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Ireland at 1994 World Cup Finals in the USA
Having appeared in successive major football championship finals at the Euro 88 finals and the 1990 World Cup finals Ireland lost out by just one point to England in the 1992 Euro qualification campaign. Irish football manager Jack Charlton made it three major finals out of four when Ireland qualified for the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States of America.
Qualification was achieved the hard way by goal difference ahead of Denmark. Following a tight qualification campaign Ireland's participation at the finals in the USA came courtesy late goal in the last group match by Alan McLoughlin against Northern Ireland at Windsor Park.
In the penultimate qualification match Ireland had been soundly beaten 1-3 at Lansdowne Road (now Aviva Stadium) by group winners Spain. Qualification for the finals in the USA was still in the control of the Irish if they won their last match away to Northern Ireland. The Spanish and the Denmark were due to meet at the same time in Seville in Spain. At the very least Charlton's side needed a draw and a home win for Spain to have a chance of qualification.
Fortunately for Ireland the Spanish provided the right result as they beat Denmark 1-0. Spain played 80 minutes of the match against the reigning European champions with just ten men but a Fernando Hierro goal after 63 minutes was enough to secure a home victory.
At this stage the match between the two Irish sides was level at 0-0. This would have been enough to see the Republic through to the 1994 World Cup finals until Jimmy Quinn scored a stunning volley ten minutes later. The Republic players had just 27 minutes to rescue their qualification campaign.
The fans didn't have to wait long for the equaliser. Just three minutes later a poor headed clearance, from a free kick by Manchester United's Denis Irwin, fell to Alan McLoughlin at the edge of the box. His drilled shot flew through a packed box and found the back of the Northern Irish net. Despite some further edgy moments the Republic had done just enough to qualify for the finals in the USA.
Republic of Ireland Drawn in Group E in World Cup 1994
At World Cup 1994 the Irish team was drawn in a tricky group that included Italy, Mexico and Norway. The Irish would play their matches in New Jersey and Florida. The Irish group matches at World Cup 1994 were drawn as follows:
Ireland's first match at the 1994 World Cup in the USA was against the mighty Italians at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. This meant that Ireland were playing back-to-back World Cup finals matches against the same opposition as Italy had eliminated Ireland in the quarterfinals at Italia 1990. Not many people gave the Irish much of a chance of beating Italy but thanks to a first half goal by Ray Houghton and some outstanding defending, by Paul McGrath in particular, the Irish reversed the result in Rome four years earlier.
The second match for the Irish was against Mexico in Orlando in Florida. Following on from the outstanding victory against Italy the Irish wilted in a blistering heat that gave the Mexicans a substantial advantage. At times during the match it looked as though the Irish might take a very heavy beating and confining the Mexicans to just two goals was a significant achievement. Of even more significance was a late goal from substitute John Aldridge that proved to be far more than a consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat.
All four teams went into the last round of matches with identical records - a win and a loss. The Irish team took to the pitch at Giants Stadium with their manager, Jack Charlton, up in the stand. He had been given a touchline ban following an incident during the match against Mexico. In a dreary match that lacked excitement or incident Ireland comfortably held Norway to a scoreless draw.
The other group match between Italy and Mexico also ended in a draw. This meant that all four teams ended up with a win, a loss, and a draw. Remarkably all four teams ended up with four points and with identical goal differences. Mexico topped the group on goals scored and the Norwegians finished bottom of the group as they scored just one goal in the three matches. Ireland finished in second place ahead of Italy due the opening match victory over the Italians.
Ireland's reward for finishing in second place in Group E was a round 16 match against Holland in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Once again the Irish were again troubled by the heat and humidity when they played the Dutch. Two uncharacteristic defensive errors gave the Netherlands a 2-0 first half lead. Despite their best efforts in trying conditions the Irish could not reduce the deficit as the Dutch qualified to play Brazil in the next round.
1994 World Cup Summary
Following an outstanding performance and result in the opening match against Italy the 1994 World Cup petered out for the Republic of Ireland. A combination of difficult conditions, ill-discipline, and some defensive lapses meant that ultimately it was a disappointing tournament for the Irish. Perhaps the only consolation that could be taken from the competition in the USA was that Ireland was the only team to beat Italy in regulation time. Italy made it all of the way to the final but lost out to Brazil in a penalty shoot-out.
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Squad World Cup 1990