many times for Liverpool arid Ireland, finding an inspirational moment to score a vital goal.
This is what was missing, despite the courage last night. John Sheridan, a novice international,.with no form in this particular department, was never. likely to produce such a moment. One can think of no reason for playing him in the final ten minutes.
But this is not the time for tactical analysis. or recrimination. The Irish team has gone beyond the reach of such a thing. They united a nation, tapping emotions we hardly knew were there, making even John Healy cry.
The reasons were evident as we pushed forward to end this game in Italian territory, threatening to the bitter end to prolong the dream that has been the past three weeks.
Tony Cascarino caused havoc in the Italian goalmouth in the dying minutes of this game. But we had left ourselves without that bit of finishing class and the work was all in vain
One moment more than any other reflected almost everything we have come to admire in these players; five minutes from the end Kevin Moran made a marvellous interception to stop an Italian counter-attack.
The ball flew from his boot just beyond his reach, but he sprinted after it and won the ensuing tackle with the blue shirt in his way. Kevin, clean courageous and defiant.
Ireland have brought much to this tournament. The qualities of Moran in that moment more than anything.
We are coming home today. We will be remembered here. And remember this as a golden time; We could hardly have asked for more.
Republic of Ireland: Packie Bonner, Chris Morris, Steve Staunton, Mick McCarthy (capt), Kevin Moran, Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton, Kevin Sheedy, Andy Townsend, John Aldridge (John Sheridan 78'), Niall Quinn (Tony Cascarino 54').
Booked: Moran 43'
Italy: Walter Zenga, Franco Baresi, Giuseppe Bergomi, Luigi De Agostini, Riccardo Ferri, Paolo Maldini, Fernando De Napoli, Giuseppe Giannini (64), Roberto Donadoni, Roberto Baggio (72), Salvatore Schillaci
Goal: Schillaci 38'
Booked: De Agostini 36'
Referee: Carlos Silva Valente (Portugal)
Venue: Stadio Olimpico, Romeo,