Time is running out for the Republic of Ireland in Group C of the Europe World Cup qualifiers. After defeat to Sweden in their last game, qualification for Brazil is looking more unlikely than ever, and patience with Giovanni Trapattoni seems to be wearing thin. The “Boys in Green,” now need three wins from three to qualify for the World Cup while also relying on Sweden to drop points against Kazakhstan.
With things looking bleak for the current crop of players, perhaps it’s the best time to look back at some of the better moments in their history, ahead of their crunch game with Austria in Vienna.
5. Beating England 1-0 at Euro 1988
12th June 1988. Stuttgart, Germany
The European Championships in 1988 marked the first time that the Republic of Ireland had appeared at a major international tournament. Ireland finished top of a qualifying group that also featured Bulgaria, Belgium, Luxembourg and fellow home nation hopefuls Scotland. Only the top team from each group would automatically qualify for the European finals, and Ireland secured their place finishing only one point ahead of closest runner-ups, Bulgaria.
Ireland headed to the 8 nation tournament in West Germany, determined to make a name for themselves on their biggest stage yet. As if their first big tournament wasn’t special enough, the group stage draw left Ireland with an opening game against the old enemy, England. Expected to be second best to an England team playing at their best since 1966, the underdogs upset the odds by scoring within just six minutes. A Ray Houghton header found its way over the top of Peter Shilton and put Ireland ahead in front of over fifty thousand people in Stuttgart.
The second half was almost all England as Pat Bonner’s goal was constantly attacked by the strong opposing force of Lineker, Beardsley and Barnes. Indeed, England created enough chances to win the match comfortably, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. As the clock ticked down, Ireland continued to ride their luck, with more England chances heading their way in injury time. Bonner pushed a John Barnes header against the post and out for a corner in England’s final chance of the 90-plus minutes.
After holding on for 84 minutes since Houghton’s goal and a fantastic performance from Pat Bonner, the final whistle blew making Ireland 1-0 winners. The Irish fans stuck around inside the stadium for an hour after the match celebrating their huge win, while Bobby Robson publically blamed his players for the loss. The partying began for Euro 1988, and a further draw against the Soviet Union gave the Irish more to sing about. Unfortunately a loss in their last game against Holland allowed the Dutch to leapfrog into second in the group and eliminate Ireland from the competition. Despite crashing out in the first round Ireland had announced themselves on the international stage, and finished above England, who failed to pick up a point, losing all three games in the tournament.
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