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World Cup A-Z: I is for Ireland

HEAD OVER HEELS: Terry Phelan celebrates Ray Houghton's sensational winner for Italy against Ireland at the 1994 World Cup finals

HEAD OVER HEELS: Terry Phelan celebrates Ray Houghton's sensational winner for Italy against Ireland at the 1994 World Cup finals

We continue our A-Z of the World Cup by charting the experiences of City's Irish contingent over various finals campaigns

I is for Ireland

Ireland may have missed out on a place at Russia 2018 after a heart-breaking play-off defeat to Denmark but the Emerald Isle - and their City contingent  - have enjoyed a rich World Cup history.

There’s little doubt that Ireland’s finest moments came at the 1990 and 94 World Cups, which were held in Italy and the United States respectively.

In 1990, under the stewardship of Jack Charlton, Ireland memorably reached the quarter-finals with City striker Niall Quinn playing a key role in their success.

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Having joined the Blues in March of that year from Arsenal, the tall striker struck a vital equaliser in their final group game with Holland, to earn the men in green a place in the last 16 and a clash with Romania.

Quinn played throughout a tense goalless draw against the East Europeans with 90 minutes and extra time unable to separate the teams before Ireland edged a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out 5-4 to earn a quarter-final tie against hosts Italy.

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The Irish dream finally ended there as Toto Schillachi’s first-half goal proved decisive.

Four years later in the United States however Ireland memorably got their revenge on the Italians in a group stage encounter.

City full-back Terry Phelan was part of the Ireland side that defeated the eventual finalists 1-0 in New York thanks to Ray Houghton’s wonder strike with Phelan’s City colleague Alan Kernaghan looking on from the bench.

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Despite a 2-1 loss to Mexico next time out, a goalless draw in their final group game with Norway was enough to earn Ireland a last-16 clash with a powerful Holland side in Florida, where Phelan and Co’s American adventure finally ended in a 2-0 defeat.

City were also well represented on and off the pitch in Ireland’s last appearance at the World Cup finals to date – in 2002 in Japan and South Korea.

The squad was managed by former Blues defender Mick McCarthy while central defender Richard Dunne was part of the squad, along with future City keeper Shay Given and Niall Quinn who, by then, was playing his club football with Sunderland.

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Ireland – despite the controversy created by Roy Keane’s departure from the squad ahead of the tournament – once again punched above their weight, securing 1-1 draws with Germany and Cameroon and a 3-0 win over Saudi Arabia to earn a place in the last 16.

Pitted against Spain, the Irish produced another gutsy display in the knockout stages, forcing a 1-1 draw before agonisingly going out 3-2 in a tense penalty shot-out.


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